Hindu leader denounces “culture strategy” of funding projects which belittle minority religions

COP26 , Rajan Zed

New Delhi, July 18, 2021: Governments should not be in the business of using taxpayer’s money to fund projects which patronize sacrilege, blatant belittling of “other” traditions and ridiculing entire communities; distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed emphasized in a statement in Nevada (USA) today.

Scottish Government is Strategic Partner of Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and reportedly recently awarded £300,000 to it to “aid cultural recovery”. EIF is hosting a play “Hindu Times” (August 20-21), which Hindus have called “highly inappropriate” as it reportedly trivializes immensely revered Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Lakshmi.

Scottish Government seems to have refused to defund EIF. A letter emailed to Zed (who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism) on behalf of Scottish Culture Minister said: As is the case with all funding we and Creative Scotland provide, we do not seek to influence cultural organisations in their artistic programming, including the Edinburgh International Festival.

“Strengthening culture” (which is listed as an “Ambition” in “Culture Strategy for Scotland”), should never result in demeaning minority cultures. Governments were never expected to collaborate in the mockery of religions or gods of minorities, Rajan Zed noted.

If they were serious in safeguarding a minority religion from an unnecessary ridicule at the public square; Zed urged Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth to actively re-look into defunding EIF if it continued to corroborate in trivializing the deeply held beliefs of “others”. 

Rajan Zed also urged other EIF funders-partners-supporters like British Council, UK Government, Culture Ireland, University of Edinburgh, Australian High Commission, Austrian Cultural Forum, Canada, Germany Consulate General, Edinburgh Napier University, etc.; to earnestly think about pulling-out their support if EIF continued with the performance of “Hindu Times”. Zed also requested HRH The Earl of Wessex to rethink about his patronage of organization like EIF.

Zed stated that Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely or dragged around unnecessarily through the streets of Dundee reportedly looking for booze and breaking into a closed shop for it.

Rajan Zed indicated that Brahma-Vishnu-Lakshmi were divine and entertainment companies were welcome to create projects about/around them showing their true depiction as mentioned in the Hindu scriptures (no Hindu scripture mentions their visit to Dundee). Inappropriately reimagining Hindu deities/concepts/scriptures/symbols/icons and redefining Hinduism for commercial or other selfish agenda was not okay as it hurt the feelings of devotees.

Zed mentioned that Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it hurt the adherents.

Besides hurting the sentiments, any misrepresentation created confusion among non-Hindus about Hinduism. Insensitive handling of faith traditions sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols; Rajan Zed remarked.

Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. No faith, larger or smaller, should be mishandled, Zed added.

According to reports, Lakshmi and Brahma use F-words in the play. “Hindu Times” review in The Guardian stated: “Gods Vishnu, Lakshmi and Brahma become street-smart hedonists…”.

EIF; established in 1947 and which showcases dance, opera, music, theatre, etc.; is being held this year in Edinburgh from August 07 to 29. “Hindu Times”; written by Jaimini Jethwa and directed by Caitlin Skinner; has been scheduled at The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh.

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