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Hindu Americans outraged by CNN’s ‘Believer’ hosted by Reza Aslan

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Religious scholar Reza Aslan has come under scrutiny after the first episode of his new show, “Believer,” aired Sunday night.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — The host of CNN’s new show ‘Believer’ and religion scholar Reza Aslan has many members of the Hindu American community outraged over what they say is an attack on Hinduism. The premiere episode aired Sunday and critics question the motivation, timing and focus of their first effort looking at religions from around the world.

 “With multiple reports of hate-fueled attacks against people of Indian origin from across the U.S., the show characterizes Hinduism as cannibalistic, which is a bizarre way of looking at the third largest religion in the world,” the group U.S. India Political Action Committees (also known as USINPAC), said in a statement.

During the first episode, Aslan meets with Aghori babas outside Varanasi in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The Aghoris are what many Hindus describe as a small fringe sect of Hinduism.

Aslan bathes with the Aghoris in the Ganges, a river Hindus consider sacred. An Aghori baba smears the ashes of cremated humans on his face. At the Aghori’s invitation, Aslan drinks alcohol from a human skull and eats what was purported to be a bit of human brain.

“Want to know what a dead guy’s brain tastes like? Charcoal,” Aslan wrote on Facebook. “It was burnt to a crisp!”

According to Samir Kalra, Senior Director and Human Rights Fellow at the Hindu American Foundation, the show sensationalized Hinduism. He believes by focusing on the Aghoris, Aslan is misrepresenting the majority and the norm of a vastly followed religion.

“Believer devoted copious footage to highlighting stereotypical and sensationalized presentations of Hinduism: simplistic description of karma; conflations of caste/varna/jati; and the pollution in Varanasi and of the Ganga. The show unnecessarily focuses on Aghori ascetics, who are alien to almost all Hindus precisely because they practice austere, even repulsive rituals and prefer to remain shunned. What follows are the titillating scenes of drinking from a skull, wearing a crown of cadaveric tissue and a rather animated ascetic drinking his own urine.” – Samir Kalra, HAF

Aslan also interviewed several non-cannibal Aghori members, some of whom ran an orphanage and a group of volunteers of people who care for those suffering from leprosy.

Critics of the first episode come from divergent points of view and include Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna and the founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, Shalabh Kumar.

The Hindu American Foundation tells Diya TV the CNN episode was highly insensitive given the time we live in. Kalra explains:

“Religious literacy in the United States about Hinduism, as every Hindu American knows, is woefully inadequate. The Pew Religious Knowledge Survey of 2013 found that only 36% of Americans could answer a single question about Hinduism: Whether Shiva and Vishnu were deities associated with Hinduism. When the knowledge deficit is so stark, and minority communities are facing a rise in hate incidents across the US— a Hindu American was killed and Sikh American was shot in likely hate crimes in the past week — why would Aslan and CNN sensationalize the Aghoris as a primetime introduction to the faith of a billion Hindus, most of whom have never seen or met an Aghori?” – Samir Kalra, HAF 

Aslan holds a BA in religious studies from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Harvard Divinity School, an Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD in sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He’s previously appeared on many cable news network shows as an expert on religion. Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley and their three sons.

We reached out to Aslan and have not heard back from him or his team and look forward to sharing their perspective on this highly sensitive issue. 

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Impeachment moves ahead despite limited GOP support

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Impeachment Moves Ahead Despite Limited Gop Support | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Democrats in the House are moving ahead with the second impeachment of President Trump over accusations Trump incited supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol. Despite tepid Republican support, the vote will be held Wednesday. Vice President Pence said he would not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump before his final day in office January 20th.

Indian Prime Minister Modi praised the Indian diaspora around the world for all their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Modi says Indians have gone above and beyond with their giving and generosity, especially medical workers on the front lines. He also thanked temples, gurdwaras and other social service agencies for being there for everyone without discrimination.

India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for use, putting it’s massive manufacturing capacity in the spotlight.  The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume. It will likely provide almost all the vaccines in India and ship to many other places around the world later this year.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Rioters face criminal charges, Capitol Police chief resigns

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Rioters Face Criminal Charges, Capitol Police Chief Resigns | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Federal investigators are looking to bring criminal charges on everyone involved in the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol and they are also looking at the role President Trump had in inviting his supporters to interrupt the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden’s win. 15 criminal cases have already been filed, including one against one man who brought a military semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. Capitol Police are also under fire for how the building was breached in the first place, leading to the resignation of their police chief. The House & Senate Sergeant at Arms are also being replaced.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are leading the calls for the 25th Amendment to be invoked against President Trump. The 25th Amendment states in part the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office.

Several White House officials resigned in the aftermath of violence at the Capitol. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced their resignations, the first to leave President Trump’s Cabinet since the attack. Trump’s former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, top European and Russian official on the National Security Council Ryan Tully and First Lady Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham have also quit.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Democrats introduce an article of impeachment against Trump

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Democrats Introduce Article Of Impeachment Against Trump | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — As promised, House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump, accusing him of inciting insurrection at the Capitol building on January 6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told GOP colleagues the earliest a Senate trial could likely be held would be on January 19, the day before President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

Indians around the world were surprised to see an Indian flag being waved on the Capitol grounds during the massive riot that left five people dead. Vincent Palanthigal brought the tricolor and was part of a group of Indian Americans on hand protesting President-Elect Joe Biden’s election win. Vincent is a Catholic and a Republican originally from India and says he brought the flag because of his patriotic fervor and love for India. But claims he did not participate in the destruction.

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris named Sabrina Singh as her Deputy Press Secretary. Singh was Harris’ press secretary on the Biden-Harris campaign and she also served previously for Mike Bloomberg and Cory Booker.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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