February 20, 2023
Honorable Council Members,
We, the undersigned, representing prominent Hindu organizations and temples are deeply concerned about the Council’s recent discussions on the issue of “caste.” We urge the Council members to reject CB 120511 that adds the word “caste” to the protected classes.
The word “caste” is of Portuguese origin (Casta – ‘lineage, race, breed’) was invented as a tool of racial discrimination against the converted Jews. It was seen as a way to maintain racial and genetic purity of the Spanish and Portuguese Christians. Subsequently, it was used to categorize diverse professional guilds in Asia by European colonial powers in the 18th century, mirroring those that existed in late 16th century Europe. There is no reference to the concept of “caste” neither in any of the canonical scriptures or in any other religious or philosophical school that originated in the Indian subcontinent.
We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination that exist in societies around the world. Theologically sanctioned birth-based discriminations are far more endemic in Judeo-Christian and Islamic societies, based on differentiation of believers versus non-believers, slave versus master, etc. Fortunately, the Federal, Washington State and Seattle City laws protect against religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination under the existing categories of national origin and ancestry, both of which have been interpreted as inclusive of the various characteristics that might be associated with what is presented as “caste.”
The Council’s discussions of “caste” and adoption of caste related policies as part of CB 120511 and designate caste as protected class in Seattle Municipal Code will perpetuate racist European stereotypes and misconceptions about people of Indian Subcontinent. This will also lead the broader American public and private companies to view all people with origin in the Indian Subcontinent through a divisive lens. It would single out and unfairly target only one community based on its members’ race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, and religion, thereby violating their rights to due process and equal protection under both the US Constitution and Washington law. It will leave people of Indian Subcontinent descent or origin vulnerable to bullying in schools and discrimination in hiring and firing and subject to a hostile work environment, in the City Government and in companies based in Seattle.
There is ample evidence that “Whereas” section of the proposed Ordinance is based on fabrications or irrelevant to Seattle, state of Washington or US and driven by hatred against Hindus. For example:
- A Whereas statement in the Ordinance claims that the caste is based on “birth and descent” whereas another Whereas clause claims that “Dalit” is “self-identification” of caste.
- There is no proven evidence that the caste discrimination has manifested in education, employment or housing in Seattle, Washington or US.
- A Whereas statement states that “…caste is found in communities of religious practice,” however, no credible evidence is presented.
- A Whereas statement quotes a survey by Equality Lab. However, this non-scientific survey has been discredited by findings of the scientific survey, “Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey” by Sumitra Badrinathan, Devesh Kapur, Jonathan Kay, Milan Vaishnav of Carnegie Endowment of International Peace (https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/06/09/social-realities-of-indian-americans-results-from-2020-indian-american-attitudes-survey-pub-84667)
- A Whereas statement that “caste is found in many industries and is a grave contributor to workplace discrimination and bias” is presented without any supporting evidence.
- A Whereas statement about a criminal in Berkley California is presented as evidence of caste discrimination. However, the criminal conviction or the case did not have any reference to caste
- A Whereas statement about the CISCO case is an unproven allegation
We strongly believe that despite the wordings, this CB 120511 is overwhelmingly Hinduphobic. The overriding intent of the Ordinance, clearly, is to divide the Hindu community in Seattle, Washington, and in the US. Hindus have lived in our local communities harmoniously for decades despite political machinations by those who misunderstand or hate Hindus and seek to divide Americans rather than unify them.
There is ample evidence of Hinduphobia by those who have contributed the “caste narrative” in the US and whose machinations have led to this CB. For example,
- Thenmozhi Soundararajan has accused Yoga of religious abuse and having structural violence at the heart of it:
- Anti-Hindu and anti-Indian Pakistani American Huma Dar and her daughter Natasha have been closely associated with Equality Labs:
- Equality Labs has close ties with Hinduphobic group Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC):
- Equality Labs founder Ms. Soundararajan has held event with Sikhs For Justice, a banned group in India.
- Equality Labs has made its Hinduphobia explicit by maligning the most prominent Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist festival of Holi. This is no different from asking Muslims to not celebrate Eid or Christians to not celebrate Christmas and Jews to not celebrate Hanukah
- A cofounder of Equality Labs Sharmin Hossain who is a non-practicing Hindu, much less a Hindu social activist or a scholar, has clearly demonstrated her Hinduphobia in the following tweet:
We hope that this letter clearly demonstrates that the word “Caste” has been used as a conduit for Hindus in Seattle. It would be a waste of hard earned Seattle taxpayers’ money to fund a full-time position to monitor a non-existent issue.
We strongly urge the Council to reject CB 120511 which will unfairly target the American Hindu community and the people of Indian descent or origin, subject them to additional discrimination, leave them vulnerable to bullying in schools, deprive them of fundamental civil rights and infringe upon their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As representatives of the Hindu community with substantial presence in Greater Seattle area, we will be glad to engage with the Council and share more information that will ensure that the inclusive, equity-based culture of Seattle and Washington are preserved.
Convenor, HinduPACT on behalf of:
- Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC) – an umbrella organization representing Hindu temples in the US (over 500 temples have participated in the HMEC Conferences
- Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT)
- American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)
- World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)
- Hindudvesha (an initiative against Hinduphobia)
- Jersey City Asian Merchants’ Association
- Be Sanskriti Legacy
- Hindu Temple of Colorado
- Siddhi Vinayak Temple
- BAPS Swaminarayan Temple
- Hindu Temple of Florida
- We fully support a letter issued by a Coalition of Hindu organizations against CB 120511