Contextualising Georgia’s resolution condemning Hinduphobia – The Indian Express

The Georgia Assembly passed a resolution condemning Hinduphobia on March 27, making it the first American State to take such a legislative measure, PTI reported.
The resolution was sponsored by Republican representatives Lauren McDonald, Todd Jones, Rick Jasperse, David Clark and Brent Cox. It was introduced by representatives McDonald and Jones, from Forsyth County in the suburbs of Atlanta, home to one of the largest Indian-American diaspora communities in the state of Georgia, the PTI report said.
The passing of the resolution comes in the wake of Seattle’s recent anti-caste discrimination legislation and reflects a growing divide within the Hindu community of the US.
The resolution condemns “Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu bigotry”, describing Hinduphobia as “a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors towards Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred”.
It says that “Hinduism is one the world’s largest and oldest religions with over 1.2 billion 3 adherents in over 100 countries and which encompasses an array of diverse traditions and 4 belief systems with values of acceptance, mutual respect, and peace”. It adds that the United States “has welcomed more than four million Hindus”.
It also acknowledges the many contributions of the American Hindu community, in a wide variety of fields, from medicine to “Yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, food, music, arts”, among others.
The resolution then claims that “there have been documented instances of hate crimes against Hindu Americans over the last few decades in many parts of the country”, citing a 2022 report by Rutgers University. It argues that “Hinduphobia is exacerbated and institutionalized by some in academia who support the dismantling of Hinduism and accuse its sacred texts and cultural practices of violence and oppression”.
This is a simple resolution. It does not have any “teeth” per say – it simply makes clear the stance of the Forsyth County representatives and the Georgia Assembly to the public.
The legislation ends by saying “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the representatives of Forsyth County in the Georgia State Legislature condemn Hinduphobia, anti-Hindu bigotry, and intolerance and declares Forsyth County as a place that welcomes the diversity brought by Hindu Americans and all those who work hard, follow our laws, uphold family values, and contribute to our economic and social well-being”.
Unlike the Seattle legislation which added the category of caste in the city’s anti-discrimination laws, this resolution does no such thing.
This move was spearheaded by the Atlanta chapter of the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), which organised the first-ever Hindu Advocacy Day held on March 22 at the Georgia State Capitol, PTI reported.
“It was a true honour to work with Rep McDonald and Rep Jones as well as other lawmakers who guided us through the whole process of getting this County Resolution passed,” said Rajeev Menon, CoHNA vice president.
“We also heard that all the lawmakers had been working really long hours given the amount of legislative items on the agenda, but still decided to join us at the Advocacy Day to show how much they value the Hindu community,” he said.
CoHNA is “a grassroots advocacy group representing the Hindu community of North America. The coalition seeks to protect the collective interests of the Hindu community by working on the issues faced by them and educating the public about Hindu heritage and tradition”, the group’s website says.
Recently, it has been in the news as one of the most vocal opponents of anti-caste discrimination legislations and policies across the country. It has argued that these policies are Hinduphobic, in that they specifically target the Hindu community and their beliefs.
“The issues faced by Hindu Americans in Georgia and the rest of the country via false, Hinduphobic narratives are negatively impacting a community that has been hardworking, law-abiding and enriching the fabric of America”, said CoHNA general secretary Shobha Swamy.
“We urged for their (the Georgia lawmakers’) help in combating such bigotry which advances hatred and creates the idea that Hindus and people of Indian-origin need special laws and monitoring due to allegations around some inherent propensity to discriminate”, she added.
This anti-Hinduphobia legislation thus has to be viewed in the larger context of the ongoing political tussle within the American Indian community. On one hand, there are those who believe that anti-caste discrimination laws themselves are discriminatory towards Hindus, on the other, are those who are fighting against caste based discrimination they have faced in the US.
And the latter have had some recent success. In February 2023, Seattle became the first US city to outlaw caste discrimination. A number of other colleges, including Boston’s Brandeis University, the California State University System, Colby College, Brown University, the University of California, Davis, and Harvard University have passed similar policies since 2019. Currently, such a policy has also been introduced in the California State Assembly.
The Georgia legislation, especially in light of CoHNA general secretary Shobha Swamy’s statements, seems to be directly in opposition to these.
Notably, while the anti-caste discrimination legislations have been passed by individuals who lean Democrat, the Georgia anti-Hinduphobia legislation was passed by Republicans. Thus, the political divide in the Indian diaspora has translated very much on party lines in the US.
It is undoubtedly true that Hindu Americans have faced discrimination across the United States. This has been well documented. But whether this discrimination was specifically “anti-Hindu” is less certain.
According to the US Department of Justice’s 2021 Hate Crime Statistics report, there were 7,074 single-bias incidents involving 8,753 victims. Of this, a whopping 64.8 per cent were motivated by “race, ethnicity or ancestry” according to the DOJ report.
1005 or 13.3 per cent of such crimes were on the basis of religion. Religious communities most targetted were: Jews ( accounting for 31.9 per cent of all religious hate crimes), Sikhs (21.3 per cent), Muslims (9.5 per cent), and Catholics (6.1 per cent). In comparison, anti-Hindu incidents were pegged at 1 per cent, i.e. 10 out of 1,005, ranking 34 out of 35 communities listed.
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