Hindu American Foundation Pedals Deception, Deceit and Dishonesty Once More

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk around the NRG Stadium waving to the crowd during the Howdy, Modi! event in Houston on September 22, 2019. | Photo Credit: AP

Of course, the nakedly supremacist HAF counts only Hindus as “Indian Americans”, excluding Indian-origin Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs who fully reject the rightwing extremism of HAF’s ideological master, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s own Ku Klux Klan

Ahmed Shah | Clarion India

In a highfalutin bombastic piece headlined “Why The Democratic Party is Bleeding Indian American Support” and published on medium.com on September 24, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a far right extremist group, issued a warning to the Democratic Party. Bemoaning that top Democrats such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, have criticized Hindu extremist violence against India’s religious minorities, HAF threatened that “Indian Americans” were ready to jump ship and vote for the Republican Party.

Of course, the nakedly supremacist HAF counts only Hindus as “Indian Americans”, excluding Indian-origin Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs who fully reject the rightwing extremism of HAF’s ideological master, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s own Ku Klux Klan. Without evidence, the HAF article targets many American Muslim organizations, deploying falsehood and dishonest tropes.

One such target is Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a civil rights advocacy organization that is, in fact, older than HAF. The article claims it is led by Shaikh Ubaid, even though Ubaid’s association with IAMC ended a decade ago. The article seeks to link IAMC with Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, through a clutch of Sikh organizations but, again, offers no evidence. The article randomly invokes the bombing of an Indian airplane in 1985 without connecting it to any of the Sikh organizations it names. The article describes a Muslim organization as “Islamist leaning” — as if that in itself was a disqualifying attribute — even as HAF’s website freely espouses its “Hindu leaning”.

The article laments that Sonal Shah, a Hindu close to the Biden campaign, was being targeted for her faith. But it fails to mention that Shah’s family felt compelled to publicly disavow their decades old association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a division of the RSS’s, in 2009 so she could serve in the Obama White House. Shah’s family was also forced to publicly condemn the Hindu extremist violence, in which the RSS-VHP had been complicit, that killed over 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat state in 2002 when Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister now, was that state’s chief executive.

The HAF article claims a 2020 Asian American Voter Survey has found that only 65% of Indian Americans support Joe Biden, down from 77% Indian Americans that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the article conveniently fails to mention that this “survey” polled a mere 250 Indian Americans and had an error margin of +/-6%. Elsewhere, the article claims “one survey” had found that negative stereotyping had caused a “steep rise in bullying and hate crimes” against Hindu Americans, but fails to say that this “survey” was not conducted by any independent professional agency but by HAF itself.

The article says Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s Resolution on Kashmir in the US House of Representatives did not get any sponsors, but fails to mention that another resolution on Kashmir brought by Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Washington) had received over 60 signatures before the pandemic set in.

The article claims several Hindu Members of Congress and other politicians were supposedly being targeted for being aligned with the RSS. But it fails to mention that two Indian American Hindu-origin Members of Congress — Jayapal and Ro Khanna (Democrat of California) — have come out very strongly against Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu extremism. Jayapal has also strongly criticized Mr. Modi’s anti-Muslim law, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a national headcount that is widely discredited as an attempt to rob Indian Muslims of citizenship.

The HAF article faults Indian American Muslims for criticizing Hindu Democratic leaders such as Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy of Illinois or Congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni in Houston, Texas, for refusing to condemn Hindu extremism and the majoritarian violence against Muslims in India. But the article is silent on the fact that Indian American Hindus themselves have criticized Democratic Party leaders for their criticism of India, and have now organized to defeat many Democratic candidates.

Bay Area Hindu leader Romesh Japra set up a Hindu American Political Action Committee in California to oppose Ro Khanna and support his Republican challenger, Ritesh Tandon, who Khanna had defeated in the primaries in March. In August, Indian American Hindus held a virtual fund-raiser for Joe Kennedy III, who was challenging Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in the primaries. At the fundraiser, an Indian American Hindu leader said Markey, who has openly criticized CAA and NRC, to lose because he was “anti-India”. Another American Hindu leader with RSS ties, Bharat Barai, promised he will get Prime Minister Modi to phone Kennedy if he won.

The HAF article says an Indian journalist has “exposed” Rep. Omar’s “ties to radical Islamist charities,” and offers a link to another article on the website of the Middle East Forum (MEF), a self-styled think tank. The MEF article, in turn, says “a series of recent reports [had] documented the activities of several Islamist groups that have serious issues with terror financing, as well as the influence campaign aimed at promoting an Islamist view of Kashmir. Several of these same groups are closely and publicly aligned with Omar.” The words “series”, “recent” and “reports” offer three more hyperlinks.

When you click on those hyperlinks, you are led to two news items from an Indian news agency, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), naming various American Muslim organizations and alleging that they were linked with terrorism and with Rep. Omar. Both stories claim getting information from “sources”, “DC-based sources”, “open source research”, “an investigator”, and “an investigator in DC.” No US agency such as the FBI, the CIA, or any other are named. The stories have no bylines.

Incredibly, the news stories say the Muslim organizations with “terror” connections receive donations from “US Agency for International Development (USAID), the British government, the World Food Program, the World Health Organization,” and “prominent American corporations such as Microsoft, Cisco, PepsiCo and Dell.” One of these Muslim organizations was “designated as one of the top 10 charities” during President Obama’s second term, one news story said. Neither the MEF article and nor HAF’s article in medium.com explains why these news stories have not triggered investigations by American law enforcement and anti-terrorism agencies. Or why governments and corporations continue to donate to terrorist-linked charities.

And exactly what is MEF and why should the Democratic Party take note of it?

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a respected US organization working for racial justice and ending white supremacy, describes MEF as a “think tank run by anti-Muslim provocateur Daniel Pipes”. And who is Pipes? The SPLC says Pipes is an “anti-Muslim activist” who has “spent the better part of three decades vilifying Muslims”. Pipes believes Islam will “replace” western civilization as a result of “unfettered immigration and blind multiculturalism.” Not exactly Democratic talking points.

According to a Georgetown University initiative, the MEF is “a right-wing anti-Islam think tank that spreads misinformation, creates “watchlists” targeting academics… provides funding to numerous anti-Muslim organizations and has provided legal services to a number of anti-Muslim activists including [Islamophobic Dutch politician] Geert Wilders and [British far right anti-Islam activist] Tommy Robinson.”

The MEF article on Rep. Omar is written by a man named Clifford Smith, who is the Washington Project Direct at the MEF. Before joining the MEF, Smith had worked with Republican Congressman Gary Palmer from Alabama, who has a 7% rating of approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Previously, Smith had worked with South Carolinian Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, who was one of the earliest supporters of President Trump’s Muslim ban. Rep. Wilson was the man who shouted “You lie!” as President Obama delivered a joint address to US Congress in 2009.

The question is: why has HAF taken to threatening the Democratic Party by deploying falsehood and deception? The answer is simple: HAF is growing increasingly desperate, as Hindu extremism is more and more unmasked and denounced in the US.

This process has accelerated speedily since last October when, at a hearing called by the Sub-committee on Asia, Pacific and Non-proliferation of the US House of Representatives, more than 20 Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, roundly attacked Prime Minister Modi’s brutal crackdown on Indian Kashmir’s eight million Muslims, and pushed back against the efforts of HAF-aligned Hindus testifying at that hearing to justify that action in Kashmir. By the time that daylong hearing on Capitol Hill had ended, HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla was visibly in tears, stunned into silence by how badly the hearing had gone for HAF.

When last December a new citizenship law targeting India’s 200 million Muslims triggered mass protests in India, the US media reported the protests extensively and negatively for the Modi government which unleashed vicious police attacks on peaceful protesters, killings nearly two dozen. Since then, at least six city councils, including in Seattle, San Francisco, St. Paul and Cambridge, have passed resolutions condemning India’s citizenship law and condemning State violence against Muslims.

In March, the US Department of State’s global human rights report for 2019 scathingly observed that the Indian “government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents”. In June, the US Department of State’s global religious freedom report for 2019 noted that “mob attacks by violent Hindu groups against minority communities, including Muslims, continued throughout the year” in India, and that the government and the police were routinely complicit in protecting the perpetrators and punishing the victims.

In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal commission with nine commissioners appointed by both Democratic and Republican leadership of Congress as well as by US President, recommended that the US government designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern”, which is America’s list of the countries that are the worst offenders of religious freedom, a list that currently includes Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

In September, 14 US senators, 10 Republican and four Democrat, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to accept the USCIRF recommendation. In a panic, HAF has now written to them urging them to not support the CPC designation for India.

It has been said that one is known by the company one keeps. There is copious historical material that proves the RSS founders and successive leaders were enamored of Hitler and Mussolini and emulated their ideologies, strategies and tactics. The sooner the Democratic Party gets rid of these xenophobic bigots that belong to the 19th century, the better it would be for its moral and ideological health.

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