New York: A coalition of 75 American Hindu temples and spiritual organizations (including 17 from New Jersey) from across 20 states sent a letter to Rutgers University July 1st expressing anguish and concerns regarding Professor Audrey Truschke’s actions and statements. The letter, coordinated by the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), included some of the largest temples and spiritual organizations, whose memberships include tens of thousands of attendees from diverse sectarian, social, ethnic, and national backgrounds – including from the United States, Canada, India, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Malaysia, and Singapore, among others.
The letter comes against the backdrop of an ongoing controversy at Rutgers University, where Professor Truschke has continued to make disparaging comments about Hindu texts, deities, and festivals while denouncing concerns from Hindu and non-Hindu students and the broader Hindu community as the work of the “Hindu Right.”
“We cannot help but feel intensely hurt and abused when a professor uses her authority and deliberately misinterprets Hindu sacred texts or slanders Hindu deities while rationalizing such behavior as ‘academic freedom,’” remarked the letter.
The letter outlined Professor Truschke’s selective and out-of-context usage of verses from Hindu texts to create false narratives about Hinduism and India, peddle bigotry and Hinduphobia and advance the idea that Hinduism rationalizes murder, rape, and other social evils. “In doing so, Professor Truschke demonizes Hinduism as inherently misogynistic, oppressive and savage,” added the letter.
“We are thankful to all the temples and spiritual organizations who signed this letter after hearing about Professor Truschke’s
While expressing support for academic freedom, the letter also condemned any violence and threats of violence against Professor Truschke, as such acts go against Hindu ethos. However, the letter also stated that bigotry and Hinduphobia on social media and in scholarship must not be excused under the guise of academic freedom, especially when such remarks can have an adverse impact on how Hindu students are viewed on campus by their peers. Surely, Rutgers would not tolerate a professor using selective passages from sacred texts to advance Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, or xenophobia. Hindus should be accorded the same treatment.
In addition, the signatories denounced the vehement dismissal of genuine student concerns by certain Rutgers faculty members and organizations, who called their concerns a handiwork of “right wing extremists” or a foreign government. Such actions gag student voices and subject them to further ridicule and abuse.
CoHNA is an advocacy organization dedicated to improving the understanding of Hinduism in North America.