Prof. Kundan Singh
We hope you will be able to join for this webinar on February 28th 2021, at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST
September 22, 2013
Dear Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Trustee,
We the undersigned write to express our profound disappointment with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ (CPWR) withdrawal from cosponsorship of the “World Without Borders” event to be held in Chicago on September 28, 2013. We respectfully request specific actions to not only bring together our communities in furtherance of our larger shared goals for interreligious understanding, but to heal relations with the Hindu and Indian community, and restore confidence in CPWR as an institution tasked with fostering interreligious harmony. Please give full consideration to the points raised below before your meeting on Monday September 24.
The response from the community to join this voicing of collective concern has been tremendous from religious figures, political figures, organizations, and leaders in the community to ordinary Hindus across a broad and diverse spectrum, including prominent interfaith leaders all have expressed a resounding willingness to join. Due to urgent need to send you this communication in time for Monday’s meeting, we have not been able to include the many signatures that have come after the 24 hour deadline provided. However, we hope this demonstrates the importance of not only the effect the CPWR’s decision to withdraw has had, but also what the resolution will as well on so many well beyond this list of over 300.
The individuals entrusted with guiding the Council have acted in a way which has jeopardized the reputation and credibility of CPWR by demonstrating a lack of respect and professionalism towards the organizers, the Hindus serving on the CPWR Board of Trustees, and by extension, the broader Hindu community.
In particular, we are deeply troubled by the following:
1. The individuals responsible for the decision to withdraw did not exercise common courtesy of directly informing the organizers of any issues or of the withdrawal itself. More importantly, the organizers were not provided the opportunity to respond to any allegations of their “promoting controversial political positions.”
2. Anant Rambachan and Anju Bhargava, the only two Hindu trustees on the CPWR, were not consulted before the withdrawal decision was made nor were they informed after the decision but before the withdrawal decision was announced. This is especially disturbing because it disregarded Dr. Rambachan’s and Ms. Bhargava’s service to the CPWR, but also missed an opportunity for the CPWR to gain better understanding of the Hindu community that only Dr. Rambachan and Ms. Bhargava could have immediately offered. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Jewish trustees would not have been consulted about potential Jewish partners accused of “promoting controversial political positions,” or other religionists about their coreligionists.
3. CPWR appears to have made the decision to withdraw without consideration of its commitment to the core principles of interreligious understanding, dialogue, and engagement, especially because the decision was made without an inclusive process based on those core principles.
4. Had the individuals responsible for deciding to withdraw researched the backgrounds of the complainants, they would have found that the complainant, “Coalition Against Genocide” (CAG) is an online portal which is hosted by another online portal calling itself, “The Forum of Indian Leftists” (FOIL), both of which promote arguably “controversial political positions.” FOIL describes itself as “’a clearinghouse for radical Indian activists in the United States, Canada and England.” FOIL has created a web of online portals or “organizations,” including CAG and many of its “members,” a number of which promote “political positions” which fall into a variety of categories including, Hinduphobic, proseparatist (primarily in India), antireligion, antiIsrael, antiIndia, and antiAmerican.
5. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid and a Dr. Shaik Ubaid have cofounded or worked together in a number of organizations, including but not limited to CAG, Muslim Peace Coalition, and Burma Task Force USA. Given that Dr. Ubaid is extensively quoted on behalf of CAG in a number of media outlets commending and welcoming the withdrawal merits an explanation to the organizers and the trustees left out of the process on the decision making process and how potential conflicts of interests are handled. Furthermore, it demonstrates the need for transparency.
6. The CPWR has, in effect (regardless of intentions), chosen sides without explaining or defining who or what it deems “controversial,” and without dialoging with those who have been accused of “promoting controversial political positions.” CPWR needs to develop clear protocols on such questions as the following, so that the CPWR is consistent in its engagement with religious communities throughout the world: What does the CPWR consider “controversial political positions”? Is being opposed to gay marriage controversial? If so, will CPWR avoid attendance or sponsorship with Catholic or Mormon organizations which may be lobbying against marriage equality? How about a mosque, a few members of which have run away from their families and joined AlShabbab? Should such an organization be alienated or engaged in interreligious dialogue? What about those organizations which Hindus find controversial because of their use of humanitarian aid as inducement to “save souls,” ie. engaging in predatory proselytization? Would the CPWR capitulate to Hindu demands to withdraw sponsorship from such organizations?
7. Please understand that for Hindus worldwide, the Parliament is synonymous with Swami Vivekananda and his legacy. That the CPWR withdrew from an event celebrating his 150th birth anniversary, and that too in Chicago, only amplifies the lack of understanding and respect demonstrated by the CPWR.
We therefore respectfully ask that the CPWR:
1. Reverse the decision to withdraw, and not only continue as a cosponsor, but actively participate in the event.
2. Publicly apologize to the organizers and to CPWR trustees Anant Rambachan and Anju Bhargava.
The issue here is not of supporting or not supporting any organization allegedly promoting controversial political positions, but one of the CPWR’s role in the world of interreligious engagement and its treatment of Hindus in particular. The way in which the CPWR failed to equitably handle this situation unfortunately calls into question the ability and will of the CPWR to meet its mandate to “cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
There is still time, however, to undo a wrong and move towards constructive engagement and the healing of wounds. We ask that the above mentioned requests be addressed immediately.
American Hindus Against Defamation
Bihar Foundation WC. California
Bhutanese Community in California (BCC)
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation
Hindu American Foundation
Hindu Association of West Texas
Hindu Charities for America
Hindu Jain Temple, Pittsburgh, PA
Hindu Mandir Executive Council of Southern California, PSPA
Hindu Temple of Indiana
Hindu Temple of Rochester; Pittsford, NY
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh
India Awareness Foundation
Om Temple, Inc., Carlisle, MA
Parashakti Temple, Detroit, MI
Sunnyvale Hindu Temple; Sunnyvale, CA
Individuals (Titles are for identification purposes)
Bharat Barai, M.D.
Treasurer & Cofounder, Sunnyvale Hindu Temple; Sunnyvale, CA
CEO, Starpipe Products
Research Scientist, Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University
Philip Clayton, Ph.D.
Claremont School of Theology
President, Bhutanese Community in California (BCC)
Founder, Hindu Charities for America; Austin, TX
Ramdas Lamb, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Religion, University of Hawaii
Jeffery D. Long, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA
Barbara A. McGraw, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life
Co-author of Many Peoples, Many Faiths: Women and Men in the World Religions
Affiliate of the Harvard Pluralism Project
Member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court
Mihir Meghani, M.D.
Hindu American Foundation Co-Founder and Board Member; Fremont, CA
Board member, Silicon Valley Interreligious Council
Ved Nanda, Ph.D., JD
Founding President Hindu Temple of the Rockies
Director of Public Relations, Hindus of Greater Houston
Gautam A. Prakash
Managing Director, Monsoon Capital LLC; Bethesda, MD
Ajay Shah, Ph.D., MBA
Convener and Director, American Hindus Against Defamation; Danville, CA
President, India Awareness Foundation; Atlanta, GA
Nick Shroff, M.D.
Chair, Council of Trustees, Hindu Association of West Texas
Suhag Shukla, Esq.
Hindu American Foundation Executive Director and Legal Counsel
Shrinivas Tilak, Ph.D.
Doctorate in History of Religions, McGill University, Canada
Sthaneshwar Timalsina, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion, San Diego State University
Chairman, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation; Addison, IL
President, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation; Dallas, TX
Founder, Indo American community Federation (IACF)
Founding Member, Indo American Kashmir forum
Founding Member, Federation of Indian Organization of Northern California
Public Relations Officer
Dear PR Officer,
I would like to write to you as the Convenor of American Hindus Against Defamation, a coalition of prominent Hindu organizations in USA devoted to the awareness of proper use of Hindu symbols, icons etc.
On October 13, 2002, your company published an advertisement in the New York Times depicting a disorted image of Lord Shiva in his Nataraja form. The dancing pose, multiple hands, the hand gestures, the metaphor of water from shower too, resembles the flow of river Ganga (Ganges) usually depicted as flowing through Lord Shiva. You are welcome to visit our site:
to see how your advertisement is not an original work of art, but abuse of a deity worshipped by the Hindus.
The tag line for the advertisement “There is a Goddess”, clearly indicates that the advertisement is no coincidence – it is an unequivocal indication that the image of Lord Shiva was distorted and adopted for the advertisement purpose.
AHAD is disgusted by the abuse of the image of Lord Shiva in such a derogatory manner. Just as the scantly clad image of Christ in shower selling shower fixtures would be offensive and evoke strong resentment in the Christian community, this advertisement image has enraged the Hindu community. Hindu deities are worshipped, they are not exotic images to be distorted, mutilated and abused.
We would like to inform you that Lord Shiva is revered by Hindus around the world – major Shiva temples are found in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, USA and many other countries – and these countries, Kohler has significant commercial interest.
I am not certain if you realize that this has already caused tremendous hurt in the community and we have been requested by several people to take this issue up with you. For past three days, we have made numerous attempts to contact you, however, you have not returned our phone calls. Your non-responsiveness has only reinforced our belief that you are insensitive to the sentiments of a billion strong global Hindu community.
We demand that the Kohler Company immediately withdraw all the advertisements with images of Hindu deities, and tender a sincere apology to the Hindu community.
AHAD has taken a lead role in countering the abuse of Hindu images by major corporation and media. AHAD led successful action of the Hindu community and procured apologies from Sony/Aerosmith, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Fortune Dynamics, Sittin Pretty Designs and others for abusing Hindu images and symbols.
Our organization website can be found at : http://www.hindunet.org/ahad/ where you can see our stand on similar abuse of Hindu symbols. I have also left my phone no. on your answering machine. I would very much appreciate if you can call me or write to me right away.
American Hindus Against Defamation
We would like to invite you and your organization to join the American Hindu Anti-Defamation Coalition (AHADC).
AHADC is a task force, an entity, convened to address the issue of the Aerosmith music group using the disfigured picture of Bhagwan Shree Krishna on the cover of its latest album “Nine Lives”
AHADC consists of temples, cultural and religious organizations, and concerned citizens convened to act on this important issue. There is no formal membership in AHADC. We merely ask that if you and your organization agree to the following points, you join fellow Hindus all over the USA. These points are :
We believe that Shree Krishna is a prominent Hindu representation of God. Shree Krishna represents auspiciousness to several hundred million Hindus around the world.
We believe that the picture of Shree Krishna should only be kept in places where it is accorded proper respect. It should not be disfigured for commercial gains or trivializing His importance.
We believe that the cover of Aerosmith album is easily recognizable by Hindus everywhere as that of Shree Krishna’s battle with Kalia (Kaliya), a serpent demon.
We believe that the placing disfigured picture of Shree Krishna, replacing His upper body with a woman’s upper body and replacing His face with that of a cat is highly offensive and
objectionable to Hindus.
We request that Sony/Columbia take into account the sensitivities of the Hindu community and immediately replace the cover of t his album.
We also request the Hindu organizations and temples to join AHADC for the singular purpose of protesting Sony/Columbia’s insensitivities against the Hindu community.
We request those who practice Hindu dharma in one of its many forms to write to Sony/Columbia expressing their outrage at the disfiguring of Shree Krishna..
The coalition plans to contact theSony/Columbia with a letter containing the points mentioned above points. We request that you contact your local Hindu organizations and ask them to sign this letter.
The coalition may also publish newspaper advertisements on this issue, containing the points mentioned above and signature of participating organizations.
Please note that AHADC is a single issue task force. Names of the signatories will not be used for any purpose other than the points represented above. We hope that your organization or temple finds this issue meritorious and worthy of importance placed on it.
We urge you to join AHADC
Ajay Shah, Chetan Tanna, Vaani Chawla
for American Hindu Anti-Defamation Coalition
and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (World Hindu Council)
In order to Join AHADC Please sign and fax or e-mail the following
Dear Convener of AHADC,
My Organization [Name of Your Organization] agrees on the abovementioned points. We will be one of the signatories to the letter that mention above points. I also authorize the convener of AHADC to use the name of my organization for the above purpose in press release and newspaper advertisement as long as it contains only the above mentioned points. I understand that AHADC will contact me if there are any changes to the content of the letter, I will be contacted by AHADC.
Your Name :
Name of the Organization :
Phone No. :
E-mail Address :