Professors affiliated with the University of California at Davis, Butler University, St. Michael’s College at Toronto, and Elon University are planning to hold an overwhelmingly Hindu-phobic conference in July this year at the University of Madras that is deceptively titled the ‘Conference in the Study of Religions of India’.

Houston: The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has launched yet another barely concealed fusillade on Hinduism in its latest report by using what has come to be known as “Fake Facts”. Elsewhere in the United States, professors affiliated with the University of California at Davis, Butler University, St. Michael’s College at Toronto, and Elon University are planning to hold an overwhelmingly Hindu-phobic conference in July this year at the University of Madras that is deceptively titled the “Conference in the Study of Religions of India”. To spread hatred among different faiths is a crime in India, yet somehow many such activities have escaped attention.

These two events may seem unrelated to each other on the face of it, but they are deeply intertwined. Both of them have their origins in the foreign policy agenda of the American establishment and are tools in the larger game plan to alter the religious character of the population of the country. Converting entire countries has proven to be a time-tested way to subjugate nations and ensure the compliance of the people, who, upon changing their religious affiliations, turn into passive supporters of western foreign policy.

While subjects like South Asia Studies, which are generally categorized under “Area Studies” were created in American universities after the Second World War in order to generate literature targeting other cultures, USCIRF was started with the explicit aim of targeting India and furthering Christianity as described in the 1997 report entitled “United States Policies in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians.”

Both the USCIRF and the members of the academia have been aggressive in pushing their objectives even if it has meant they had to use fake information to advance their aims. The previous edition of the so-called academic conference was hosted by the University of California at Davis and the webpage calling for papers against Hinduism carried the announcement, which said, “We invite proposals representing a range of disciplinary and methodological approaches that focus on dishonesty, trickery or concealment by or by means of religious texts, practices, institutions, and individuals. Possible topics could include the changeable appearance of deities, religious charlatans, the question of the authenticity or inauthenticity of religious practices or entities, the theological concept of māyā, issues of religious identity such as hidden or false conversions, the elaborate ploys and deceptions of the Epics, secrecy, etc.” There is no history of any university hosting a similar conference spewing hostility against any other religion.

When the Office of the Provost at the University of California at Davis was contacted and asked if professors at the university could be approached for co-hosting a similar conference along with an assurance that the Provost’s office would green-light topics with near identical wording but related to another faith, they flatly refused. Clearly, the university knew that these topics amounted to hate-speech and the university reserved such vituperative attacks only for Hinduism.

This controversial conference now comes to India, and the Convener is listed as James Ponniah of the Department of Christian Studies who is also a priest of the Diocese of Sivagangai.

His co-convener is Brian Pennington of Elon University, which was started as a Christian university. Other organizers include Chad Bauman of Butler University, which is yet another Christian university that offers joint programs with, and houses, the Christian Theological Seminary, which states that its mission is “to form disciples of Jesus Christ for church and community leadership to serve God’s transforming of the world”. The website of the seminary, in a moment of candour, goes on to admit that “CTS is a sanctuary that welcomes both peacemakers and troublemakers”. Another person listed as a key organizer of the anti-Hindu conference is Reid Locklin of St. Michael’s College at Toronto, a Roman Catholic college.

As in the case of the academic conference, the USCIRF too has embarked on a religious crusade to attack Hindus. USCIRF has carefully suppressed the truth that the Citizenship Amendment Act in India that was passed in 2019 is meant to grant asylum to those who faced religious persecution in three specific countries and applies to those who arrived in India from those countries before the end of 2014. Instead, it falsely claims that the law targets Muslims within India and reduces them to the state of second-rate citizens. USCIRF also conceals the fact that India’s law is consistent with the laws and practices of the United Nations, United States and the European Union.

The fact that USCIRF uses a religious test to hire staff members is well documented. An earlier article here in The Sunday Guardian exposed the fact that while cardinals, rabbis, imams, bishops, televangelists, and even convicts and pedophiles had become USCIRF Commissioners, not a single person sympathetic to Hindus had become its Commissioner during its two decades of existence. Additionally, a lawsuit against USCIRF by a person of Indian descent named Safiya Ghori-Ahmad exposed their inner workings and pointed out that they rescinded an offer of employment to her on account of, among other things, her Indian origin.

Ghori-Ahmad’s complaint exposes the fact that two USCIRF Commissioners, Nina Shea and Felice Gaer, were virulently opposed to criticizing either Switzerland for banning minarets on mosques or France for banning headscarves worn by Muslim women. Such criticisms would have turned the fictional claims of USCIRF upside down and shattered their false claims that Hindu-majority India accorded fewer rights for Muslims than Christian nations. Ghori-Ahmad’s complaint points out that Shea had argued in internal USCIRF meetings that “Switzerland had the right to resist the Islamification of Christian nations”.

Interestingly, the complaint also points out that “USCIRF—an entity created by Congress to promote religious freedom—argued that it could discriminate against employees on the basis of religion without sanction…because it was not subject to…the Civil Rights Act of 1964”. This nugget of information is not at all surprising and proves that those who created the USCIRF and those who cite their reports use the term “religious freedom” to mean “freedom of White Christians to oppress others”.

Just as the USCIRF uses the term “religious freedom” selectively to ensure that the West maintain a stranglehold over power in global affairs, the term “academic freedom” is used by its carefully chosen university professors to mean the same thing. Claiming exemption from the purview of the law for racist actions has been par for the course for these university professors for a long time. Although they constantly demand legislation to curb “hate-speech” and are involved in drafting laws against “hate-speech”, these laws always have a clause exempting university professors in the name of “academic freedom”.

It is using this term that professors at the University of California at Davis have repeatedly sought shelter for their own biased actions. When Nancy McTygue, a White Christian professor at the university was given the task of leading a team to draft a framework to teach history to school students in California, she included fantastic claims that amount to biblical indoctrination of children. Among the claims included in the framework was one that described the Exodus in the Old Testament as a true historical event. McTygue’s framework even assigned dates to the stories, even though the Exodus includes descriptions of a conversation with God and Moses parting the Red Sea by waving a staff. On the other hand, Hinduism has been described as an artificial construct of Brahmins who assumed authority and invented the religion. When these descriptions led to a lawsuit, the State Board of Education of California argued just like the USCIRF that even if they used the offensive racial epithet “nigger” to describe black people, they were exempt from the law and even the Equality clauses of the United States Constitution from being applied to them!

Among the claims in California’s framework document to teach history to school children is one which claims that Hinduism is a British colonial creation. This claim is similar to the propaganda of Brian Pennington, who is the key person behind the anti-Hindu conference that has been scheduled to be held at the University of Madras. Ironically, it is a book of his own religion, the King James Bible, which was created by the British and approved by British Parliament.

It is not just in their racism that the USCIRF and the organizers of the anti-Hindu conference are united. Just as USCIRF Commissioner Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a pedophile and other Commissioners have been convicted of various crimes, the universities with which the professors behind the anti-Hindu conference are affiliated too have their share of similar troubles. The religious order controlling Reid Locklin’s St. Michael’s College was sued by a former student who had been molested by a priest, a former Professor of Brian Pennington’s Elon University was arrested in October 2019 and charged with trafficking minors for sex, another Religious Studies professor at the same university was caught sending suggestive texts to female students, and a discussion with the subject line “Do NOT send your kids to Elon” on collegeconfidential.com, a popular forum for college students, describes how Elon University is meant for under-performing high school students and that students at Elon are evaluated on “how much they can drink and who can get them the most drugs” and that a fraternity at the university is known by the racist moniker “the plantation,” an allusion to the days of slavery in the Antebellum South.

It might seem that the conference organizers and the USCIRF Commissioners run on parallel tracks, but the two tracks actually meet, with the meeting point being Georgetown University. Located in Washington DC, Georgetown University is a Catholic University which is a hotbed of activities related to the US government with which its employees share a revolving door. It is here that mentions of God becomes a mere pawn to be used to advance the foreign policy goals of the United States, most of which are hidden from the public and do not have their approval. A number of people involved with the US government including the CIA and the State Department such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hold positions at the university.

Exposes of intelligence connections with universities are incomplete without Georgetown University being named. An article in the New York Times published in June 1986, “Campus Recruiting and the CIA”, mentioned that the school that provided the most recruits for the CIA was Georgetown University. A 2009 audit of the finances of Georgetown University revealed that the university had received secret funds from the CIA, and a 2017 article in London’s Guardian newspaper described how the CIA has spent millions of dollars staging conferences and recruits academics and how “conferences lend themselves to espionage” and went on to describe a conference at the university.

The pedophile Commissioner of USCIRF, Theodore McCarrick, is the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Georgetown University and has been associated with the university’s Berkley Center for Religion. The Berkley Center has also funded James Ponniah and Chad Bauman, two organizers of the forthcoming anti-Hindu conference at the University of Madras. To highlight the deep ties between Georgetown’s Berkley Center and the US State Department, one should note that Berkley Center’s Director Shaun Casey was previously US special representative for religion and global affairs and director of the US Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs.

The money trail in the audit reports of Georgetown University shows that the university shares a very close relationship with the University of California at Davis, with the latter being described as a “passthrough entity” for resources meant for various programs. Additionally, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs also lent itself to Hinduphobic professors who defended California’s pro-Bible curriculum and argued in favor of the idea of an Aryan race migrating to India, a theory that is based on treating biblical accounts of Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel as proven historical facts.

According to this theory, the descendants of Noah’s son Ham who was cursed by Noah were dark-skinned while the descendants of Ham’s brother Japhet were the light-skinned Aryans who were blessed by Noah to conquer the world and enslave Ham’s descendants.

The actions of USCIRF and the professors are not unlike the actions of their violent crusader ancestors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when they waged wars on the people of other cultures and killed them. The methods used today are more subtle than those used in the bygone eras as today’s professors and Commissioners hide behind titles, institutions and associated ‘reputations’ they have constructed using their marketing skills.

Conventional wisdom in the United States has it that some Americans or Europeans who choose to spend time in India or other Asian countries in the name of “research” or other activities are suspected of doing so with the purpose of molesting young children. It is for this reason that Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, prevailed in a lawsuit when he was sued for calling a British national in Thailand a “pedo guy” despite having no evidence to support his accusation. Many members of the academia who attack Hinduism have spent a few years in India and this should certainly raise eyebrows. Anti-Hindu conference organizer Chad Bauman too lived in Chhattisgarh in 2004 and this should sound the alarm bells as it was an election year and violence was high in the state.

Neither USCIRF nor the university professors can succeed in their propaganda without people in India supporting them either out of naiveté or because they receive money from foreign organizations that want to destabilize India.

The academia lending itself as a tool for advancing the foreign policy of the US and getting entangled with the world of intelligence is a shameful side of America and there is no reason that India should cooperate in this effort. It is time to relook the permission for the conference in Chennai, not on the grounds that Covid-19 has brought the world to a standstill, but on the grounds that India will no longer put up with  academia indulging in subversive activities by external forces.

Before the era of globalization in the 1990s, the American academia did not enjoy the kind of access to India that they now have. The academia’s access to India was negotiated by successive administrations starting with the Clinton administration. Just as USCIRF Commissioners are no longer welcome in India, it is time to roll back access. The people of India are the gatekeepers to the oldest living civilization on the planet and there is no reason to open it up to those who want to undermine it and visit India for suspicious purposes. It is the right time to act now as the Donald Trump administration faces the same kind of dishonest attacks that India faces from motivated and Hindu-phobic university professors.

Arvind Kumar can be reached at arvindk@uchicago.edu

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