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Why ‘proud Hindu’ Rishi Sunak’s rise to British prime minister is a giant deal

(RNS) — As Rishi Sunak, the brand new prime minister of the UK, ready to steer his nation amid financial, political and social turmoil, he used the time period “proud Hindu” to explain himself. That id issues to hundreds of thousands, British and never, world wide.

For some years now, “proud Hindu” could be understood within the West as referring to somebody who endorses majoritarian politics in India. For many years, the thought of a proud Hindu ran counter to the disgrace felt by these of us born and raised in Western international locations. Born and raised in america, I used to be effectively into my 30s earlier than I may name myself a “proud Hindu.”

Sunak’s use of the phrase lastly makes a real reference to a faith that has existed for 1000’s of years and whose affect is felt throughout the globe.

There’s extra to Sunak’s Hindu delight, nonetheless. A couple of (however just a few) Western information retailers have taken be aware of Sunak’s spiritual id, noting that he took the helm of the UK on Diwali, Hinduism’s competition of lights and considered one of its most essential holidays. However the media has largely failed to understand the importance of the ascent of a Hindu to the management of a rustic that for 2 centuries subjugated Hindus within the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.

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Up to now, the few Hindu trendy heads of state have ruled Hindu majority international locations (India, Nepal and Mauritius) or the place there are massive Hindu populations (Guyana, Trinidad and Singapore). A Hindu was elected prime minister of Fiji in 1999 however was overthrown in a coup inside a 12 months.

Apart from demographics, Hindus have been shunned as a result of the British colonizers strenuously codified a caricatured concept of Hinduism, and their students reimagined the faith based mostly on their very own prejudices. That framing was influential for American students and journalists as effectively. Practically a century in the past, the author Katherine Mayo printed “Mom India,” an assault on India’s Hindu tradition and a plea for People to help British rule over India. She known as “Hindoos” “males who enter the world out of bankrupt inventory” whose “palms are too weak, too fluttering, to grab or to carry the reins of presidency.”

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Mayo’s description was embraced in america and championed by Winston Churchill, the conservative British chief who considered Hindus as backward and degenerate. The irony shouldn’t be misplaced, then, that Churchill’s occasion has now embraced a Hindu as its chief.

Even within the 75 years since India gained its independence from the British Empire, Hindus world wide, however notably these of Indian descent, proceed to battle with figuring out as Hindu, or the diploma to which they declare their Hinduness. There’s a profound disgrace related to practising a faith that has been the topic of exotification, vilification and marginalization, exterior of the few international locations the place Hindus are majority.

Whether or not we’re followers of his politics or not (and I’m not), many people “proud Hindus” shall be invested in Sunak’s success, in hopes that he might not be the final head of state within the West to establish that method.

(Murali Balaji is a journalist and a lecturer on the Annenberg College for Communication and Journalism on the College of Pennsylvania. His books embody “Digital Hinduism” and “The Professor and the Pupil,” a political biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)

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