CNN’s Reza Aslan is facing an onslaught of criticism for eating a piece of barbequed human brain with the Hindu Aghori sect on his show “Believer."
“Want to know what a dead guy’s brain tastes like? Charcoal,” Aslan wrote in aFacebook post. “It was burnt to a crisp! #Believer.” The six-part series is described as a “spiritual adventure” exploring the world’s most interesting faith-based groups.
Critics are accusing Aslan of mocking Hinduism and highlighting the obscure cannibalistic sect that is not representative of the world’s billion Hindu practitioners.
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1/ While good people across our country are working hard to increase mutual understanding and respect between people of different religions,— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) March 7, 2017
“While good people across our country are working hard to increase mutual understanding and respect between people of different religions, I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism,” Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said on Twitter.
Some interpreted the segment to be a dig by CNN at Donald Trump supporters.
“I condemn@rezaaslan, CNN for airing Believer with fiction. Disgusting attack on Hindus for supporting@POTUS@stephenkbannon@newtgingrich,” said political activist Shalabh Kumar, who followed up with a tweet about 65 percent of Hindu Americans voting for President Donald Trump, and calling on all Hindus to boycott CNN.
“I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism,” said Pannee Voice in a YouTube comment.
Aslan, a religious scholar, pointed out that he clearly said “on camera and in voice-over” that the Aghoris are an “extreme Hindu sect” and “are not representative of Hinduism.”
In contrast to the widespread Hindu practices of vegetarianism, the Aghoris believe that god lives within each human and therefore there is nothing that you can do that can defile you. And in demonstrating this belief, they will have “ostentatious displays of defilement,” including bathing in human ashes, drinking one’s own urine and eating the flesh of raw corpses.
They also believe that by eating the ashes of a human being that one takes on the deceased’s power.
Aslan’s response to the controversy was blithe: “You work all your life for a headline like this.”