For immediate release

March 10, 2017

Hindu Member of Congress Slams CNN’s “Believer”

CNN’s new “Believer” series hosted by Reza Aslan is getting scorched in the media for misrepresenting faith communities by focusing on tiny, bizarre sects as a ratings gimmick.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii

Now a member of Congress is weighing in. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, the only Hindu member of Congress, took to social media to criticize Aslan and CNN for promoting “false stereotypes” of Hinduism. Rep. Gabbard tweeted, “I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people's misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism.

Her comments followed the series premiere depicting a tiny group of Hindus as cannibals. The show included a highly criticized scene in which Aslan sampled the burned brains of a corpse.

Rep. Gabbard noted that “Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism. Aslan and CNN didn't just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals—as if touring a zoo—but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma and reincarnation that Hindus have been combatting tirelessly.”

She added that Aslan and CNN “perpetuated bizarre and ugly impressions of Hindus and their religion.”

Members of the Hindu community have expressed concern that the show will lead to further hate crime attacks on Hindus and Indian-Americans similar to one that occurred in Kansas last month in which an Indian engineer was killed.

…another purports to be about so-called “independent Scientologists,” a handful of individuals who try to make money promoting from their living rooms a false version of Scientology.

Said Rep. Gabbard: “CNN knows well that sensational, even false reporting about religions only fosters ignorance that can lead to terrible consequences. Indeed, Hindus are still reeling after witnessing terrible hate crimes in the last few weeks. Our nation celebrates religious pluralism and diversity. CNN must do more to foster greater respect for people of different religions.”

Future episodes of the CNN series also appear to focus on other fringe groups that do not come anywhere near representing broader religious beliefs. One upcoming episode is promoted to be about a “doomsday” group in Hawaii and another about voodoo practitioners in Haiti. Still another purports to be about so-called “independent Scientologists,” a handful of individuals who try to make money promoting from their living rooms a false version of Scientology.

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