Hindu American Foundation
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF, founded September 3, 2003) is an American Hindu human rights group advocating on behalf of the Hindu community in the United States. Dr. Aseem Shukla, who is Associate Professor in urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota medical school, is one of the co-founders of this organization.
According to its website, "The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is an advocacy organization for the Hindu American community. The Foundation educates the public about Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide, and builds bridges with institutions and individuals whose work aligns with HAF’s objectives. HAF focuses on human and civil rights, public policy, media, academia, and interfaith relations. Through its advocacy efforts, HAF seeks to cultivate leaders and empower future generations of Hindu Americans. The Hindu American Foundation is not affiliated with any religious or political organizations or entities. HAF seeks to serve Hindu Americans across all sampradayas (Hindu religious traditions) regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship, caste, gender, sexual orientation, age and/or disability. "
Human rights report
The Hindu American Foundation, released a report in 2005 on the status of the human rights of Hindus, mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Kashmir valley. The report attempts to increase awareness of anti-Hindu views that they say are used to justify violations of the human rights of many Hindus in the region. The report introduces as
Human rights are by definition universal. Hence, in an ideal world there would be no need to write a separate report on the human rights of Hindus, or for that matter any other group. In the real world, unfortunately, there is a gaping hole when it comes to the awareness of human rights for Hindus, mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan and in the Kashmir valley.
The 71-page report compiles media coverage and firsthand accounts of human rights violations perpetrated against Hindus because of their religious identity. The incidents are documented, often quoting from well-known international human rights organizations. The Hindu American Foundation presented the report to the co-chairs of the US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Gary Ackerman, a Democrat. Both of these members of Congress endorsed it. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and co-founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised the HAF for the report.
|“||The Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomes this report which will help the international community and non-governmental Organizations to have a broader understanding of the human rights situation in that important region of the world.||”|
Several academics on campuses around the U.S. also reviewed this year’s report. Florida International University Professor of religious Studies, Nathan Katz, remarked on the promulgation of various anti-Hindu sentiments recorded in the report:
|“||“This report by the Hindu American Foundation…is a real eye-opener”.“As a minority in Islamic societies that consider them to be ‘idolaters,’ Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan face unimaginable persecution routinely.||”|
Since then, the Foundation has expanded the scope of its human rights report and continues to release an annual report entitled Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora. The report covers Hindu human rights in eight countries plus India's state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The report documents the long history of anti-Hindu atrocities in Bangladesh, a topic that many Indians and Indian governments over the years have preferred not to acknowledge. Such atrocities, including targeted attacks against temples, open theft of Hindu property, and rape of young Hindu women and enticements to convert to Islam, have increased sharply in recent years after the Jamat-e-Islami joined the coalition government led by the Bangladesh National Party.
The report concludes with:
|“||Some Indians may feel uncomfortable with this report because they do not want to be reminded about the problems of Hindus outside their milieu. And for some in the Indian intelligentsia, it is a badge of honour to distance themselves from these pogroms as a mark of their supposed enlightenment, oddly trashing their own ethos in the process. Many more Indians are reluctant to speak out against atrocities committed against Hindus for fear of being labeled "communal". Merely speaking about human rights for Hindus is for them a form of communalism||”|
The people whose persecution is amply documented in this report are being persecuted because they are Hindu, not because they are poor or because of their political views. Human rights activists in Bangladesh and Pakistan, many of whom are not Hindus, have painstakingly documented the violations of basic human rights of Hindus in their country.
California textbook dispute
The HAF was actively involved in the Californian Hindu textbook controversy. On March 16, 2006, it filed a lawsuit contesting the California's Curriculum Commission's decision to reject many of the Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education Foundation's suggested edits to California's textbook curriculum on Hinduism and India, which were opposed by a number of organizations and individuals, claiming that many of the changes were revisionist. (See main article Californian Hindu textbook controversy for details.)
As of September 1, 2006, the HAF case has been resolved. The HAF won the case as the judge ruled that the CA State Board of Education violated its textbook approval process. But, the court ruled to retain the textbooks, noting the significant expense associated with reissuing the textbooks. HAF has launched a circular confirming the decision by the courts and expressing a certain measure of satisfaction at the recognition of the illegality of the proceedings . The brief published by HAF says that the judge ruled in favor of retaining the edits on the grounds that he did not wish to disrupt the process of disseminating the revised editions at this stage. The legal team of HAF has posted an assessment of the result .
Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation, described the judgment as a "mixed victory". He says:
"This ruling now forces the California Board of Education to comply with the law — to have a fair and open public process to benefit all California students."
as well as:
"The (foundation) is disappointed that ... (the judge) has not ordered the textbooks on hand to be modified to be more accurate ... and a flawed and illegal procedure leads to flawed textbooks"
- California in a time of excellence: school reform at the crossroads of the American dream, pp129, SUNY Press, 2009
- Smashing the Stained Glass Ceiling: Women Religious Leaders in Their Own Words, pp 25 By Maureen Fiedler, Church Publishing, Inc., 2010
- Preserving Ethnicity Through Religion in America: Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus Across Generations, pp103,Pyong Gap Min, Pyong Min,NYU Press, 2010
- Liberty of conscience: in defense of America's tradition of religious equality, pp 388, Martha Craven Nussbaum, Basic Books, 2008
- .The theft of yoga, The Washington Post, April 18, 2010.
- Panel promotes understanding,Stanford Daily
- Human Rights Report from HAF
-  Second Annual Report On Hindu Human Rights Released, Pacific Magazine