CNN often reports the news. That’s their job. They’re the Cable News Network. So what happens when the story they’re reporting actually becomes news? That’s what’s happened in the wake of a heavily criticized segment in which a CNN reporter ate human brains while reporting about a Hindu cannibal sect in India.
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Reza Aslan, who hosts the CNN series Believer, shocked his audience when the show aired Sunday, and now CNN is facing serious backlash from the Hindu community around the world.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, tweeted: “I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism. Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism. Aslan and CNN didn’t just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals – as if touring a zoo – but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma and reincarnation that Hindus have been combating tirelessly.”
Aslan, who was born in Iran, is a religious scholar who explores religions and questions of faith for CNN. He’d been on site in India with the Aghori sect, attempting to chronicle their radical Hinduism.
He contacted the group of Aghori in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. There, they rubbed ashes from a cremated human body on his face. He then drank from a human skull.
During the filming, Aslan was encouraged to eat cooked human brains. before eating what he was told was human brain.
Aslan, who clearly had trepidation about the situation he’d found himself in, angered his host. The guru shouted: “I will cut your head off if you keep talking so much.”
Then the guru began eating his own feces. Before he was done, he’s hurled feces at Aslan.
“I feel like this may have been a mistake,” Aslan told his director. He then asked to leave, but the director, clearly sensing good television, told him to stay.
Now that it is over, Aslan, is making the most of the controversy, as this text clearly shows.
How does he feel about the perception that he may have created regarding Hindus? “As I repeatedly state on camera and in voice-over,” he wrote on Facebook, “(they) are not representative of Hinduism but are instead an extreme Hindu sect who reject the fundamental Hindu distinction between purity and pollution.”
True enough. But that nuance is clearly lost on most people.