On January 23, 2010 we wrote an article about a review by one Pankaj Mishra of a book by Wendy Doniger titled Hindus: An Alternative History”. A reader of this Blog had brought these to our attention.
We were appalled by the book, its NYT review and, above all, by what we considered to be sheer journalistic misconduct of the New York Times Editorial Board in approving this review. We expressed our opinion and the journey of thought that led to our opinion in our article Cultural & Religious Defamation Tacitly Accepted By New York Times Editors?- Our Perspectives.
Then a reader informed us that this book had been chosen by the National Book Critics Circle for their “centerpiece” award for 2009. According to the NBCC website, this is a group of 600 plus book critics all across America. This we felt was a perfect opportunity for Tom Friedman, the veteran New York Times opinionator, to put his own views into practice in his home town. So, on January 30, 2010, we wrote an article titled Tom Friedman, Will You Practice What You Preach? As far as we know, Mr. Friedman has done nothing. We are not surprised because it is easy to write about religious defamation in Middle Eastern Countries while it might be a trifle embarrassing to admit the same problem within one’s own journalistic brotherhood.
We understand from our readers that there has been an outpouring of letters and emails to the Board of NBCC from Hindu organizations in America & India expressing their outrage about the Doniger book and the decision of NBCC to consider this book for its centerpiece award.
This outrage seems to have galvanized the Indian community. Now this community has begun a petition to Penguin USA & Penguin India to withdraw the book by Doniger. The home page of this petition is at http://www.petitiononline.com/dharma10/petition.html
Section A of the Petition begins with the following self-explanatory paragraph:
- “The following are a just a SMALL SAMPLING of examples of the factual errors that run rampant through this disgusting book. By due diligence that is badly overdue from your editors, you can either find for yourself, or we will be glad to direct you to, scholarly references so that you can verify these errors yourself and withdraw this obscenity. “
Section B provides some examples of “Derogatory, Defamatory & Offensive Statements” from the Doniger book. Again, the first paragraph of this section is self-explanatory:
- “Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.”
The Petition concludes with the following:
As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:
1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.
2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book “The Hindus: An Alternative History”. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition. PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.
We respectfully request readers to review the petition and, if they concur, to sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/dharma10/petition.html
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