Progressive Hindus stand with Muslims and refugees. Here’s why.

Hindus for Justice stands in solidarity with Muslim communities, with refugees and immigrants, and with communities around the nation in condemning the onslaught of racist and xenophobic policies put in place by the Trump administration. Over the past week, Donald Trump has divided and instilled fear in communities around the nation and the world. His most recent executive order banning refugee admissions and entry of individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries is morally repugnant and runs afoul of fundamental constitutional principles and long-cherished ideals of welcoming refugees to American shores.

The executive order also goes against the very principles espoused in Vedic texts, including compassion, peace, and love. As Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada taught, “[A] Vaisnava (Hindu) is personally tolerant for the benefit of others…he is tolerant for the welfare of the entire human society.”

Since the executive order was signed last week, thousands of people, including Hindus, have protested at the nation’s airports and city centers. We ask all Hindus to continue to stand with people of conscience, to oppose and resist the executive order, and to reaffirm values of human dignity and equal treatment.

Hindus must also hold accountable those who misrepresent the voices of American Hindus. We express our dismay that the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) continues its support of the Trump administration. Just this week, the RHC convened in Washington DC to express support for the executive order on the refugee and Muslim bans. Even worse, the RHC has identified additional steps for executive action including the naming of countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan to be covered under a future order. We condemn these morally reprehensible positions.

“As Hindu immigrants, we of all people shouldn’t be taking the position to ban anybody from any other country to enter,” said Sapna Pandya of Hindus for Justice. “After all, were we not afforded the right to immigrate and choose the United States as a home? Not only that, as South Asians, many of our own families were refugees during Partition, the 1971 war for Bangladeshi independence, the Sri Lankan Civil War and more. The importance of having the freedom to call another place home should be deeply ingrained in our veins, and we must have the compassion to extend the right of migration that we have enjoyed to all others.”

“We are deeply saddened that Hindus can take a stand which goes against the pluralism that is at the core of our religion. Those Hindus who support Donald Trump are actually a tiny percentage of all Hindus. We implore Hindus who care about taking this democracy back speak up against the Republican Hindu Coalition. Not In Our Name!” said Sunita Viswanath with Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.

The RHC’s positions also reflect the coalition’s lack of understanding of history and precedent. In just the past 15 years since 9/11, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and South Asians have experienced unprecedented hate violence, employment discrimination, airport profiling and surveillance as a result of policies and rhetoric that demonize and criminalize our communities. Since the election, this violence has increased to levels not seen since 9/11. During the past 15 years, progressive Hindus have stood with our Muslim and Sikh brothers and sisters—and we will continue to do so.

“Our report Power, Pain, Potential, released earlier this month, documents the violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities during the 2016 election cycle. An astounding 95% of the 207 incidents we collected were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. President Trump has capitalized on anti-Muslim rhetoric, exploiting the divisions in our communities to win over non-Muslim South Asians. That is the trap the Republican Hindu Coalition has willfully entered by supporting the latest Executive Order on immigration. They have chosen to side with the forces of white supremacy over standing by their own community members and that is unconscionable,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

The RHC’s stance on the executive order and its support of the Trump administration is rooted in Hindu privilege, exceptionalism, and superiority. Time and again, the concept of Hindu hegemony has been used to dismiss the rights of Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, and other vulnerable or underrepresented communities in India and around the world. We reject this wholeheartedly.  We refuse to be used as a wedge to support violent policies that demean or harm members of our families and communities of different faith backgrounds.

Hinduism is, at its best, a religion of peace, tolerance, and unity. According to the Hindu calendar, February 1 is Vasant Panchami, a day when Hindus pray for enlightenment and seek to let go of ignorance. As we light our diyas, Progressive South Asians and Hindus will pray for unity and peace, commune with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and welcome refugees into our communities.

We call upon Hindus around the nation to:

  • Denounce policies and rhetoric that promote division, bigotry, Islamophobia, xenophobia and hate
  • Support and uplift the voices of Muslim, Sikh, Dalit and other vulnerable communities
  • Raise your voices at protests, actions, forums and in conversations about the urgency of this moment and the power of individual and collective action
  • Hold sessions within Hindu temples to raise awareness about the impact of Islamophobia and xenophobia in today’s climate, and how Hindus can show solidarity and support
  • Reach out to and support Muslim organizations and mosques that are often on the frontlines of dealing with backlash, violence and criminalization
  • Hold accountable the entities that purport to speak on behalf of Hindus and that advocate for policies that promote hatred, bigotry and discrimination

Hindus for Justice is a network of Hindu progressives across the United States committed to ending violence and injustice against Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs, LGBTQ communities, women, the poor, and other vulnerable communities.