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Expectations high for first Hindu member of Congress
January 10th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Expectations high for first Hindu member of Congress

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)-– Just days after Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was sworn in as the first Hindu member of Congress, Hindu American advocacy groups made it clear that they hope Gabbard will help represent the nation’s wider Hindu community, on top of her Hawaiian constituents.

Groups like the Hindu American Foundation and the Hare Krishna Society have lists of priorities they plan to present to Gabbard, making clear that expectations are high for the groundbreaking congresswoman.

While many of these groups priorities for Gabbard center on faith – “international religious liberty,” “religious diversity and freedom in America,” and “generating appreciation and respect for Hindu American contributions” – some focus on legislating in general, like being a “voice for moderation and ‘reaching across the aisle’ in Congress.”

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The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that there are 1.79 million Hindus in the United States and slightly over 1 billion worldwide, making the Hinduism the third largest faith behind Christianity and Islam.

“The human rights of Hindu minorities around the world,” said Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, when asked about her top priority for the congresswoman. “We have gotten a number of congressmen to advocate on behalf of those issues and we will hope that she will to given the fact that this is affecting people of her tradition.”

Additionally, Shukla said that she believes Gabbard will bring a different point of view on U.S. foreign policy and church and state issues. “We will seek her support on any type of legislation that is promoting religious accommodation, anything that support religious pluralism and religious respect,” she said.

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Anuttama Dasa, director of communications for the Hare Krishna Society, outlined a number of priorities in an interview with CNN that he hopes to pursue with the congresswoman.

“The United States is a religiously diverse country, but bigotry, prejudice and violence against religious minorities still exists and harms innocent Hindu Americans and other minorities,” Dasa said. “We hope she will use her position to be an advocate for the protection of the rights of Hindu Americans and other minorities.”

Dasa continued: “We hope that while in office, Rep Gabbard will, a.) serve as a symbol of the positive contributions that Hindu Americans make to our country and b.) bring greater awareness of the contributions that Hindu Americans make to the cultural, religious, and economic strength of America.”

For many in the Hindu American community, Gabbard will serve not only her constituents in Hawaii, but also as a key representative for the Hindu community in America, the Hindu leaders say. Being the first Hindu in congress has both elevated Gabbard’s profile and set that anticipation for her leadership higher than other freshman members of congress.

Shukla, from the Hindu American Foundation, said she addressed these expectations with Gabbard during her campaign and after her win in November. With the number and diversity of Hindus in America, Shukla said she told Gabbard, the expectations of representing all Hindu Americans can be daunting.

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In an interview with CNN, Gabbard said the emphasis that Himdus put on service will influence what she bring to her work in Congress.

Standing outside the Capitol on a brisk Washington morning, Gabbard said: "Those personal experiences and the background that I bring give me great opportunity to be of service not only to the people of Hawaii," but also to the people of the country.

But at the same time, Gabbard said she was ready to get past the labels that are applied to new congressmen and women as the enter the legislative body.

“I served in the Army National Guard, been deployed a couple of times to the Middle East, and one thing that I appreciated so much about my time in the military and being deployed, is that none of these different labels matter,” Gabbard said. “We are all there, working towards the same goal, the same purpose.”

But Gabbard hasn’t run away from her Hindu faith either, a point that Shukla says is inspiring to young American Hindus. After Gabbard won her election, a victory that was heralded by Hindus, the congresswoman was sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred religious text and the first member of congress to be sworn in on that work.

"It is a really exciting time, the community has kind of a sense of arrival," Shukla said about Gabbard. "When you have someone from your community that is representing at the highest levels of government, it does firm your position in American society.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Church and state • DC • Hinduism • Politics • United States

soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. William Demuth

    I want to see her birth certificate! All these Hawaiians are actually not really Christians pretending to be Hindu’s, they are really Muslims with split personalities.

    January 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  2. William Demuth

    Next we need a Wiccan chick for Seretary of Defense.

    With a few good spells we could slash the defense budget.

    January 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  3. William Demuth

    Any truth to the rumour that Hinny chicks are horn bags?

    January 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  4. William Demuth

    Well she is DEFINETLEY hotter than your average Chubby Fundy broad!

    January 10, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • LOL

      I'm sure you're no Brad Pitt!

      January 10, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  5. William Demuth

    Should young guys stop with the electric guitars now, and start jamming on the sitar?

    January 10, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • LOL

      William, do you have any smart a comments that don't refer to carnal lust?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • William Demuth

      Huh?

      My guess is you don't know what a sitar is?

      Shouldn't you be buying someJeebus memorabilia from Fingerhut right about now?

      Perhaps a flourescent crucifix and hoy wine bottle opener?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  6. William Demuth

    Do Hindu preachers like to bugger little boys as much as the Christian ones do?

    January 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • LOL

      William, you act like a priest physically assaulted you.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • William Demuth

      LOL

      So now one must be victim before we can express outrage at the predators?

      Let me guess, your a Fundie?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  7. William Demuth

    Does this mean we are to expect "In Vishnu We Trust" to start appearing on our new minted money??

    January 10, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • William Demuth

      Hopefully this God proves more rational than Christ has!

      I think the Cheese Makers are the big loser in this one, their "blessed" staus is at real risk!

      January 10, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • LOL

      How about the atheists anthem "spiritually dead as door nails, we are"?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • William Demuth

      LOL

      I think McCartney beat you to it with "Live and Let Die"

      When you were young and your heart was an open book
      You used to say life and let life

      But in this ever changing world in which we live in
      Makes you give in and cry
      Say live and let die

      January 10, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  8. sam

    When the resident hindu-troll sees this, he's going to lose his mind.

    January 10, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  9. New Athiest

    I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but was she elected because of her qualifications and morals, or was she the lesser of two bad choices.
    Of course, in American 2 party politics, this question is appplicable to all newly elected officials.

    January 10, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Jim

      none of the above, prolly cuz she is a smokin hot cougar

      January 10, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Mark

      She was most likely voted in because of you atheists that haven't a clue what you do.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • New Athiest

      Not true Mark,
      We do know what we are doing.
      I would vote for almost anything non-christian in the vain hope that someday soon you nut cases will lose your grip on power in the country.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • LOL

      You just proved Mark to be correct New Athiest.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Lynne

      Her Republican opponent was a homeless man. There was no way Tulsi was going to lose.

      January 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  10. Rational Libertarian

    Her belief in Johnny Six Arms and Papa Smurf do not detract from her overall hotness.

    January 10, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • LOL

      Written like a true disciple of Satan's.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  11. William Demuth

    Trading one cult and its master for another is bad mojo.

    As a foil to the fundies she is a great addition, but at the end of the day her bul##it is no better than the Popes.

    January 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Saraswati

      While it's easy enough to be a Hindu Fundamentalist, the religion is more open to multiple interpretations than is Christianity. It's a matter of degree, but I think the difference is significant.

      January 10, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Mark

      Saraswati, what's to figure out with a fake religion?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • New Athiest

      @ mark
      LOLOLOLOLOL!

      Oh wait, you weren't being sarcastic, were you?

      January 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Reli G Ion

      I'm sorry, "William Demuth", but your assertions regarding cults are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated assertions may represent truths is: "CHRONIC TOTAL FAIL".

      January 10, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Mark, your is fake too....shhhhhh

      January 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • LOL

      The atheists way of life. Life is a crap shoot as you throw the dice.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • William Demuth

      LOL

      Life is what you make of it.

      Not what your cult, or your imaginary savior decreed before the invention of toilet paper or education.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  12. Southern Humanist

    I just had a hilarious image of Rep. Gabbard trying to teach Paul Broun downward facing dog, and as Broun falls over, he starts yelling "it's all lies straight from the pit of hell!"

    January 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  13. truth be told

    When considering hawking or any other so called atheist it is important to remember that if it thinks it is an atheist it is already given over to lying. It is impossible for an atheist to ever tell the Truth.

    January 10, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Southern Humanist

      What does that even mean?

      January 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Pete

      " It is impossible for an atheist to ever tell the Truth."

      Another lie from the xtians – 25!

      January 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Pete

      Do you say the exact same thing for every comment you dislike? OK, truth be trolled is undoubtedly a fundie, but you said the exact same thing under a comment I posted last night which bared no reference to anything relating to religion. I think it was something to do with my hatred of hippies.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      "It is impossible for an atheist to ever tell the Truth."

      You used the internet today. That is the truth. Which means you lied. In a statement calling other people liars. I hope you see the irony in that. LOL.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Mark

      truth be told is correct. What guides does an atheist use to do anything in life. That's right, they were raised by Christian parents but rejected Jesus' teachings because their egos were stoked by Kenites teaching them throughout their school years. They sure know how to polish apples.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Akira

      Truth be told is a troll.
      Here is the same exact post and changed some words, here is what it would look like:

      When considering Mark or any other so called Christian, it is important to remember that if it thinks it is a Christian it is already given over to lying. It is impossible for an Christian to ever tell the Truth.

      Generalizations are stupid.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • LOL

      Come out of the closet Akira and reveal your true handle. Case closed.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Pete

      "That's right, they were raised by Christian parents but rejected Jesus' teachings because their egos were stoked by Kenites teaching them throughout their school years"

      Another lie from the xtians – 31!

      January 10, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  14. Science

    Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven' – Under God – The .(..Accoording to expert it's not needed) in debate
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...god/.../stephen-hawking.../AF6...
    by Elizabeth Tenety – in 624 Google+ circles – More by Elizabeth Tenety
    May 16, 2011 – There is no heaven... that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Hawking told the Guardian.

    January 10, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Mark

      To think what the "C" student Hawkins could have done with his life if he studied Jesus truth to teach wisdom to his followers.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  15. just wondering

    Who is watching the Quickie Mart?

    January 10, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  16. It is Called

    Seperation of Church and State.
    Also courts have ruled ID/creationism can't be taught in public schools in US.
    Lets not forget that fact.

    January 10, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • facts ahoy!

      That was an idiot court and needs to be overturned by a court of common sense.

      January 10, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Mark

      Yes, there is no room for Jesus' teachings because the lies of atheism took his place.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Mark

      It is Called, teaching lies to children is why children shoot children today.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Akira

      Nonsense.
      Those shooting tend to happen when their parents are too stupid to lock their weapons up properly.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • LOL

      Not teaching creationism in public schools since the 60s is why the new generation of atheists are ignorant as well as foolish, not to forget paranoid.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Pete

      "why the new generation of atheists are ignorant as well as foolish, not to forget paranoid."

      more lies from the xtians – 32!

      January 10, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • LOL

      Akira, It didn't surprise me that my post to you was blocked. This site is such a joke with blood on their hands.

      January 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • LOL

      Let's make this simple for you Pete. First words out of an atheists mouth is prove it?

      January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Pete

      " First words out of an atheists mouth is prove it?"

      Another lie from the xtians – 33!

      January 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Wakey Wakey!

      Actually LOL, your post wasn't blocked because the site has blood on its hands (crazy much?). It happened because you accidentally said a naughty word inside another word, like Consti.tution or circu.mstance.

      But thanks for the laugh. I get particular joy out of people who automatically assume that a conspiracy is out to get them . . . which is virtually always the religious people.

      January 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  17. Reality

    Obviously, Rep. Gabbard did make religion an issue as noted by CNN's coverage and the fact she "oathed" herself upon a Hindu book.

    January 10, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Albert Camus

      Sounds more like a personal preference and not one that she made a big deal over. Unlike you.

      January 10, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Saraswati

      Unless she used the bible for her oath, which would have been weird, it would have been considered a 'deal' by some.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Albert Camus

      "it would have been considered a 'deal' by some."

      Then those few need to et over it as long as it doesn't hurt their personal rights.

      January 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  18. Albert Camus

    Expectations should be high for any member of Congress. Their religious preference is irrelevant.

    January 10, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  19. Pluto

    May the elephant god help us progress into the 21st century

    January 10, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  20. Reality

    Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational Divine power founded Hinduism."

    Current problems:

    The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

    So the question of the morning is: "What was Rep. Gabbard in her former life?" A member of the lower caste? A man (is that a step up or a step down :), a monkey? – The door is open for added answers.

    January 10, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Maybe from down under

      “Life is, in effect, a side-reaction of an energy-harnessing reaction. Living organisms require vast amounts of energy to go on living,” says Lane. “It is possible to trace a coherent pathway leading from no more than rocks, water, and carbon dioxide to the strange bioenergetic properties of all cells living today.”

      Read more: http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/deep-sea-vents-hint-at-lifes-origin/#ixzz2HZlDDhML

      January 10, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Albert Camus

      "So the question of the morning is: "What was Rep. Gabbard in her former life?" "

      It is? Why....did the representative make religion an issue?

      I think you need a dose of reality.

      January 10, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Maksim

      Monkey gods are powerful protectors.Remember to carry one on ya

      January 10, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Saraswati

      Of the problems you list, I can only see that the caste system is significant, and it is not a part of all forms of Hinduism...certainly not the birthright form that is essentially outlawed in India. This woman doesn't even fit into that caste system.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • LOL

      Christianity is the truth about life and the hereafer. With Jesus' wisdom being taught, it ensures we learn his wisdom as well as being on the same page.

      January 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.