A resolution authored by the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee (TDMC), linking Hindu nationalists to Nazis and Fascists, has garnered condemnation from federal and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in North Jersey.
The resolution last month was offered after a bulldozer—the symbol of destroying Muslim property in India—in the Edison India Day Parade was adorned with a photo of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister who has advocated for depriving Indian Muslims of certain rights such as land ownership.
However, in their apparent zeal to publicly denounce the extremists, the TDMC found themselves in the hot seat, accused of spreading anti-Hindu bigotry for not specifically naming those actually responsible for disrupting the parade, and for not distinguishing between those extremists and the wider peaceful Hindu community.
The TDMC statement read in part that Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and SEWA International “domestic branches” of “foreign hate groups.” Along with HAF, VHPA, and SEWA International, the resolution said Infinity Foundation and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation had “direct and indirect ties to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the rightwing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation in India whose ideology are part of Nazism and European fascism.”
The resolution urged Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, and Gov. Phil Murphy to request an investigation by the FBI and CIA concerning “foreign hate groups” and their tax-exempt status..
After pushback from the Northern Jersey Hindu community, Teaneck Democratic municipal chairwoman Alexandra Soriano-Taveras would issue a statement regretting that the resolution was “mischaracterized as a statement against Hinduism in general, rather than a condemnation of nationalist rhetoric that is aimed at inflaming communal tensions, and particularly arousing tension against Muslims, Christians, and other minority religions in India.”
The backlash, nevertheless, has not subsided as both Democratic and Republican lawmakers around the Garden State condemned the harmful anti-Hindu rhetoric. Several lawmakers quickly released public statements criticizing the entire membership within the TDMC, for approving and voting unanimously for the resolution.
Gottheimer, whose district includes Teaneck, said he was “deeply disappointed by the anti-Hindu resolution in Teaneck. Jersey Values are about bringing people together and celebrating diversity, and decrying extremism wherever we see it, because that’s what makes our communities strong. I am committed to tackling racism, bigotry, and all forms of hate.”
The issue has grown outside of Bergen County. It has become a statewide issue that drew remarks from two Morris County lawmakers.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill offered that she has been asked about the Teaneck resolution by resident of the 11th Congressional District.
“Symbols of racism and division have no home in New Jersey and do not represent our values,” said Sherrill. “The resolution, which properly condemns extremism and terrorism, paints with far too broad a brush—faith-based groups that promote community service based on Hindu teachings should not have been lumped into a statement that properly condemns extremist ideologies.”
“Freedom, diversity of religious choice, and mutual respect for all religions in New Jersey and worldwide are key American ideals that all New Jerseyans must continue to fight for.”
Another lawmaker sounding the alarm was Republican State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26), who blasted the resolution introduced by TDMC for specifically targeting mainstream Hindu American organizations that it considers to be hate groups tied to “Hindu nationalism” in India.
“It’s concerning that a Democratic political organization whose purpose is to elect its members to government office and to influence public policy would pass a resolution effectively condemning the entire Hindu religion,” said Pennacchio. “It’s extremely dangerous to target large segments of any ethnic group or religion for harassment using government resources.
“It was wrong when the entire Muslim community was profiled after 9/11 for the actions of a small number of extremists, and it’s just as wrong for all of our Hindu American neighbors to be treated this way today.”
Calls For AG Investigation
Teaneck resident Deborah Blaiberg was so outraged by the anti-Hindu resolution that she drafted a letter to New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin asking him to open an investigation targeting TDMC as a possible hate group.
“Community outrage against the TDMC resolution led to a letter signed by a coalition of over 65 organizations, representing over 190,000 residents of Bergen County and surrounding areas,” she wrote. “They called for the rescission of the TDMC resolution. In addition, lawmakers across New Jersey and the United States joined the Hindu American community in expressing their outrage over the level of hate and bigotry exhibited in the TDMC resolution. With all of this stated, Mr. Attorney General, I ask that you please open an investigation into the TDMC as a possible hate group.”