After Letter, Prof Gets Hate E-mail

March 14, 2006


Source: The Harvard Crimson

Harvard’s only tenured Sanskrit professor, Michael E. J. Witzel, received e-mails labelling him a “bastard” and calling for his death after he entered a debate over the portrayal of Hinduism in California textbooks earlier this year.

In November, Witzel, the Wales professor of Sanskrit, was notified about edits submitted by the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) for the California State Board of Education’s review of sixth grade social studies textbooks. The organizations said that the books should be revised to ensure that their depictions of Hinduism instilled pride among followers.

But Witzel penned a letter—signed by 47 other scholars—imploring the Board to reject the edits, on the basis that they were “religious-political” and if accepted, would lead to “international educational scandal.”

The petition was received one day before a scheduled Nov. 9 vote on the proposals by the Board, leading the group to review the revisions once again.

Witzel was criticized for his involvement, garnering epithets such as “Herr Witzel,” “Marxist,” and “Hindu-hater.”