Om Sweet Om

Om Sweet Om


Monkey Business

posted by Vineet Chander

Note to Self:  The next time you want to denigrate someone’s religion, make sure that you don’t accidentally denigrate someone else’s religion.

Last week, Tea Party Express chairperson Mark Williams went on a tirade protesting a proposed mosque at Ground Zero. In said tirade, published on his website, William accused Muslims of worshiping a “terrorists’ monkey god.”

Did you just say monkey god, Mark? As in Hanuman, the beloved demigod who serves Lord Rama and fights valiantly in support of Dharma?

hanuman_mountain.jpg
Oops.


Aware of his faux pas, Williams promptly apologized to the Hindus he inadvertently offended with his monkey god jab. On his website, Williams wrote that he “was wrong and that was offensive.  I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God…. To my Hindu friends I offer my sincerest apologies for my horrible
lapse and my insensitivity.  It was unintentional,  inexplicably
ignorant and I am ashamed at my offense toward you.”

In fact, the chai-mela wallah (tea party spokesman) even went as far as to glorify Hanuman’s admirable qualities:

“Moreover, Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of perseverance, strength
and devotion.   He is known as a destroyer of evil and to inspire and
liberate.  Those are hardly the traits of whatever the Hell (literally)
it is that terrorists worship and worthy of my respect and admiration
not ridicule.”

(Side note: I wonder if Williams would still consider Hanuman worthy of his “respect and admiration” if he were to realize that Hanumanji has reportedly bringing good luck to his arch-nemisis, President Obama, since the 2008 elections.)  

obama-hands-hanuman_charm.jpgThe fact that the apology was given to the Hindus for being accidentally maligned — and not to Muslims, who were the intended recipients —  did not go unnoticed.

Several Hindus are showing their solidarity with Muslims by telling Williams and his apology to take a hike. In her articulate (and funny!) critique of the monkey god episode, Sepia Mutiny’s V.V. Ganeshanathan is emphatic:

Let me just say, I for one do not accept his apology, because it is
offered in a spirit that is completely antithetical to the Hindu faith
and the Hindu community in which I was raised, and because it demeans
Islam, a religion that is important to so many of my friends and loved
ones.

(Read the full post here.)

As a Hindu, I too don’t accept the apology, and continue to be offended.

So, here’s my response to you, Mark Williams:

First, I strongly disagree with and am disgusted by your denigration of all Muslims as terrorists and your offensive slurring of their God (who, by the way, I believe to be the same One God whom I worship).

Secondly, I take issue with the fact that you used a term like “monkey god” as a pejorative– something to be ridiculed, mocked, and (no doubt) contrasted with the “normal” religion that you and your kind follow. True, once you realized that your words insulted Hindus, you apologized. But the ease with which you use terms like “monkey god” as shorthand for “weird, evil, silly, stupid, primitive, and obviously wrong” worries me.

Thirdly, why do I get the sinking feeling that your new-found sensitivity towards the Hindu religion and Indian culture may have something to do with the historical and contemporary tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities? I’d like to believe that your appreciation for Lord Hanuman —  whom I personally consider a hero and a spiritual exemplar — is genuine and selfless. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether that appreciation is fueled by a shrewd political motivation to leverage Hindu support against a (perceived) common foe. Do you see this as an opportunity to win favor with Hindu fundamentalists, “strange bedfellows” as they may be? (Many of the comments from other Hindus on your website seem to indicate this line of thinking, as well.)

Finally, I don’t appreciate that your stunt cheapened and spoiled what could have been an important conversation about the appropriateness of building a mosque in the  Ground Zero area. There are thoughtful people with thoughtful things to say on both sides of this complex issue. I, for one, think that building a mosque there is a bad idea. I have my reasons for that opinion, and I would love to share those reasons and benefit from learning from those who think it is a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t seem to be room for thoughtful discourse or objective exploration of ideas when you and your Tea Party agenda hijack the show. Why does it seem like gaining traction from controversy and outlandish comments is more important to you than anything, even the discourse itself?
    
If you want to apologize for anything, Mr. Williams, please apologize for that. Until then… may Hanuman help us all.



  • Your Name

    When i think about monkey animals,i can’t help myself but to laugh out loud,not because they look ugly,in fact,all creatues have beauty in them all because eGod created everything for a purpose,when thinking bout monkeys at TARZAN movies,the monkey is always with TARZAN and sometimes with JANE,lol.so,i don’t have any bad thoughts about monkeys or monkey gods,i wish i have a monkey pet one day,lol.so i can share my banana foods,lol.thanks.

  • Does it matter?

    I really liked your post. At first, I was just reading it like I read any other news. And then I imagined this Williams guy saying the words that he said, and then I imagined his face when he came to the realization (obviously from advisors) that he had in fact inadvertently offended someone he didn’t intend to offend.
    However, I wish you had gone on with your reasons behind why they shouldn’t make a mosque at Ground Zero. Personally, I don’t have an opinion so I’d like to hear your thoughts.

  • mumms

    Hate hurts the hater too. The more one stirs dung the more it stinks. Why spread it around? Breathe in -breathe out. mumms

  • Omo Persaud

    Why a Mosque? Why not a structure where all religions can go pay their respect, pray or meditate. I was in India not so far back and visited a hospital where they have a place of prayer for Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc. Such a building would be more appropriate. Don’t need to put more salt on the pain people are still feeling about this tragedy.

  • larry

    One can always recognize intellect when reading comments. I particularly liked the first one above that refers to the “monkey” that always accompanied Tarzan and Jane. First of all, the creature that accompanied them was a chimpanzee, a member of the great ape family. The chimpanzee (all apes) is far more highly evolved than a monkey and in fact shares over 97% common DNA with humans; far more than a monkey. As stated in your WONDERFUL article, it is important to Know your facts before making statements that do not further your or others causes.

  • Nalini

    I agree with Omo Persaud…why a mosque…why not an iter-regilious centre that caters to every religion as not only muslims died that day but hindus, christians…..as for Mr. Williams….how intelligently ignorant you are to bash another’s religion to make a point, i thought we have grown to accept and tolerate each person as Humans beings….citizens of planet earth.

  • David Makinster

    I understand the sentiment behind the desire to build a mosque. There is a special, particular need to show non-Muslim Americans that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject the violence of extremists. There is a special need to remind this nation that America is not at war with Islam, and Islam is not at war with America. Having said that, the interfaith center is a wonderful idea, but I would hope such a center would include a “chapel of reflection” for the non-religious. We need to include all people of good will.

  • marie vegas

    i agree 1000 percent with mr chander who wrote this great piece. thanks to my muslim and hindu brothers for not accepting that so-called fake apology from mr williams (weak tea-bagger). this was meant to hurt/deningrate pres. obama but it ended up insulting other folks who are brown. why am i seeing people with monkey dolls depicting pres. obama? because as a black person we have always been regarded /mocked as monkeys. again, thank you muslim and indians brothers for not allowing this man to get away with his Evil/hatred remarks. i studied eastern/world religion last semester in college and found it very interesting (hindu/muslim/sikh). all people or kids in high school should be made to take this class.

  • rishi batra

    Mr. Williams did apologize. I am a Hindu who also repects All Other Religions. the fact is almost all, if not all terrorists are Islamic fascists who hijack their Great Religion to support their sick twisted beliefs. we never see Hindus, or Christians blowing up buildings. i have nothing against Muslims. i do have a problem with Arabs, and i wish we would nuke that whole region, and make a parking lot out of the whole thing. thats what they get for messing with the U.S.. and yes, im a proud tea-party member! we stand for Liberties, and Constitutional principles. USA USA!
    FOR THE Record, i was borin in India, and came here When i was A Few Months Old, and of course am a Naturalized U.S. Citizen Now
    any questions write hammer@live.com.ph

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/omsweetom Vineet Chander

    @Your Name: Seriously, dude? Tarzan? Jane? Bananas? Really?
    @Rishi Batra: Yes, William apologized, but — as I tried to convey — I don’t find it an apology worth accepting because I can’t see a good reason to accept the apology. Since you don’t seem able to give a reason either, I’m tempted to think there isn’t one.
    @Does It Matter: My reasons for thinking the mosque is a bad idea have to do with what I think is a tendency for some in the post-9/11 Muslim community to be isolationist and defensive rather than use the opportunity to allow actual dialogue and education to happen. To build a mosque there seems to be in the spirit of making a statement that Muslims are a part of the American multi-religious landscape (which is true enough) at the expense of encouraging actual healing and reconciliation to happen. The under-tone seems to be: “We can build a house of worship here if we want to! Just try to stop us, you closet bigots!” Its a lose/lose, I think… either someone speaks out against it and is branded anti-Muslim, or they silence themselves and resentment grows. Either way, communities don’t come closer together– they’re driven further apart.
    Better to build an educational center or an interfaith memorial or something that speaks to reaching out rather than “This is us, we’re here, get used to it.” (BTW, I think that there definitely is a place for the “This is us, we’re here, get used to it” too. Ground Zero, though, is not it.)
    Hope that helps. You might also want to check out:
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/2010/05/a-mosque-at-ground-zero-insane.html

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