On July 12, Rutgers University’s researchers released a historic study that tracked the rise of Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred on social media and other messaging platforms. The report found a dramatic rise in, and patterns of, hate speech directed towards the Hindu community across these platforms – genocidal memes and coded language patterns advanced by white supremacists and Islamists along with Iranian trolls accusing Hindus of perpetrating a genocide against minorities in India.
Researchers also discovered that Hinduphobic code words and memes reached record highs and warned that this could spill into real world violence against the community, especially in the light of escalating religious tension in India and the recent beheading of an Indian shopkeeper. John Farmer, the former Attorney General of New Jersey as well as a co-author, along with former Congressman and Miller Center Research Fellow Denver Riggleman also shared that the Hindu community, along with law enforcement, must unite to counter hate messaging before it leads to real world violence, as has been observed by such incidents involving the Jewish community in the United States.
Like other communities have done, the Hindu community must also take security measures to ensure its safety and the safety of its next generation.
Below are 5 key takeaways from the Hinduphobia study:
1. An old hatred with a new playbook – As former Attorney General John Farmer observes via the example of the Dotbusters gang of the 80s, Hinduphobia isn’t new and Hindus have regularly been subjected to hatred using centuries old tropes. However, the real cause of alarm today is the deployment of those tropes over social media to a new playbook for rekindling old hatreds.
2. Online hate can lead to real world violence – NCRI’s previous research on vulnerable and minority populations, has observed that when the intensity of social media hate speech reaches a “fever pitch,” it can translate to violence against people in real life (as seen in past antisemitic, anti-Asian attacks). Thus, law enforcement must unite to counter this hate before it is too late.
3. Hinduphobia is largely understudied, dismissed, or even denied in the public sphere, despite its violent and genocidal implications (now exploding across entire Web communities across millions of comments, interactions, and impressions in both mainstream and extremist platforms).
4. Islamists, white nationalists, and other extremist sub-networks online are increasingly using genocidal memes, tropes and codewords to spread Hinduphobia. The term “Pajeet” has been prominently used to describe Hindus in a derogatory manner and in reference to violent, murderous fantasies about Indians. The usage of this term has spiked with key events, such as the appointment of Parag Agarwal as the new CEO of Twitter. Other dog whistles that target Hindus in social media include scatological references and calling Hindus backward, dirty, perverted or unintelligent, etc.
5. The Rutgers study highlights the deliberate and persistent use of Hindu specific imagery, tropes, sacred symbols, practices, and livelihoods (e.g. the saffron color, the sacred Swastika, Tilak or Bindi.) This finding is critical as many South Asian scholars and activist groups often downplay or dismiss Hinduphobia by couching it as anti-India or broader anti-South Asian xenophobia. Furthermore, in a parallel with how antisemitic tropes of “Zionist Occupied Government” are used against the Jewish community, there is an increased usage of tropes such as “Brahmin Occupied Government” which relay themes about Hindu dominance and control in places of power. Other prominent tropes include “Caste” “Nationalist” “Extremist” “Rashtra” and associating Hindus with Nazis and extremists.
Additional resources on Hinduphobia:
- Anti-Hindu Disinformation: A Case Study of Hinduphobia on Social Media – Rutgers Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, Rutgers Center for Critical Intelligence Studies, NC Labs at Rutgers
- Understanding Hinduphobia – Working Definition by Scholars
- 26 Senators write a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller to track hate crimes against Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans and Arab Americans
- Rutgers University Student Assembly Resolution Condemning Hinduphobia
- Hate Crimes Against Indian Americans Continue to Rise, According to Newly Released FBI Data – India West
- The “Dotbusters” Attack: Hate Crimes Against Asian Indians in Jersey City, NJ – Elizabeth Gutierrez, Temple University Department of Geography and Urban Studies
- After Immigration, an Unexpected Fear – The Washington Post
- No Dots: Racist signs in Atlanta suburb bring back memories of Dotbusters – NRI Pulse
- 150 American and Canadian Organizations ask Universities to Disavow Hinduphobia
- An Open Letter to the American Public on Institutionalizing Prejudice: Hinduphobia
- Crying Hindutva: The Hindutva Harassment Manual and Gagging of Hindu Voices
- BBC Sounds Podcast Episode: Heart and Soul – Hindus, Hate and Hashtags
- Hinduphobia Hides in Plain Sight: A New Study Exposes the Pervasive Use of Social Media to Foment Hate – American Kahani