Examining Hinduphobia in the UK

By M Ahmedullah

This was my contribution to a project called Knowing One Another Through Philosophy – delivered by Brick Lane Circle and completed on 14 June 2022 with a project completion celebration that included dramatised performances of nine contributions by diverse individuals who examined a range of community cohesion issues faced by local communities in the UK with respect to Race, Ethnicity, Culture and Faith.

I examined this topic as I thought it was something very important. Within a few months, I was proved right by the disturbances in Leicester between some Hindu and Muslim youths based on communal lines.

The publication can be downloaded from here – https://f5cf09.n3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Breaking-Down-Images-PDF.pdf

A tough TV interviewer invited an author to explore his recent writings on the phenomenon of Hinduphobia and understand what it was and its implications. The interviewer started the interview by providing some context and background information on the topic.

The context

There has been some media coverage of the recent controversy over whether there was such a thing as Hinduphobia, similar to Antisemitism and Islamophobia experienced by Jews and Muslims, respectively. The phenomena of Islamophobia and Antisemitism and their definitions have been long discussed, unlike the term Hinduphobia, which has a more recent history. Like within the Muslim community, where there are differing views about what constitutes Islamophobia and the merits and demerits of the officially agreed definition, there are ongoing similar debates within the Hindu community. Some Hindus are not happy with using the term Hinduphobia to describe the anti-Hindu hatred they experience, while some other Hindus even question whether such a thing as Hinduphobia exists.

According to a definition of Hinduphobia developed by certain Hindu student groups in the US, ‘it is a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviours towards … Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred.’

In terms of London and the diverse communities of East London, many implications arise from issues around Hinduphobia, and sometimes politicians respond in ways they believe to be appropriate ways to address emerging issues and concerns, such as Hinduphobia.

In a recent ‘Early Day Motion’ tabled on 22 June 2021 at the Houses of Parliament on ‘Rise of anti-Indian Racism’ signed by forty-five members, it states that ‘The 1928 Institute which revealed that 80 per cent of British Indians have faced prejudice because of their Indian identity’, Hinduphobia was identified as ‘the most prevalent’ reason. But the motion does not include anything about the identity of the perpetrators of the Hinduphobia experienced by a large number of Indians in the UK and the nature of their experience.

Two factors behind the recent controversy

  1. The rise of the BJP in India and their Hindu nationalism targeting Indian Muslims and certain symbols of Islam in India due to the perceived historical humiliation some Hindus currently experience from expanding Muslim empires before the British takeover of the Indian subcontinent.
  2. The Hindu nationalist vision for India and some of their policies were not only marginalising Indian Muslims but were said to be against the secular vision of India deeply held by many Indian Hindus themselves.
The controversy

The recent controversy started in early 2021, when Rashmi Samant, ‘the first Indian woman to be elected President of the Oxford Student Union (SU)… was forced to resign amid controversy over some of her past social media posts.’ An Oxford academic named Dr Abhijit Sarkar spearheaded the campaign against her by using some of her past social media posts to discredit her, which led to organised campaigns against her by several student groups who demanded an apology from her.

In response, an article appeared on an online media platform asking, ‘Does Hinduphobia exist in the UK? Time to get the British Indian view.’ It quoted Rashmi saying, “For as long as it takes, anti-Hindu bigotry will be opposed and countered with grace and dignity. Students should not have to face targeted bullying and harassment on campus or online, purely because they are Hindus,” and added that ‘many felt’ her treatment ‘was a case of anti-Hindu hate by a staff member.’

What are the issues?

If we look at the contents of the Early Day Motion tabled on 22 June 2021 at the British parliament, it mentioned that of the 80% of Indians in the UK who said they had ‘faced prejudiced because of their Indian identity’, also stated that the most prevalent reason was Hinduphobia. However, as expressed in the statement, the Hinduphobia experienced by the people interviewed cannot include any perpetrators of Hinduphobia being from an Indian background. This is because the experience of Hinduphobia is included in the category of those experiencing ‘prejudice because of their Indian identity.’

Before dissecting the nature of Hinduphobia experienced by many Indians in the UK, I will provide some ‘examples of anti-Hindu sentiments’ contained on a Wikipedia page.

‘According to the religious dialogue activist P. N Benjamin, some Christian evangelists denigrate Hindu gods and consider Hindu rituals barbaric, and such attitudes have caused tensions between religious communities.

Akbaruddin Owaisi, a leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party in Hyderabad, has been charged several times for hate speeches denigrating Hindu gods and inciting violence against Hindus.

A Muslim preacher apologised for insulting Hinduism in 2014, after an uproar. Hindus have historically been, and continue to be, considered kafirs by Muslims and Heathen, Satanic or Demon by some Christians.’

In addition to some from a Hindu background accused of being responsible for Hinduphobia, such as Dr Abhijit Sarkar, some Muslims and Christians were also identified to be engaged in generating anti-Hindu hate, according to the quotes from a Wikipedia page as above.

The alleged politics behind the term Hinduphobia

In December 2018, a few years before the Rashmi Samant controversy at Oxford, Mitali Saran wrote that ‘The right wing wants us to think that Hinduphobia is a thing’ and that ‘You’re a Hindu basher if you’re reporting crimes by self-styled godmen, or think smashing Brahminical patriarchy is a worthy cause or you oppose the idea of a Hindu rashtra’. In the Feminist Critical Hindu Studies Collective, an article alleged that Hinduphobia was a smokescreen for Hindu nationalists and claimed that Hindutva was a growing threat to minority faith communities. These statements are from people from a Hindu background.

On the one hand, some acts by people from a Hindu background against certain people who hold and celebrate their Hindu identity openly and proudly and have Hindu nationalist views are described as Hinduphobia. On the other hand, some people from a Hindu background deny that there is such a thing as Hinduphobia and claim that right-wing Hindu nationalists are using the term Hinduphobia to silence critical voices against their majoritarian extremism.

The interviewer then asks a set of questions to the author.
Question 1

“You wrote that just because some right-wing Hindus may be using the term Hinduphobia in an attempt to silence their critics, most of whom are from a Hindu background, does it mean that there is no such a thing as Hinduphobia in real life? Can you kindly explain your reasoning clearly?”


“Well, all sides in political competitions/conflicts generalise to define, judge and generate propaganda against each other. But real life is complex that consists of the experiences of millions of people, interpretations of experiences and responses to experiences. Interpreting experiences and responses to them depend on belief systems and theories that provide people with the tools to understand experiences, make moral judgements and respond to situations.

“Theories and belief systems change gradually or get replaced by something vastly different. As such, how people understand and evaluate their experiences also changes with the replacement of theories and belief systems. This means that people’s experiences and how they evaluate them are truly diverse and ever-changing.
“To answer your question, just because some Hindu nationalists are trying to use the term Hinduphobia or anti-Hindu hate to ‘silence their critics or rivals,’ it does not mean that ordinary Hindus do not experience Hinduphobia. The critical point to understand is that many Hindus may be interpreting their experiences of prejudice as Hinduphobia now, which they didn’t in the past, because of the recent political influences of Hindu nationalists on them. But that does not mean that Hindus did not and do not experience prejudice and discrimination, which are being labelled as Hinduphobia by some now. The reality is that now they feel empowered to understand and evaluate the experiences of prejudice and discrimination through the term Hinduphobia based on the theories and explanations provided by the Hindu nationalists.

Question 2

“So, what would you tell the critics of Hindu nationalists to do when they are engaged in political battles with their rivals?”


“I would say that, rather than deny the existence of Hinduphobia, which would be wrong and also counterproductive, because this term seems to resonate with many Hindus currently, it would be more appropriate to come up with alternative theories to explain and evaluate the prejudice and discrimination that many ordinary Hindus experience.

“Their experiences of prejudice and discrimination, as expressed by many Hindus, cannot be false in all cases. Therefore, explaining them and what to do with them should be the focus of debate by those who oppose the Hindu nationalists.”

Question 3

“What are the implications that may result from applying the term Hinduphobia to describe the actions of individuals like Dr Abhijit Sarkar by right-wing Hindu nationalists? This relates to claims made against Dr Abhijit Sarkar that his actions on social media against Rashmi Samant constituted Hinduphobia and ‘anti-Hindu bigotry’.”


“There are huge implications in accusing individuals like Dr Abhijit Sarkar of engaging in Hinduphobia, especially since he is from a Hindu background. Of course, someone from a religious background can leave their faith and turn against it and its followers, which is often the case. But, in general, accusations such as those against Dr Abhijit Sarkar cannot be easily resolved through logical analysis or investigation of facts. One of the main reasons for this is that Hinduism is the product of thousands of years of development with inputs from many traditions and the scope that Hindu societies have allowed for diversity throughout its history.

“Hindu nationalism and Hindu secularism are both political products of western influences, and they are modern phenomena. As such, each group will be able to use Hindu history and Hindu teachings selectively and from a partial understanding to argue their case, although not totally successfully, in terms of logical consistency and the objective and balanced use of evidence. When any group tries to resolve unsolvable issues through the selective use of information, political movements and slogans, it ends up nowhere unless one has the power to impose its will by force.

“The only way to prove that Dr Abhijit Sarkar was a Hinduphobe would be by using tautological arguments based on the premises of the Hindu nationalist worldview. As such, if ordinary people were to see Dr Abhijit Sarkar through the lenses of the Hindu nationalists, they would become convinced that he was a Hinduphobe because the premises utilised would lead to such a conclusion. However, if it were the opposite, the Hindu secularists’ premises would lead to a quite different conclusion: that Dr Abhijit Sarkar was not a Hinduphobe.”

Question 4

“How do developments such as that with Rashmi Samant at Oxford and the controversies generated impact diverse local communities that live side by side in terms of community tension and community cohesion? How do you think bigger debates and battles filter down to communities at neighbourhood levels and their impacts on local empathy, community cohesion and togetherness?


“Ordinary people are busy with their lives, and they do not have enough time to examine things deeply. People view and experience the world through the lenses of theories that provide them with explanations, moral positions and how to respond to situations. As such, people living in diverse societies are often influenced by a range of different theories and explanations that often set one against the other.

“We all know how prejudices can be hurtful and damaging to individuals and community cohesion, but they cannot be eliminated as prejudice seems to be a fundamental part of being human. Not having prejudice means having perfect knowledge of everything and the absence of self-interest, which is an impossibility. Human beings have to survive and engage with the world through knowledge and understanding, which will always be partial, so their judgements must always be prejudicial.”

Question 5

“So, where does philosophy come in to help people deal with the fact that imperfect, partial and tentative knowledge is inevitable and therefore prejudice is unavoidable and necessary?”


“Well, philosophy can help more people understand the human knowledge process, the nature of knowledge, the fallibility of what we can and do know, and how to go about generating and utilising objective, rational knowledge to improve our world.

“Utilising philosophy at the local level can help provide frameworks, reference points, guidelines and practical methods where people from different backgrounds can peacefully challenge each other’s prejudices, whether large or small, whether the implications are dangerous or benign.”


It is not possible to argue that Hinduphobia does not exist. One reason is that we don’t know the real experiences of all the Hindus and how they interpret their particular experiences of prejudice. Even if a previous experience by Hindus was not termed as Hinduphobia – now felt as Hinduphobia due to the adoption of the Hindu nationalist’s worldview – it does not mean that some Hindus did not experience prejudice in the UK because of their Hindu background. It is necessary to allow people to express their experiences in their own way rather than enable politicised academics or writers to deny ordinary people’s experiences.

In the same vein, the Hindu nationalists cannot legitimately describe individuals like Dr Abhijit Sarkar as Hinduphobe based on applying certain premises in a logical process based only on their worldview. Therefore, it is necessary for rival worldviews, in this case, with respect to what constitutes a Hindu or what is Hindusim, to engage with each other to eliminate or reduce false generalisations in each and work towards generating a better understanding through better and more robust premises.

The implications for community cohesion of Hinduphobia and Hindu nationalism in the UK are significant and can be serious. Both because of the experiences of the Hindus and the worldview of Hindu nationalism. One element is that often the main targets of Hindu Nationalism are Muslims, and their activities can and do help fuel certain far-right groups that also hate Muslims. On the other hand, many Muslims have extreme prejudice against Hindus and can be described as Hinduphobes. In addition, many neighbourhoods in the UK are incredibly mixed, with highly complex relationships between Hindus, Muslims and others through friendships and economic and cultural interactions. As such, Hindu nationalism and Muslim radicalism can create problems for local community cohesion. As such, there is a need for more philosophy to empower people to examine and challenge each other’s prejudices, whether benign or dangerous.