Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to be elected to the US Congress, has been targeted for her faith by her Republican opponent in the Congressional elections, prompting sharp reactions from the Hindu-American community members.
The 35-year-old Democratic representative Gabbard is seeking a third term from Hawaii against Republican candidate Angela Kaaihue.
Kaaihue last week described support to her as “worship(ping) the Devil” and called the Democratic Party the “Devil Democratic State.”
“Some Christians say, a vote for Tulsi Gabbard is a vote for Satan, the Devil do you agree or disagree?” Kaaihue alleged in a Facebook post, which has now been deleted.
The Hawaii Republican Party in a statement urged party members to disavow Kaaihue for attacking Gabbard for her religion and faith.
The chairperson of Kaaihue’s party also condemned the attack, calling it “vulgar” and “religiously intolerant”.
“Her vulgar, racially bigoted, and religiously intolerant descriptions of Democratic Party candidates are offensive, shameful and unacceptable in public discourse,” said Fritz Rohlfing, chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party.
“Attacks on Congresswoman Gabbard, especially on her Hindu faith, are a reflection of religious prejudices that originate from an impoverished view of a religion and culture that is practiced by nearly one sixth of the world’s population,” alleged Sandeep Dedage, director Hindu Education Foundation USA.
“It’s shocking that in 2016 any political candidate in the US faces such absurdly ignorant and bigoted personal attacks on their constitutionally guaranteed right to practice the faith of their choice,” said Rishi Bhutada, Hindu American Foundation board member.
“Furthermore, these attacks clearly show that Hinduphobia and religious bigotry is very much alive and kicking in the United States even if not all incidents of Hindu phobia are so direct and open as what we’ve seen here,” he said.
According to local media, Kaaihue has refused to take back her words and attacked her party chief, asking him to be cautious because he is attacking the “messenger of God”.