April 25, 2024


Does the West have a Hinduphobia problem?

A few days back, a US Congressman introduced a resolution condemning Hinduphobia and other hate crimes against the community. It stated that Hindu Americans face disinformation and stereotypes about their symbols and heritage. There’s seemingly been a rise in anti-Hindu hate crimes in the US.

There has also seemingly been an increase in people talking about Hinduphobia and how Hindus are being targeted for their faith. While many believe this to be true, others say all this talk of Hinduphobia is just smoke and mirrors used to justify Hindu nationalism and propagate Hindutva. Who’s got it right?


In 2021, dozens of scholars from over 50 countries planned an online conference titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva”. The agenda was to discuss the impact of Hindu nationalism on human rights, academia, science, and other areas. A month before the conference, activists targeted the organisers, and many participants decided to pull out.

Organisations like the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) mobilised and sent letters to universities deeming this gathering as Hinduphobic. Many called on participating academics to explain themselves, and school logos were removed from the conference website. In the end, the conference went on as planned, but it was clear that Hindus and Hindu groups were on edge about their faith.

The earliest known use of Hinduphobia is in Edward Robert Sullivan’s 1866 book “The Conquerers, Warriors, and Statesmen of India”. It began to be used more widely in the early 2000s to criticise textbook content that Hindus in the West believed portrayed them in a poor light.

In 2005, Hindu groups in the US protested against social studies textbooks in the state of California for being anti-Hindu. Among them was Rajiv Malhotra, founder of the Infinity Foundation, who became well-known for criticising universities and academics for propagating Hinduphobia.

The movement only gathered steam as Narendra Modi ascended to power in India and became a popular leader abroad. While the roots of this could date back to India’s colonial past, it has evolved in the decades since.

In a 2008 essay, professor Sonalde Desai wrote about observing a surprising number of Indian American students moving toward Hindu and caste-based organisations. She stated that while many weren’t “soldiers of saffron”, they were looking to forge a community and find a positive Hindu identity because they likely grew up around intolerance.

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed the doubling of anti-Hindu hate crimes from 12 to 25 in 2022 in the US. In the UK, a couple of years ago, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer made his first reference to Hinduphobia when he addressed one of Europe’s largest Navratri celebrations in London.

While political leaders are expected to decry divisive politics and act against discrimination, Hinduphobia has always been a flashpoint. It’s akin to what’s increasingly happening now concerning antisemitism and criticism of Israel. As Hindus gain more status across society abroad, is there really a problem of widespread Hinduphobia?

VIEW: It’s real and is a problem

In academic circles, there isn’t much nuance to the discourse concerning India and Hinduism. It’s mostly filled with bad-faith arguments and narrow viewpoints. Some have argued that Hinduphobia being coined by the Hindu right is false and easily disproved. In the run-up to the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, many scholars seemingly refused to engage with what Hinduphobia actually means.

Others have argued that denying Hinduphobia is a dangerous assumption that rests on the false assertion that there’s no evidence that Hindus have faced systematic oppression throughout history. Scholars and others have been quick to call out Islamaphobia and anti-semitism that have resulted in the killings of civilians but refuse to put a name on Hindus being targeted for their faith.

The conflation of Hinduphobia and Hindutva is another false narrative that many argue to stifle debate and discussion. It’s a way to weaponise academic freedom and insulate people from reasoned criticism. Critics have argued that part of why this happens is that Western media continues to see India through the lens of some made-up religious civil war where Hindus and Muslims are at each other’s throats and there are Hindu nationalist boogeymen about.

COUNTERVIEW: It’s not an issue

The Dismantling Global Hindutva conference episode clearly showed that Hinduphobia was being weaponised to drown out any criticism of the BJP government led by Narendra Modi. It’s an easy way for certain people and groups to silence criticism of Hindutva. It shows the extent to which right-wing Hindus depend on discrimination to legitimise their own agenda. Some have argued that well-meaning liberals often take this bait. Several naysayers have failed to argue the alleged seriousness of Hinduphobia as a widespread phenomenon.

There’s also a conflation between caste and Hinduism. In the US, anti-caste discrimination legislation was criticised by some Hindus and Hindu groups for being Hinduphobic. One particular bill, SB 403, didn’t even mention Hinduism or India since caste is prevalent in several religious communities in South Asia. That didn’t stop groups from falsely claiming that the bill was directed against all Hindus and would make them targets.

Outside academic and political circles, Hindus face far fewer hate crimes than other communities. In the US, hate crimes against African Americans, Jews, and the LGBTQ+ community are among the highest. What some claim to be anti-Hindu are often seen as anti-South Asian or masquerade as Islamaphobic since perpetrators think they’re attacking someone who “seems Muslim”.

Reference Links:

  • ‘Hinduphobia’: How the Language of Social Justice Works to Serve Hindu Nationalism in the US Diaspora – The India Forum
  • Western Hinduphobia is an envious backlash – New Indian Express
  • Hinduphobia in the West: Hatred against Hindus on the rise – The Organiser
  • Georgia, California, Seattle—Any criticism of caste in America is being fought as Hinduphobia – The Print
  • Hinduphobia is a reality. Scholars at ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference must know – The Print
  • FBI hate crime statistics 2022: US data challenges the ‘Hinduphobia’ narrative – Scroll
  • How ‘Hinduphobia’ is being weaponised in the US – Scroll

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The West does have a Hinduphobia problem.

b) The West doesn’t have a Hinduphobia problem.


For the Right:

Why voters’ silence is making the BJP nervous

For the Left:

It’s time India told the West: ‘Mind your own democracy