Scholars of Hinduism Receive Threats

April 10, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On April 10, 2004 The Washington Post reported, "Folklore has it that elephants never forget, and Paul Courtright has reason to believe it. A professor of religion at Emory University, he immersed himself in the story of Ganesha, the beloved Hindu god with the head of an elephant. Detecting provocative Oedipal overtones in Ganesha's story -- and phallic symbolism in his trunk -- he wrote a book setting out his theories in 1985. Nineteen years later, thanks to an Internet campaign, the world has rediscovered Courtright's book. After a scathing posting on a popular Indian Web site, he has received threats from Hindu militants who want him dead... Other academics writing about Hinduism have encountered similar hostility, from tossed eggs to assaults to threats of extradition and prosecution in India. The attacks against American scholars come as a powerful movement called Hindutva has gained political power in India, where most of the world's 828 million Hindus live. Its proponents assert that Hindus have long been denigrated and that Western authors are imposing a Eurocentric world view on a culture they do not understand. That argument resonates among many of the roughly 1.4 million Hindus in North America as well."