Hindu American Community Building

May 2, 2010

Author: Anju Bhargava

Source: The Washington Post


Our multiple identities are reflected through the lenses by which we are seen and how we see the world. May is Asian American history month. As an Indian-American, a Hindu American, grafted and blending into the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) tree, I am celebrating a distinct political identity - Asian American. A space in which a diverse group of people are coming together to address some of our common issues. We are "strangers from a different shore", of different races, often seen as - the model minority - whose collective voice has, in the past, often not been heard effectively.

As I see it, the commonalities within the AAPI group come from our shared eastern ethos and values which have roots in our varied Dharmic/religious backgrounds - Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Confucius, etc. Yet, many of our eastern organizations do not play a major role in the political arena in the same way as the Abrahamic (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) faiths do. Nor do we collectively have well established faith based infrastructures through which to provide sustainable social services.

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers." said President Obama, in his inaugural address. And on April 4th, 2009, I was appointed as a member to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (OFBNP). For the first time, a U.S. President explicitly included a Hindu American in the public arena not only though speech but through action. We Hindus, the beneficiaries of Hart-Celler Act of 1965 which eliminated highly restrictive "national origins" quotas impacting Asians, felt accepted in our own country, America. A door for inclusion of our faith was unlocking!