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CNN show host Reza Aslan under fire for misrepresenting Hinduism

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, March 8, 2017  /  01:30 pm
CNN show host Reza Aslan under fire for misrepresenting Hinduism

A seagull sitting on a boat during the morning boat ride on ghats of the Ganges River in India. (Shutterstock/File)

The CNN show Believer host and scholar Reza Aslan has received backlash for eating human brain tissue during the show's premiere.

As reported by the Washington Post, the first episode of the documentary series about faith around the world followed Aslan to India where he visited the nomadic Aghori people, who reject the traditional Hindu caste system and believe that nothing can taint the human form. Some of the Aghori people, including those Alsan met with, practice cannibalism. 

Following the premiere, some viewers accused Aslan, a Muslim, of misrepresenting Hindus.

"With multiple reports of hate-fueled attacks against people of Indian origin from across the United States, [Believer] characterizes Hinduism as cannibalistic, which is a bizarre way of looking at the third largest religion in the world,” said the US-India Political Action Committee in a statement. 

In the episode, Aslan bathed in the Ganges -- a river sacred to Hindus -- at the prompting of the Aghori and had the ashes of cremated humans rubbed on his face by a guru. The host also drank alcohol from a human skull, in addition to eating cooked brain. 

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During the interview, the mood shifted, and one cannibal threatened the host, “I will cut off your head if you keep talking so much.”

However, not all of the program was dedicated to the cannibals. 

Aslan also interviewed several other Aghori people who did not practice cannibalism, including a group who ran an orphanage and another who cared for people with leprosy. Still, some felt that the focus on those who were cannibalistic was done for shock value.

Vamsee Juluri, a media studies professor at the University of San Francisco, specifically criticized the show in The Huffington Post. "It is unbelievably callous and reckless of CNN to be pushing sensational and grotesque images of bearded brown men and their morbid and deathly religion at a time when the United States is living through a period of unprecedented concern and fear,” Juluri wrote, referencing the recent violence toward the Hindu and Sikh communities. (sul/kes)