Opinion

Reza Aslan’s ‘Believer’ sensationalizes and stereotypes Hindus

“Believer” host Reza Aslan has ashes smeared on his face by an Aghori ascetic who takes part in extreme displays of defilement. Photo courtesy of CNN

(RNS) When Reza Aslan pitched his concept of a series, “Believer,” to CNN, he said it would be “a show about religion in the same way that Anthony Bourdain’s show is a show about food.”

Azlan’s series debuted Sunday (March 5), taking Bourdain’s inveterate search for the freakish and repulsive to India, with Aslan perched aboard a dinghy along the banks of Hinduism’s holy city of Varanasi.

But, to apply author Rajiv Malhotra’s metaphor, when Hindu traditions are ingested like food, what is left are the excreta of caste, polluted rivers and the appalling ascetic flinging, well, excreta.

And wallowing in the excreta is where Aslan spent two-thirds of his debut.

It was only last month that 2 million Hindu Americans were left reeling when a gunman entered a restaurant in Kansas City, cocked his weapon, demanded that two Hindu Americans at the bar “get out of my country” and then unloaded.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed and another Hindu, Alok Madasani, was injured. Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene, was seriously wounded. So when provocative trailers for Aslan’s show, replete with captions screeching “cannibals,” began airing, Hindus braced for an attack of another sort.

The communications director at the Hindu American Foundation met with Aslan and narrated the obvious concerns. Other Hindu American organizations began petitions demanding that the episode not air. CNN was never going to cancel the show, but the network did republish a few pieces debunking common myths about Hinduism.

I and many others at the foundation live-tweeted the episode as we watched, accruing opinions under the tag #believer, but we couldn’t type fast enough.

The episode began with Aslan parroting the most clichéd, spurious conflations of the Hindu religion with the caste system prevalent across almost all religions in South Asia.

Caste is “embedded in Hindu spirituality,” Aslan misstated, when the spiritual essence of Hinduism promotes a unity, a oneness of God rendering all external labels such as caste or creed nothing but prosaic labels.

A caste pyramid, showing a birth-based hierarchy with Brahmins perched above and untouchables below the base, flashed on the screen as if it were a Hindu teaching, rather than, as Nicholas Dirks wrote, a very real social evil developing over a millennium of colonial oppression. This, just a few months after Hindu Americans succeeded in removing this same erroneous depiction of Hinduism’s varna structure from California textbooks.

“I can’t get past the caste system,” lamented Aslan as images of corpses burning on pyres flashed in the background.

Not content to flounder on caste, Aslan proceeded to an explanation on karma and reincarnation. Reincarnation is based on karma of the previous life, he said, when Hindus know that reincarnation is conditioned both by the accumulated prarabdh (past) karma and also vasanas, or impressions etched on consciousness.

Not stopping there, Aslan restated the fallacy that reincarnation determines the caste of one’s birth and that only Brahmin birth can lead to moksha, ignoring reams of scripture.

He then indulged in religion porn sure to grab ratings by engaging the Aghori ascetics, who are alien to almost all Hindus precisely because they practice austere, even repulsive rituals and prefer to remain shunned.

A scene from “Believer” with Aghori ascetics who take part in extreme displays of postmortem defilement. Photo courtesy of CNN

What followed were the titillating scenes of drinking from a skull, wearing a crown of cadaveric tissue and a rather animated ascetic drinking his own urine.

Eating monkey brains in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” pales when you find a jumpy, naked hermit willing to give chase.

After treating viewers to 40 minutes of this shocking narrative of Hinduism, the scene shifted to an ashram, or retreat, inspired by an Aghori monk. Aslan seemed to relax in the tranquil environs; he explained the spiritual concepts underlying Aghori behavior and showed Hindus living out their religion’s highest ideals in serving the poor and running schools blind to caste and privilege.

We needed more of this, but as a friend wrote to me, while the significance of the Aghori ashram was important, “the patronizing import sought to be conveyed was that if only the rest of Hinduism could be as open and welcoming as the Aghoris, then they could have a really good thing going.”

What Aslan should have done is give voice to the scores of contemporary Hindu spiritual leaders who reject the notion that Hinduism or its scriptures sanction a birth-based hierarchy or caste-based discrimination.

Or, as I tweeted: “Redemptive lines at the end, but I can’t get over the stereotypes of caste, exoticization of asceticism and religion porn.”

It is not my contention that Aslan is a Hinduphobe. The errors he made throughout the episode are common stereotypical misconceptions of Hinduism that Hindu Americans are combating in the media, in interfaith forums and in textbooks every day. What we witnessed were poorly informed musings regarding the world’s oldest religion, which happens to have a billion adherents.

Aslan is a scholar of Christianity and Islam but is embarrassingly out of his depth, when it comes to Hinduism. Even worse, what may seem like ignorance coming from another feels very much like an insult when it comes from an academic in religion who has the resources to do much better.

Moreover, an Anthony Bourdain culinary misadventure will cause heartburn that lingers a bit. But the downstream consequences of bungling an episode on Hinduism in today’s climate carries grave consequences that are yet to be seen.

(Aseem Shukla, M.D., is a co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation and is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes at the intersection of health care, religion and policy and tweets at @aseemrshukla)

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Aseem Shukla

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  • No surprise that he’s a Hindu and doesn’t want to see anything with a hint of negativity. I think it’s clear, or should be, that this not mainstream Hinduism. This not even criticism of Hinduism. Free speech.

  • Free speech is OK for below-average people. It’s a bit different when the speaker is a professor of religion. A professor’s words have the potential to get into textbooks, into homework, into exams, into law, into foreign policy.

  • The whole point of the Aghori is to be shunned, that is their path, you’ve not read the article. We Hindus do not deny that there is casteism and we are trying to solves this. 300 million Indians have been raised from poverty in the last ten years alone. Our issue is RA states that the casteism is inherent to Hinduism and it just simply is not and is a fundamental misunderstanding of the working of “Shruti” and “Smriti” texts. As the article states, this misunderstanding/borderline bigotry is understandable from a lay person, but coming from a Professor(!), with all the resources he has at his beck and call, it’s unforgivable to the extreme.

  • My reference to free speech was in the context of his right to document things that might be embarrassing or shine a negative light on a religion. I absolutely believe that the presentation has to be fair and accurate.

  • Jim: Of course we allow free speech. No Hindu group is threatening Aslan’s life as happened in Charlie Habdo. But, the point is that it did not pass the standard of a documentary by any metric. Reza claims himself as a religious scholar, then did he ever study any Hindu scripture before making such bold statement that caste system is based on by birth and hereditary due to previous lifetime’s karma and only brahmin’s are eligible for salvation?

  • Do Hindus have the right of “free speech” to register their protest? Seems like free speech always seems to go only one way. The problem is not that Aghoris are “embarrassing”. As a Hindu I don’t think so. The problem is that a supposed scholar chooses to use a tiny sect to represent a billion strong faith to the millions of CNN viewers who know nothing about it. The Aghoris themselves are proud to be a distinct group of Hindus-they have never claimed to represent the mainstream

  • Shame on Reza Aslan. As Hindus we are already victimized on a weekly basis, by the sermons pouring out of mainstream churches and mosques that berate “pagans/kafirs” and “idol worshipers” and promise us eternal fire and brimstone. Now Alslan has ensured that millions of clueless CNN viewers, we will now be perceived as cannibals-which ofcourse means open license to attack us in any way they choose

  • What is depicted about hinduism is all that its not.
    Aghori and tantric practies are not for common people and are esoteric practises .
    The author will not be able to comprehend the purport of these practises as is evident from his tendency to project sensationalism rather than essence .

  • Calm down, reporter and fellow commentators alike. Reza Aslan, my Bill Maher-bashing hero, can explain. (Which, as basic as in terms of the Who, the What and the Why, why didn’t Religion News Service include in this report and save us the aggravation?)

    “I define religion as an identity, not a set of beliefs and practices. … The vast majority of people who raise their hand and say, ‘I’m Jewish,’ ‘I’m Christian,’ or ‘I’m Muslim’ are making identity statements much more so than belief statements. So, if religion is a matter of identity, then it encompasses every aspect of your life. It can’t be divorced from your politics or your social views or your economic views. It’s all wrapped up together as one. Even when you’re talking about religions that are on the margins like the Aghori in India or Voodou in Haiti or Santa Muerte in Mexico, these are religions that have no choice but to be engaged with the world in which they live. Sometimes (it’s) because that world is attacking them; sometimes because that world is the enemy; but sometimes because what they are trying to accomplish in the spiritual realm is reflected in the world. … There is a moment in the premiere episode, the episode about the Hindu sect the Aghori, when I’m at the mercy of this Aghori Sadhu (Holy Man) who take part in ostentatious displays of self-pollution in order to shock the system. So, I knew it intellectually, but being on the sand with a group of them, I did not feel safe and I literally say to my director at one point, ‘Get me out of here.’ Only later on I realized that he thought I was joking. I was not joking. If I do this show again, I’m definitely going to make sure that the director knows what my safe word is because I would’ve used it then. … I think each one of these episodes is going to piss somebody off. … There is something in every one of these episodes that’s going to get me in trouble. … I think that there will probably be some very conservative religious people within each one of these traditions that will be unhappy with the way they feel their religion is being portrayed. … At one point or another everyone’s going to find something to be angry about. Trust me.” (Reza Aslan, Huffington Post, 03/04/2017)

  • So what happened to free speech when it comes to problems with other religions of the world like Islam and Christianity? Why Reza Aslan is the biggest preacher to warn people against Islamophobia? When Hindus are getting shot on the streets of America, least we can expect is some sensitivity rather than sensationalism. Will CNN portray Islam in such a light in the backdrop of a hate crime or a terrorist attack?

  • Reza Aslan has a PhD in religious study but his lack of even basic understanding about Hinduism is really appalling. Here is the question for you: when Hindus and Sikhs are getting shot on the streets of America is it too much to ask from CNN to show some sensitivity towards our faith?Will CNN portray Islam in such a light in the backdrop of hate crimes or a terrorist
    attack? Same way that you can not give a few minute segment after showing a 40 minute soft porn saying sex is bad, showing racist stereotypes for 40 minutes and than having short disclaimers in the beginning are not going to do anything. Stop stereotyping a faith practiced by 1 billion people is all we ask.

  • Kumar, how can you call this “stereotyping a faith practiced by 1 billion people”, when all that Reza Aslan did was “talking about religions that are on the margins like the Aghori in India”? Are there really “1 billion people” who are “Aghori in India”? If there are, then, sure, you can accuse and condemn Reza Aslan for “stereotyping a faith practiced by 1 billion people”. If not, then you can only accuse and condemn Reza Aslan for marginalizing “religions that are (already) on the margins like the Aghori in India”. Or didn’t you follow his Tweet in which he clarifies, “This is a show about the Aghori not Hinduism”? (Twitter, March 5, 2017)

  • So because Reza is planning to piss off a number of marginalized religions he’s ok? Its like a bully choosing to pick on the smaller kid not able to defend themselves vs the big overgrown ones. And you support this type of bullying. Just wow

  • Kindly explain, kushyluv, how Reza Aslan, in words, gestures, and other deeds, was “bullying” the Aghoris in that pilot episode. If you have the YouTube version, let me know the URL and time stamps (minute:second) where such “bullying” incidents occurred, so I can verify with you. Otherwise, failing that, you have no choice but to respectfully retract your accusation that I “support this type of bullying” against the Aghoris.

  • Well here’s the thing HpO, if someone did something similar with with an extremist sect within Islam,
    Reza Aslan would be after their ass in no time calling them an Islamophobe! Why can’t he extend the
    same empathy he expects others to show his religion to Hinduism?
    Where is his responsibility as a public scholar? His tweet saying ‘he is talking about Aghoris not Hinduism’ is just a white lie (have you seen the show or even read the above article?). What do you think Hindus call Aghoris- ‘heathen’ or ‘kaafirs’ or just a part of Hinduism (albeit a bizarre one)? Thing is Hinduism has this ‘open architecture’ that allows people of different type of believes and ideas (yes that includes Aghoris ) to experiment with consciousness and nature of reality and cosmos as long as you do not proselytize and as long as you do not discredit other’s path to reality. Abrahamic religions do not fit this description so western people don’t get this. However, if Reza Aslan despite a PhD in religious studies doesn’t understand it than he should be ready for criticism for his bigotry. We simply have higher standards of discourse.

  • Wish he had done some deeper study of Hinduism. First, Hinduism is a way of life, not a religion and is beyond an identity. It does not tell you specific way of living life but it gives knowledge about who you are. As mentioned in one of Upnishadas,
    “asato mā sad gamaya,tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya”
    Meaning,
    “Lead me from falsehood to truth,Lead me from darkness to light,Lead me from death to the immortality”
    It is about oneness with Universe (Brahmanda). It has symbolic way of providing the knowledge which was misunderstood,misrepresented and wrongly practiced by many for years. Britishers took advantage of it a lot to create more divides. For example, on class/caste system, the truth is, four classes, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra all reside in oneself. These are the powers we are born with. Brahmin related to ability to acquire knowledge & practice for good of others, Kshatriya relates to our ability to be courageous and protect the weak, Vaishya relates to our artistic ability which can be used to earn livelihood and Shurda is our ability to keep things clean around us. The message in Hinduism way of life is to Believe in yourself as God resides in you ( Advaita Philosophy ) and use these powers wisely for the good of others. For Now I will just ignore Mr. Reza for his lack of knowledge about Hinduism and will focus on learning more from Hinduism about our purpose on this beautiful place. ( I wish Mr. Reza comes up with an episode explaining connection between terrorism and Islam )

  • Author is being polite, Reza Aslan is not Hinduphobe, he is a rabid Hinduphobe. Aghoris are <0.01 % of Hindu population. Showing a documentary on them as if they represent mainstream or even substantial number of Hindus is plain dishonesty.

    Mr Aslan seems to be bothered by caste in Hindus, as a scholar he is quite ignorant of the fact
    that Indian Muslims and Christians practice caste. And Ashrafs and Ailafs do not inter marry. Syeds and Ailafs, don't even talk about it.

    Is'nt there a caste system in Arab Islam too? Prophets family is at the top then other Arabs with Yeminis at lowest but before Muslims from Indian subcontinent.

    May be Trump is right after all, CNN is fake news.

  • I want to test your perspective now, Kumar, by asking you to comment on Swarajya’s article on Reza Aslan’s Aghori episode and on Wikipedia’s list of cultural events featuring Aghoris. Care to comment there, not here? … Didn’t think so.

  • I so wish there’s at least one vocal Aghora out there who’d care to comment here on Reza Aslan’s first episode on CNN’s show Believer. It’s about fellow Aghoris after all. But, in their absence, it’ll do for now, I guess, to hear from R Jagannathan of Swarajya magazine about this Believer episode one. Only an excerpt I’m copying-&-pasting here to suit my perspective, though, mind you; the rest you’ll have to see for yourselves:

    “The big mistake we (Hindus and Indians) make when dealing with the western media’s enchantment with the gory aspects of some outlier Hindu sects is to react over-the-top. … (Reza) Aslan’s claim that his show is about Aghoris and not Hinduism is fine … The problem with the Hindu reaction is that it won’t work. To deny that the Aghoris exist makes no sense. They exist. To deny that the caste system has virulent aspects is another reality we can’t escape from. Trying to deny it would only make us look like defenders of caste inequities. … In the short-term, one should (instead) dismiss (the show) with humour and mild disdain for its lack of understanding of India and Hinduism. But the real longer-term goal should be to understand the nature of power wielded by western media, and seek to acquire similar power on our own. … It is best for us to laugh it off – at least for now – and not invest greater negative sentiment in Aslan’s series. However, there is a larger lesson to learn from the fact that we can do nothing about how the west wants to play its Indian or Hindu narratives. This lesson is about the importance of power. … We will be able to change the narrative about ourselves only when we acquire real power – military, institutional, social and economic.” (R Jagannathan, Swarajya, March 07, 2017)

  • Didn’t Hindus and Indians overreact, or did they protest, too, when these came out, showcasing the Aghoris? Why not?

    (1) “the 2016 British suspense thriller film Feast of Varanasi”

    (2) “the 2016 horror film The Other Side of the Door”

    (3) “the first episode of the new Ripley’s Believe It Or Not television series, hosted by Dean Cain”

    (4) “Tad Williams’ Otherland series”

    (5) “2006 … Greek documentary by the name of ‘Shiva’s Flesh'”

    (6) “television program Wildboyz”

    (7) “the Dirty Sanchez TV show, in a season called ‘Sanchez Get High'”

    (8) “Finnish Television series Madventures … in Season 3”

    (9) “Tamil film Naan Kadavul”

    (10) “Hindi film Raaz: The Mystery Continues”

    (11) “Telugu film Arundhati, Sonu Sood”

    (12) “novel … Kannada Aghorigala naduve (Life with Agoris) … published in 1980”

    (13) “British death metal band The Rotted(‘s) … song Just Add Nauseam”

    (14) “Adaalat, an Indian courtroom drama television series … episode … ‘Qatil Aghori’, meaning ‘Murderer Aghori'”

    (15) “Indian psy-trance DJ and Composer known as Aghori Tantrik of Sonic Tantra Records”

    (16) “Swedish Black Metal band Dissection(‘s) … song ‘Maha Kali'” (“Aghori”, Wikipedia, updated 3 March 2017)

  • You’ve completely missed the point. My issue wasn’t with the dipiction of the Aghoris but RA assertion that the Caste system is intrinsic to Hinduism, and My assertion was that he has no basic understanding of “Shruti” and “Smriti” texts. I don’t expect a lay person like you to know this, but from a self proclaimed ‘PhD in Religion” (which he states adinfinitum) is UNFORGIVABLE. Do you know why he didn’t understand? It because he’s lied about his qualifications, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danthropology/2015/08/islamic-apologist-reza-aslan-lied-about-his-academic-credentials/ the man is a toad and you Westerners lap him up like barking dogs.

  • Good point, but we can rest easy as any chance that this mans writing will become acedemic canon is about three hundred & fifty five trillion to one.

  • There was no embracing. There was only denigration. Are you implying other cultures are inferior? Each culture should introspect about acts done in it’s name or in the name of it’s faith before having any kind of holier than thou attitude.

  • Here is a rebuttal to this article piece.

    Let’s not forget that Jaggi is no different than many of the Traditionally Uprooted still colonized to their core, Indian urbanites. The only difference is, he has some soft corner for the Traditionalists. But when it comes to knowledge on Indian Tradition he is no less than any of the many ignorants I often encounter.

    The Jaati and Varna system are highly structured Linear model both a Social and Dharmik context. “Caste” is a complete distorted concept introduced by British since 1891 officially and the Govt. still carries it forward.

    Jaggi needs to educate himself on this subject before fooling the readers.

  • Does any to that make it right. It matters not when you awaken to a realization of injustice and attack but how you act when the realization happens. What’s your axe to grind?

  • There are more than one article about believer. Hp0 don’t be selective in only picking up the one you like. Just because brain washed boot lickers are produced from the Leftist Indian Universities spouting their rubbish does not give them any credibility. Nor do ‘logical’ arguments by fools like Naik attacking other religions to show theirs is better.
    His PHD in religious studies means nothing for Hindus. He is not a practitioner and no credible practitioners are allowed a voice in the Indology departments of the US or the West.
    just as the Chinese reject attempts to say ‘experts’ about their culture exist in the US. We do too. Despite of his PHD Reza is more ignorant than the most illiterate farmer in India about Karma and ideas of caste not being hierarchical or hereditary.
    you sound like an apologist.
    Would you be ok with him doing a similar documentary about Islam when CNN didn’t even have the guts to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons?
    Thought not!

  • Oh really? Is that why CNN didn’t show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the prophet? or the Danish one’s. Is that why Borders Books didn’t allow a magazine to be sold at their stores because of same cartoons.
    This is hypocritical and outrageous. Additionally any such show about Christianity would never see the light of day.

    please stop with this hypocrisy of free speech. It’s just not true. It’s not free when it makes your own faith look bad but of others, especially those who don’t kill people for being offended – well, they are fair game..

  • What if the opposite reality to what you’ve naively assumed here, Afro_American_Brit – that “any such show (as Reza Aslan’s Believer) about Christianity would never see the light of day” – actually were to happen, rolling on the TV screens all over America? That would now lead you to condone, if not bless, what Reza Aslan’s up to with his Believer series, wouldn’t it? What sort of self-avowed “Afro_American_Brit” are you, then, who, after watching TV all these years, don’t even realize that precisely “such show about Christianity” has, as a matter of fact, been showing in North America from time to time? Too bad for commenting prior to fact-checking, I guess you’ve never heard of, let alone seen, the following Christianity-bashing documentaries:

    (1) Marjoe (Cinema 5, USA, Released July 24, 1972, Howard Smith, Director)?

    (2) Frontline: From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians (PBS – WGBH Boston/WTVS Detroit/WPBT Miami/WNET New York/KCTS Seattle, Broadcast April 6-7, 1998, William Cran, Director)?

    (3) Jesus Camp (A&E, USA, Released September 15, 2006, Heidi Ewing, Director)?

    (4) Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (HBO, USA, Premiered February 4, 2013, Alex Gibney, Director)

  • R Jagannathan & Swarajya magazine = “brain washed boot lickers … from the Leftist Indian Universities”, Afro_American_Brit? Truth is: “Swarajya is an authoritative voice of reason representing the liberal centre-right point of view. In its second coming, Swarajya remains committed to the ideals of individual liberty unmediated by the state or any other institution, freedom of expression and enterprise, national interest and India’s vast and ancient cultural heritage. Swarajya is a big tent for liberal right of centre discourse that reaches out, engages and caters to the new India in a manner that’s not arcane, abstruse, arrogant or self-referencing.”

    What’s wrong with that, Afro_American_Brit?

  • You actually describe this “a rebuttal”, Afro_American_Brit? More like a personal attack on R Jagannathan whom you’ve never met and cared less to hear what he has to say. Just so you remember next time, here’s the real meaning of “rebuttal”: “a statement that says that something is not true”, or statements which “claim or prove that (evidence or an accusation) is false”. So, if you want to assert one, you’ve got to point out “something is not true”, or “an accusation is false”, in R Jagannathan, Swarajya, March 07, 2017. Well, what is it of that nature that you wish to point out to me?

  • That many Hindus in this particular case can’t handle outside criticism or think outside the box when it comes to their religious beliefs and practices, whereas Jews and Christians can.

  • Calm down. The drift to get here is Reza Aslan has gotten so liberal here that he doesn’t care if he’s going to be stricken with cannibalistic diseases. This is a case of Robert De Niro’s Method acting turning religious and acting no more. Never mind, I’ve already lost you after “Calm down.”

  • It’s a little more than …. “hypocritical and outrageous” …. they were afraid of being killed and they hid their fear behind self-righteous sanctimonious hypocrisy. But it was a very real fear so that was well … ‘just human’ of them. Personally I think ALL western media shoulda shown some balls and ALL published the cartoons – the extremists can’t kill everyone. But while folk should, and even want to, stand up for free speech it’s an “everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there” thingie.

    And while no-one would deny that the Branch Davidians and the Westboro Baptists make Christianity look bad, or that the Saudi Wahhabi and Daesh make Islam look bad only a fool would claim they are representative of the whole. The Aghori are rather … more peaceful… than any of those and I’d suggest their cannibalising their dead presents a CJD problem but that is a problem only to themselves not to others.

    Fringe sects are interesting – we should learn about them.

  • “but RA assertion that the Caste system is intrinsic to Hinduism”
    —————————-
    You’re saying it’s not – I’m going to disagree with you there and here’s why. (Please tell where/why I am wrong because I’m asking for information not a personal attack on how ignorant I am… okay?)

    Hinduism is a religion of reincarnation based on karma. A kind of “progression of the soul” thingie. That requires one moves from a bad or lower situation up thru’ the ranks as one “improves” with a swat back for doing something really bad. That in itself defines a “caste” system.

    Now I’m not going to suggest that is bad or evil (because I don’t think it is – and it strikes me as ‘rather more likely’ than some misogynist sitting on a cloud issuing orders) but where I think people (people – not the religion) go wrong is that, well … it would benefit one’s own karma greatly if one helped instead of hindered/ostracised the lower castes. That, in fact, not going out of one’s way to ‘improve’ the situation and ranking of eg. Dalits, is bad for one’s own karma. (Little regressive step there.)

    So while one can blame the British for using the divide – one can’t credit them with creating the steps required to indicate improvement. These are divisions we see everywhere: cleaner – office worker – senior tech – manager – boss.

    Now. When you get over telling me how ignorant and stupid I am – will you also explain where how why I’m thinking wrong when I say caste (ie., division) is “intrinsic to Hinduism?”

  • Yee-up….. while it’s always nice to see documentaries on strange peoples and fringe sects ‘n stuff – learn some more about the great diversity of people – you are probably right on that one…… (They even believe in “humanitarian bombing” FFS.)

    Perhaps Reza is hoping to … “spread the phobia around” a little?
    And he’ll do a programme on the Westboro Baptists next?
    …. Theroux did one on them…. perfectly horrible people (IMO).

  • Must say – I think he was perfectly daft eating the brains of someone who ate the brains of someone else etc etc before he died. ….. We’ll wait to see just how daft too.

  • You call this denigration? …. Have you seen the programme? If yes, then where is it so I can go see it too? …. If not – then what are basing “denigration” on?

  • I’ve seen documentaries on the Twirling Dervishes and the Ahmadiyya – and not heard Reza – or any other Muslims for that matter – having a hissy fit about it……

    In case you don’t know – mainstream Islam aint too fond of those two either (even tho’ they don’t eat human brains.)

  • So… you’re saying that someone with any form of educational authority should not inform the public about the fringe elements in society? …. In case information about those fringe elements hits textbooks, law, foreign policy?

    Then —- tell me how you feel about cults and cultures that practise FGM?
    Better we don’t know about them?

  • Hardly.
    He said free speech is okay for below average people – but not for the smart ones (ie., the people who might actually know what they’re talking about.) ………….. Flippin’ ludicrous!

  • Ah… all the “you have to say nice things about my stuff – but I can say what I like about your stuff free speech” people?

    Taking offense is for children and the emotionally retarded – adults get over it and go on with life.

  • I take the position that Aslan is a HInduphobe. His misrepresentations were not just errors but continuing the travesty of the colonial tradition of denegrating Hinduism and Hindus.

  • In America, we don’t care what you believe, what gods you serve, how you practice, or what things you do in the name of your religion, so long as it is lawful.

    …unless you don’t practice Christianity; then you are considered second-class and unAmerican.

  • The documentary is definitely worth watching and if you didn’t know about the more mainstream Aghori and the work they do – here’s your chance to learn.

    And while I found the meeting with the extreme Aghori funny – Reza takes a swim in the Ganges, gets smothered in cremation ash, adorned with rotting human flesh and bones, eats a pellet of charred human brains and then …. runs squealing off into the distance for a light sprinkling of piss! Funny as hell. (That Ganges is probably 70% piss anyway.)

    On the more sensible side, I’d suggest that if Reza wants to keep working with strange extreme sects that he works on reducing that inherent inability of his to cause offense – eating that pellet was (IMO) a step too far. Anything else he might catch is curable but a prion disease is not. Dangerous and very, very foolish.

    FGS! He told the camera guy he wanted to go – the camera guy said stay where you are – so he did. Not good Reza. But a good show – thanx!

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