Rutgers University finds itself between a rock and a hard place, having been placed there unceremoniously by its own Associate Professor Audrey Truschke. Hindu Students at Rutgers have recently expressed in a strong United voice the view that Truschke is conveying , via her research and teachings, that “Hinduism is inherently oppressive, racist, misogynistic and violent.” Rather than apologizing for offending her students, Professor Truschke, supposed to be an academic scholar on Sanskrit and a historian specializing in South Asia, has decided to play the victim card, and claim such offense is an impingement on her freedom of speech. The resulting twitter war has not been academia’s finest hour.
Now let me first say that those who have chosen to express their anger and frustration by threatening, if true, Professor Truschke, are perhaps committing an error of judgement. It’s inappropriate to do so. Violence and name calling is never the answer. Further, it actually perpetuates the myth people like Professor Truschke are trying to make, which is that Hindus are brutish. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be or have no freedom to be offended! And as the offended party we have all the right to ask Audrey Truschke why she chose to express such views. Surely she would understand, as a historian, that denigration of a religion is not something its practitioners appreciate. And recent violences and deaths and murders in democratic free countries in Europe , for reasons of inane cartoons must serve as a calming influence specially when she calls Hindus in bad taste. And as the offending person , she has no right to decide how the offended party should feel or react. As a proud and offended Hindu, I don’t care if Audrey Truschke has the courage and courtesy to offer an apology to all Hindus/ Hindu students of Rutgers. I want answers, because I have questions! And as the offending party, she cannot hide behind the veil of academic freedom or feign false outrage at being called out for her views.
So lets begin: Is her view that Hinduism is violent , a comparative statement? Because I can think of far more wars and consequent brutality and violent deaths that began due to Islam and Christianity. As a historian, shouldn’t she know that Hindus have too often been victims of genocide as opposed to perpetrators of it? Which religion isn’t the things she claims? When did Islam become the bastion of women’s rights? When was the last time we had a female Pope? No religion is perfect , nor is Hinduism as a way of life, but at least it has the ability to evolve and has done so over the many decades it has been practiced. So if her statement is comparative, does it have any value? It would be like me saying the FIFA World Cup is misogynist because there are no women in any of the teams that compete. If it is not, and her claim is that Hinduism is the only religion that is such things, then shouldn’t Rutgers look at her ability , integrity and honesty to teach history?
Finally, what is her motivation for expressing such views? Is it to spawn debate or to denigrate and offend? Is she looking for her fifteen minutes of fame? Or is there something more sinister at play here? Whatever the answers, I encourage those offended to keep asking questions so that we can understand and expose who Audrey Truschke truly is. But remember to be respectful, and not rise to the bait these academics throw like on March 13th, when Audrey proclaimed that Hindus don’t like her because she has a better understanding of Hinduism since she can read Sanskrit ! I couldn’t help but think of Kevin Kline in movie “A Fish Called Wanda” who yells at Jamie Lee Curtis “Apes don’t read Nietshcze”. Curtis responds “ Yes they do. They just don’t understand it.” I guess there are some things Professors need to learn as well.
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