A recent comment from Karol referred to a message that she had written on tumblr saying “.. I am wearing that bindi! AND THAT KURTI! And the rudraksha and the shri yantra.I AM WEARING ALL OF THEM, SOCIAL JUSTICE BLOGGERS! AND I AM NOT CULTURALLY APPROPRIATING BECAUSE I AM HINDU, FUCKERS“. A quick search found the original message. My first thought was not to post the comment or to respond as this would just be giving attention to an attention seeker. After further consideration I decided that I should say why I as a Western Hindu thinks that this is wrong.
Firstly, though I don’t see the use of Hindu symbolism in genuine worship and devotion is cultural appropriation, we should be sympathetic to Hindus (or others) who feel that we are appropriating their culture. We should explain that it is through genuine belief and with great respect that we use their symbols. We should certainly not use symbols normally associated with other cultures, then insult people from that culture.
Secondly we should realise that some Hindus believe that any religious conversion is wrong, and therefore it is impossible to become a Hindu. We should see this as a reasonable reaction to the proselytising and forced conversion of Hindus by Christians an Muslims in the past. Though I disagree with this view I recognise that it is a genuinely held belief of some Hindus. We can often find common ground with Hindus believing this. Even those who believe that it is impossible for a non-Hindu to become a Hindu can often accept a simple “I worship Shiva, the label does not matter”. Again it is totally wrong to insult someone who genuinely believes that becoming a Hindu is impossible or wrong.
Thirdly, a Westerner wearing traditional Hindu symbols can be seen as representing Hinduism. If an Indian wearing Hindu symbols swears and insults others people could assume that they mainly wear the symbols as part of their culture and that their Hindu belief is not very strong. On the other hand why would a Westerner wear Hindu symbols if they did not have a strong faith? Though I am far from perfect, and do swear at times, I take extra care not to do so when wearing Hindu symbols. I certainly wouldn’t swear in a blog or tumblr post that positively drew attention to my Hindu beliefs.
I just had to say, this is wrong in so many ways. It disrespects Indian culture, Hindu beliefs, and does not reflect well on Westerners either.