Aseem Shukla is not happy about the conversions of Bobby Jindal (from Hinduism) and Nikki Haley (from Sikhism). Shukla is a Hindu himself, and finds the public disavowal of their Dharma faiths by Jindal and Haley as well as their vocal and public profession of their Christian faith something for public concern.
When one family member so publicly repudiates his or her religion, especially when culture, religion and traditions are as intertwined as they are for Dharma faiths, painful conflicts arise within families–even communities. Many Hindus and Sikhs may question why Jindal’s and Haley’s disavowals need be so public and unflinching. Religious conversion should be a personal sojourn, but Jindal’s and Haley’s capitulation to an evangelical insistence on public religiosity and rejection of their ancestral faiths are galling to many.
Six years ago when Haley first won a state legislature seat in South Carolina, she spoke of a more syncretic embrace of religion saying that her family attended both Sikh services and those in her husband’s Methodist church. Under the withering glare of the far-right mandates of South Carolina politics, her Christianity took a recent hard turn with an emphatically evangelical Christian dialect. She gets a perfect rating from anti-abortion groups, she advocates deportation of illegal immigrants–a tea party darling winning a coveted Palin endorsement.
Jindal’s embrace of Catholicism, meanwhile, occurred in high school, even as his parents were leaders of a nascent Hindu community in Baton Rouge in the 1980’s. In the news today for his opposition to a deep-water drilling moratorium, he stands to the right of most Americans in his embrace of conservative principles similar to Haley’s, and even in his advocacy of Intelligent Design promoted by the evangelical movement in his state’s schools. …But in their public remonstrations of their parent’s faiths, Jindal and Haley tell well over three million Hindu and Sikh Americans that their time has not yet come as people of faith. And in their absolute denial of their religious heritage, they deny something far greater: a society that privileges pluralism, that no one religion has the monopoly on Truth, and that Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Pagans, agnostics and atheists may invest differently towards the afterlife, but can live in this life with all of the humanity, generosity and yes, frailty of any of those that presume to lead our states or nation today.