Everyone Should Be a Minority

I got asked the other day why, since I get grumpy in December in America, I just move to a country where Hinduism is in the majority. Like it’s that simple! I get frustrated about one thing during one time of the year and therefore I should give up my home and everything that I love about America? Uh, no.

But it got me thinking.

For many of you coming here, you may not have ever experienced what it’s like to be the minority religion where you live.

People reading in India are having trouble understanding what irritates me about Christmas. Christians in America have been grouchy over a perceived “war on Christmas” and interpreting separation of “church” and state to be some kind of persecution of Christianity, which is absurd.

It’s a really valuable experience to live somewhere where almost no one around you practices the same religion you do. It gives you a very different perspective.

Christians who feel persecuted here could at least visit and spend time someplace where being Christian could result in jail or death. Live somewhere where your friends and family would be upset or shocked if you were Christian. At the very least, live somewhere where the Christian population is less than 25%.

It’s very eye-opening. Suddenly you have a constant awareness of your difference. The assumptions all around you are different from what you are. The art, the street signs, the things sold in shops would all look very different to you. Struggle to find a rosary, drive thirty miles to get an Easter card for your family, have people stare at you blankly when you ask for directions to the nearest church.

It really makes you aware of how nice it is to live where your religion is the default! (I never have, but it seems like that would be pretty cushy).

If I lived somewhere where almost everyone was Hindu, it might be easy for me to think that a Hindu government makes lots of sense. What a great idea! A moral government and one that lines up with my ideals. What could go wrong?

But because I live somewhere that has less than 4% Hindu population, I can see how upsetting it would be for my government to decide to just go with the majority and be a Christian government. I advocate for no mixing of religion and government and I think I can clearly see how important that is because I’ve had this experience of being a minority.

I respect and defend the religious freedom rights of others because I know that their freedom is my freedom too. As long as the government and laws don’t become explicitly Hindu they also won’t become explicitly Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or any other religion. Individuals within government can, of course, be religious in whatever way they choose. But the law system itself must NEVER be set up based on religion.

Why don’t I move to a Hindu-majority country?

One— Because America is a nation built on the idea of freedom of religion and I love America for its freedoms

Two— Because all my friends, family, work, and life are here

Three— Because the awareness of being in the minority keeps me vigilant and prevents me from becoming complacent

http://www.xdeem.com/2012/05/record-number-of-indian-americans-in.html


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Amin King

    Maria Wirth understood the crux of being a Hindu which you unfortunately did not. India is “Hindu” in its soul today although officially it does not call itself as such and does not bother about labelling, itself a typical “Hindu” trait. I will just rephrase what you said.The day India stops being a “Hindu” is the day India as we know it ceases to exist. India’s very survival as a multiethnic, multi-faith nation-state is predicated on protection of that diversity which itself comes from its “Hindu” ethic.

    • Ambaa

      You guys, I have been trying to politely find a way to say that these problems are sometimes problems with other religions in India than they are Hindu problems. That’s all I meant.

      If you want to say that all problems in India are Hinduism’s fault, go for it.

      In terms of religion and state, it is CRUCIAL to me that they are separate. I know not everyone understands or believes that, but I think it is super important. If American government was allowed to be as Christian as some people want them to be, my life would be in danger. I’m already discriminated against socially, but I could then be discriminated against legally. How is that okay?

    • kEiThZ

      As a member of a minority community in India I’m rightfully sensitive of the types of views that Maria espouses.

      They seem benign enough. Until you encounter the Hindutva nutjobs who take these exact views to their logical conclusions and justify genocide and ethnic cleansing. Some of these groups have expressed admiration for Hitler’s ways.

      It should be remembered that the modern India was created as a secular state specifically because the founders at the time understood such tensions and sought to avoid fractitious arguments over state religion. Maria’s view, although innocent enough, is an argument to redefine India as a Hindu state, which in the end would return India to a state of chaos and violence (as Hindu nationalists sought to impose themselves on minorities), and would simply lead to the end of modern India as we know it.

      Perhaps, Maria would love the status quo ante prior to colonisation, when there was no united India but a set of kingdoms that quarreled and competed and cared very little for their subjects. Those great Hindu and Muslim kingdoms also officially practised caste-based and religion-based discrimination.

      Ms. Wirth discounts all the history of India, it’s experience with communal violence, caste discrimination, cyclical poverty and a horrific partition to ascribe to Indians dishonesty and a lack of intellectual depth and for not choosing to define themselves as a “Hindu” nation-state. How ironic. She states that the British erased Indian memories. And now she (yet another Westerner) wants to do the same. Let’s forget all the history that goes along with defining India culturally in religious terms.

      • Amin King

        I am afraid, Your view on Hindutva is misguided. We had a Hindutva govt before under prime minister Vajpayee and we have a Hindutva govt now under Prime minister Modi. I don’t see ethenic cleansing going on in India now, all the false alarms not withstanding. The reason why Muslims and Christians both in India and abroad are afraid of Hindutva is because they view Hindutva = Hindu fundamentalism = Christian/Muslim fundamentalisms.Just like all religions are not equal (Indian religions like Hinduism / Buddhism are more benign while Middle eastern ones like Christianity/Islam are relatively intolerant), all fundamentalisms are not equal too. Hindu fundamentalism is defensive unlike Christian/Islamic fundamentalism which are offensive. Hindu fundamentalism is always in reaction to Islamic/Christian fundamentalism which always starts the trouble.

        • kEiThZ

          Hindu fundamentalists are benign? Are you off your rocker? Where should be start? How about the demolition of the Babri masjid? Or the Gujarat riots? And that’s not including the countless attacks on churches, mosques, and non-Hindu temples.

          If you want an example of Hindu fundamentalism in daily action, let’s talk about the recent rise of ‘moral policing’, that includes attacks on women for their clothing or simply being in a bar, or attacks on young couples for simply being of different religions (their whole claim of countering a ‘love jihad’).

          Beyond that you have thuggery like Shiv Sena attacks on a TV station and a cricket pitch with vehement defence by Rajya Sabha MPs. What does this have to with any reaction to “Christian/Islamic fundamentalism”? This would be analogous to a US Senator defending a Ku Klux Klan attack on CNN and Yankee Stadium.

          As for the governments being benign, there’s a reason Mr. Modi was denied a visa by the US State Dept. I wouldn’t count deliberately delaying a security response to an ongoing genocide as benign.

          Then there’s legal discrimination. For example, in a land where the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, you have state governments (all of the Hindu nationalist variety) passing anti-conversion laws.

          I wouldn’t call fundamentalists of any variety benign. Give them enough leeway, and they’ll prove they’re just as hateful. Moral policing should prove to you that Hindu fundamentalists are no less hateful and delusionally depraved than the Taliban.

          • Amin King

            Hindu fundamentalism is benign if you want to compare it with what passes of for Islamic and Christian fundamentalism. To take your example of anti-Conversion laws, they are directed against Christian missionaries who misuse the freedom of religion laws and convert innocent rural folks by blackmail and bribes. Anti conversion laws are precisely for organizations like that not for individual people converting out of choice. To take another example you cited which is destruction of Babri Mosque, It was constructed by destroying a Hindu temple, one of the holiest temples in Hinduism. Its like destroying Muslim mosques in Mecca and building Church/Temple on top of it. I don’t condone the way they did that bringing down the mosque but as a principle that unused mosque should not be there in the first place. To take your another example, Gujarat riots was horrible but so was the burning of Hindus which triggered it. The examples you cited only proves my point that Hindu fundamentalism is defensive and always in reaction to Islamic/Christian fundamentalism. It never triggers anything by itself.

            As far as Modi getting denied Visa, George Bush administration under pressure from a coalition of Christian fundamentalist Evangelicals, Fundamentalist Muslim Organizations and Leftist-marxist intellectuals (all of whom saw Modi as a threat to their interests) who without thinking took that wrong step (using Gujarat riots as pretext) which it has to retract now.That action has nothing to do with Modi being right or wrong. It has to do with Modi being a threat to Christian/Muslim/Marxist fundamentalist interests.

          • kEiThZ

            This will be my last response to you. I don’t debate the intolerant and the ignorant.

            You don’t seem to see anything wrong with violence. Indeed, you seem to think that violence by Hindu fundamentalists is excusable because it’s always defensive. Really? Let’s start with the example at hand.

            First, there’s the destruction of a mosque. The Babri masjid was centuries old. You excuse its destruction because comparable barabaric destruction took place centuries ago by other civilizations. If that’s your argument, sir, you have proved my point about why minorities in India should be very afraid of Hindu nationalists. Using your own logic, because of some justification elsewhere, centuries ago, Hindu nationalists are justified in destroying century’s old religious buildings today. Tell me, if you have any limits on this logic. If they find some Hindu ruin under the Bom Jesus church in Goa, would you support its destruction by a Hindu mob? Why not raze every mosque and church in India, after all, isn’t this all “Hindu” soil? Why not forcibly convert every non-Hindu back to Hinduism?

            The ignorant part here is that you fail to see frightening historical comparisons. The Nazis cited numerous historical grievances against the Jews and stated that all the robbery and attacks on Jewish businesses (pre-Holocaust) was justified because the Jews had taken advantage of the German people economically. Do you fail to see the historical parallel of using trumped up historical claims to excuse mob violence? Do you fail to see the rationality behind why minorities in India are afraid? The very same logic that you consider excusable has been used in neighbouring Pakistan to attack Hindus and Christians there and was used in East Pakistan to attack Hindu intellectuals. Now, we’re about to tolerate that in India.

            Next, you excuse the Gujarat riots, because, using your logic, revenge is excusable. Such peaceful fundamentalists, these Hindus are. Where the mob kills 60 Hindus on a train, Gujaratis kills 790 muslims and another 254 Hindus. Apparently, simply bringing the perpetrators to justice and imprisoning them isn’t enough. Hindu fundamentalists have to kill ten times as many to settle scores.

            And if you consider revenge is excusable, pray tell, what is the justification for the Shiv Sena attacks on a TV station and cricket pitch? What about the 2008 attacks on Christian churches and monasteries in Karnataka? What does desecrating crucifixes and raping nuns have to do with “defensive” fundamentalism?

            And you still have not answered about “moral policing”, which a lot of these Hindutva nutjobs enforce on their own. What grievance is that addressing? Why do they get to decide what clothes women should wear (no jeans, only salwar)? Why should they decide whether it’s acceptable for a Hindu and Muslim to date? Why should they decide if it’s okay for women to drink in a bar? Why do they get to burn stores which sell valentine’s cards? Why do they get to enforce their arbitrary rules with violence?

            Then there’s low level discrimination. Like landlords refusing to rent to minorities. And other such practices encouraged by the fundamentalists. All of these would be considered discriminatory and illegal in the West. In India, the fundamentalists promote them.

            Lastly, you show that you don’t really understand democracy and religious freedoms. You cite blackmail and bribery as the foundation of anti-conversion laws. I would ask you, who gets to determine what bribery and blackmail is? A Hindu orphan is raised in a Christian orphanage and decides to convert. Is that bribery or blackmail? A muslim family decides to convert to take advantage of free meals at their local Hindu temple. Bribery or blackmail? Who decides? And more to the fundamental point, why should anybody get to decide what my faith is? Why can’t I choose to be Hindu one day, Christian the next, Muslim the day after that and an atheist on Saturdays? This is what true religious freedom is. It is what you have in proper and sane democracies. You don’t have to appear before a judge and submit an affidavit, in the US, Canada, Europe or Australia, to decide you want to go from being Christian to Hindu. Why would you have to do so in India, which purports to have the same democratic rights? Your argument just show how backwards India really is, and how far it really is from being a functioning democracy.

            This is the fundamental problem with fundamentalists (like yourself). They see nothing wrong with their own fundamentalism and justify their extremism, on the fundamentalism of other nutjobs. In the process, it’s all the ordinary sane folk that suffer. “An eye for an eye would leave the whole world blind.”

            You’ve done a great job proving Ambaa’s point of why minority rights need to be protected. And you’ve shown why India should never define itself as a Hindu nation-state. When Hindus like yourself don’t even consider your own bigotry and chauvinism to be such, how will minorities ever be safe? They aren’t safe in today’s “secular” India. I shudder to think what the state of minorities would be in a “Hindu” India.

          • Amin King

            You are going on a tangent and bringing in Political issues which has their own reasons which we can debate separately. One last time, I will try not to go Political and answer you as best as i can. But considering the hatred you are displaying, I don’t have much hope. Anyway, to begin with,

            1) Fundamentalists are literalists in these traditions who hold rigidly to their beliefs and insist that since their religion alone is true the other religions should not be tolerated, particularly in the lands where members of their religion are in a majority. Fundamentalists generally hold to their religion’s older social customs and refuse to integrate into the broader stream of modern society which recognizes freedom of religious belief.Fundamentalists groups insist that theirs is the only true God and that all other Gods or names for God are wrong. Islamic fundamentalists insist that the only God is Allah,Christian fundamentalists will not accept Allah or Eshwar as names for God as they conceive Him to be.Hindus with their many names and forms for God don’t mind accepting the Christian name God or even Islamic Allah’s referring to the same reality, though they may not use these names in the same strict or exclusive sense as Christians or Muslims. A belief in God is not even necessary to be a Hindu.Hence Hinduism does not qualify to be called Fundamentalist on that score.

            2) Fundamentalists are merely more vehement in their practices. What missionary activities are Hindu fundamentalists promoting throughout the world? What Hindu has ever condemned non-Hindus to an eternal hell, or issued declarations asking for the death of anyone for merely criticizing Hindu belief? Where have Hindus ever stated that it is punishable by death to criticize Krishna, Rama or any other Hindu Gods? On the other hand, there are Christians and Muslims, which spread Hatred about other religions including Hinduism.Hinduism does not qualify to be called Fundamentalist on that score.

            3) Fundamentalism creates various political parties limited to members of that religion only, which aim at setting up religions dictatorships.Who is asking for a Hindu state that forbids the practice of other religions ? Not BJP, not RSS which are paraded as “Hindu fundamentalists”.

            3) Fundamentalism is often involved with militancy and sometimes with terrorism. What Hindu minorities in the world are violently agitating for their separate state? What planes have Hindu fundamentalists hijacked, what hostages have they taken, what bombs have they planted? What terrorist activities are Hindu fundamentalists promoting throughout the world? What countries are stalking down Hindu fundamentalist terrorists who are plotting against them?

            4) Hindus are called fundamentalists for wanting to retake a few of their old holy places, like Ayodhya, of the many thousands destroyed during centuries of foreign domination. Several Hindu groups are united around this cause. This, however, is an issue oriented movement, not the manifestation of a monolithic fundamentalism. It is a unification of diverse groups to achieve a common end, not the product of a uniform belief system.

            5) There are those who warn that Hindu rule would mean the creation of a Hindu theocratic state? Yet what standard Hindu theology is there, and what Hindu theocratic state has ever existed? Will it be a Shaivite, Vaishnava, or Vedantic theocracy? What Hindu theocratic model will it be based upon? Is there a model of Hindu kings like the Caliphs of early Islam to go back to, or like the Christian emperors of the Middle Ages?

            6) Unlike Muslim and Christian Kings/leaders, What famous Hindu king was a fundamentalist who tried to eliminate all other beliefs from the land or tried to spread Hinduism throughout the world by the sword? Does Rama or Krishna provide such a model? If no such model exist what is the fear of a militant Hindu theocratic rule based upon?

            7) Traditional Hindus do exist. There are Hindus who are caught in conservative customs but these should be examined as per their nature and cause, which is not some uniform Hindu fundamentalism but wrong practices that are often contrary to real Hindu thought.
            To lump them together as problems of Hindu fundamentalism fails to examine them adequately but, rather, uses them as a scare tactic to discredit Hinduism as a whole.

            The fact is that there is no monolithic fundamentalism possible among Hindus who have no uniform belief structure. A charge of social backwardness and discriminatory attitudes can be made against a number of Hindus but this is not the same as the blanket charge of fundamentalism, which misinterprets Hinduism as a religion of militancy which it nowhere is unlike Islam or Christianity.

          • sobarX

            Your hate-trade for “Pagans” is clear and it’s origin as well. , U are Evangelical . India is secular because of “Hindus” not because of Muslims or christens . Majority decides the fate of country . Surprisingly u r talking like paki who consider themselves “Arab” , some how u also changed ethnicity and loyalty with Religion u consider urself related to “Western” People and countries and cursing county where u live and freely follow ur religion.
            You got “superior” feelings .

            if someone calculate %wise. There is more Islamic and Christen extremism in India than Hindu nuts.And we don’t have any plan to make India “Hindu” country but look like you have to make it “Christen” country.

            You r not secular u are extremist.

            u r brainwashed Evangelical , read this American who traveled through Indian tribal areas .

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-goldberg/missionaries-in-india_b_4470448.html

            your second lie show me “anti-conversion” law quote it here , It’s plane lie .. .

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    Hindus can believe me can and can revive all ancient cultures civilizations wisdom with logic with understanding so no fight on religion god and mutual help to each other and no greed in hearts

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    spanish people will be first to revives ancient greek culture ppl need faith not religion religion divides


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