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HEF condemns Hinduphobic attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF) expresses serious concern over the attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard targeting her Hindu faith.

Angela Kaaihue, the GOP challenger to Tulsi Gabbard for the Congressional district of Hawaii, had, in statements issued last week, said that Gabbard, who is the first Hindu member of  Congress and another former Congresswoman who practices Buddhism “worship the devil” calling Gabbard a “pathetic Hindu 1000 GODS leader” referring to the many gods worshiped within Hinduism. Kaaihue had also shared a Facebook post suggesting that “a vote for Tulsi Gabbard is a vote for Satan”. The post has since been deleted.

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Screenshot from Kaaihue’s Facebook post that was later deleted(Courtesy: www.rawstory.com)

HEF condemns the attacks on Congresswoman Gabbard which serve as a clear instance of Hinduphobia. “Attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard,  especially on her Hindu faith, are a reflection of religious prejudices that originate from an impoverished view of a religion and culture that is practiced by nearly one-sixth of the world’s population” said Sandeep Dedage, Director Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF). “Hinduism’s inherent pluralism allows multiple ways of seeking the divine which is reflected in its multitude of paths and deities. It is indeed sad that such wonderful ideas are seen with contempt and hostility” he added.

“Ignorance and bias go hand in hand. Hence there is an urgent need to create awareness about Hindu culture that can serve in preventing such biases”.

HEF also welcomes the statement by Fritz Rohlfing, chairman of Hawaii Republican Party distancing himself and his party from “racially-bigoted and religiously-intolerant descriptions” that are “offensive, shameful, and unacceptable in public discourse.”

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California’s new school textbook framework to have richer content on India and Hinduism

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The California’s State Board of Education (SBE) today voted to adopt a new framework for its history and social science school textbooks that would have richer content on ancient India and Hinduism. The framework that was developed over a period of last two years went through several rounds of public hearings and saw many controversies including the push by a few academics to rename ancient India with ‘South Asia’.

Hindu American organizations which participated in the framework adoption process expressed satisfaction at the incremental changes to the framework that now has mention of Vedic sages, Hindu teachings and philosophy, Bhakti saints, music, dance, art and scientific contributions of India. “While much needs to be done to bring content on Hinduism and Indian civilization on par with other religions and civilizations, we believe that great progress has been made in the last two years” said Sandeep Dedage, Director, Hindu Education Foundation USA. “We will continue to fight against Hinduphobia and correct biases and stereotypes about Hindus and Indians in the textbooks” he added.

The framework revision process also saw hundreds of Hindu American students who testified at the public hearings of the California Department of Education’s hearings seeking addition of more and positive content on Hinduism and India.

In the State Board of Education’s meeting on July 14th, many students testified that Hinduism is being depicted with demeaning images and pictures in textbooks and also that it is being singled out for negative portrayal on issues of caste and treatment to women. “What we seek is parity in the depiction of different religions and civilizations” said Tanvee Joshi a student from Cupertino.

State Board member Trish Boyd Williams asked the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to look into the concerns raised by the students especially with the images representing Hinduism in textbooks and sought to know if they were being addressed adequately. Tom Adams, Executive Director of IQC assured that the new framework would address many of these issues that existed in the old textbooks.

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, first Hindu Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and over 41 academics including Barbara McGraw of Saint Mary’s college supported the community’s efforts in seeking a fair portrayal in the school textbooks.

“I strongly encourage you to consider the perspective of young Indian-American and Hindu- American students and whether the proposed framework accurately and fairly portrays that students history. If you agree that it does not, I hope you will consider making the appropriate modification” California Lt Gov Gavin Newsom said in a letter to the California State Board of Education.

The framework would be used as a guideline by the textbook publishers for the new textbooks that are expected to be adopted next year.

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‘India’ Restored in California Textbooks

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In a significant move, California Department of Education’s (CDE) Instructional Quality Commission (IQC),  has restored the mention of ‘India’ in the new Framework for History Social Science textbooks in California.

Earlier this year, the Commission had proposed to replace instances of ‘India’ by “South Asia” in its school textbooks at the behest of an academic group named ‘South Asia Faculty Group’ (SAFG). This group was led by academics  Dr. Kamala Visweswaran of University of California at San Diego , Dr. Lawrence Cohen and Dr. Robert Goldman of University of California at Berkeley. The academics had suggested that all mentions of ‘India’ before 1947 had to be replaced with expressions like “South Asia”.

The suggestions were opposed by another group of 41 academics led by Dr. Barbara McGraw of Saint Mary’s College of California, and Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University who called the proposal “anachronistic” and “not historical.”

Over a hundred Indian American children and parents testified at the public hearing today at the CDE, opposing the proposal, and seeking restoration of the word ‘India’.

The commission also restored the mention that Hindu sages Valmiki and Vyasa were born non-Brahmins, a change that had been sought by the Hindu American community.

“Coming from an underprivileged community myself, I am really proud that our collective efforts were able to bring the contributions of Sage Vyasa and Sage Valmiki back into the Framework,” said Sandeep Dedage, coordinator for the Hindu Education Foundation USA. “We’re also pleased that the academically questionable recommendation of the South Asia Faculty Group to replace ‘India’ with ‘South Asia’ was also rejected.”, he added.

The commission also agreed to replace the word “untouchable” with “Dalit”. Hindu Education Foundation which endorsed the word called the description of “untouchable” unacceptable and said that the word “Dalit” can be used in the textbooks wherever historically accurate to do so.

HEF believes that these changes are important ones but a lot more needs to be done to bring the content on Indian civilization and Hinduism on par with how other civilizations are depicted in the textbooks.