Greater Journalistic Integrity in Reporting on Hinduism @ NPR

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The recent debacle over NPR’s New Delhi producer Furkan Khan's horrifically violent Hinduphobic tweet reveals a much deeper issue in journalistic integrity from NPR, in India and in the US.  (If you recall, in her tweet, she stated, “If Indians give up.hinduism, they will also be solving most of their problems what with all the piss drinking and dung worshipping.” She removed the tweet, stating that she didn’t wish to be “misrepresented”. She later tweeted a longer apology and resigned.) 

There are growing and substantiated concerns that NPR reporting and podcasts are distinctly and consistently biased against Hindus and Hinduism. A quick search of “Hinduism” on NPR’s website produces a long list of results that clearly sustains a very particular narrative about Hinduism. NPR does not even attempt to include a diversity of perspectives or counternarratives in any substantial way. The only themes that are represented are: Hindu nationalism, the peculiarities and exotification of Hindu worship, and Hindu violence against others. There is little to no mention or consideration of the massive violence done to Hindus (in India and other parts of South Asia, including Bangladesh and Pakistan), systemic or historical oppression of Hinduism, or any kind of investigative journalism about the impact and influence of foreign funding on missionaries and jihadists in India. There also appears to be little to no awareness of the larger context - that India is one of the only remaining countries in the world that has not been successfully converted to Islam or Christianity through religious warfare and neo-colonization. It is hard to understand how this isn’t simply propaganda to justify - under the guise of liberalism and social justice - the debasement and eradication of one of the world’s oldest indigenous knowledge traditions. 

While Ms. Khan made several openly bigoted and violent comments about Hindus on Twitter, the problem is much bigger than one person. NPR is a popular liberal media outlet that, thus far, has not attempted to capture any dissenting Hindu voices or tell the full story in a substantial way. There is a valid argument to be made that NPR, through its coverage, has sustained an environment - internally and in the media - that condones the condemnation and disrespect of Hindus and Hinduism.  The resignation of Ms. Khan is pacification; it is necessary but insufficient. If NPR is to regain its journalistic integrity regarding Hinduism, it ought to meet the following demands:

  1. The Hinduphobia in Ms. Khan’s Twitter history was easy to surface. NPR will make a formal and public statement apologizing to the Hindu community about Furkan Khan’s tweet and will investigate Hinduphobia in their staff’s Twitter history.  NPR will hold their journalists' and employees' social media representation about Hindus and Hinduism to the same ethical standards as it does regarding other groups.
  2. NPR will investigate their biased practices of reporting on Hinduism and whether or not it meets the standards of ethics and fair reporting that they apply to  every other minoritized group in the world.
  3. NPR will review who and what informs their assumptions about Hinduism and critically  investigate the commitments and assumptions of their sources.   
  4. Moving forward, NPR will engage a more ethical and balanced approach towards reporting on Hinduism and Hindus.

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