United States Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard said she and her supporters are victims of “fear, suspicion and religious bigotry”. Gabbard, the first Hindu member of the Congress, announced on January 11 that she will run for president in 2020.
“I am proud to be the first Hindu American to have been elected to Congress and now the first Hindu American to run for president,” Gabbard wrote in an editorial in Religious News Service on Saturday. “While the headlines covering my announcement could have celebrated this historic first, and maybe even informed Americans about the world’s third largest religion, some have instead fomented suspicion, fear and religious bigotry about not only me but also my supporters.”
Gabbard’s links with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been a topic of debate in the United States. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the US in September 2014, he made it a point to meet the legislator. When Gabbard got married the next year, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav flew in from India with a special message from Modi.
“I too have been accused of being a ‘Hindu nationalist’,” the Hawaiian democrat wrote. “My meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s democratically elected leader, have been highlighted as ‘proof’ of this and portrayed as somehow being out of the ordinary or somehow suspect, even though President Obama, Secretary Clinton, President Trump and many of my colleagues in Congress have met with and worked with him.”
An article in The Intercept earlier this month had described Gabbard as “a polarising figure” whose “progressive domestic politics are at odds with her support for authoritarians abroad, including Modi, [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] Sisi, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad”.