CNN’s Reza Aslan has been facing some heavy criticism after he ate part of a human brain while filming a segment on a Hindu sect in India.
The episode, part of a series called Believer with Reza Aslan, provoked disgust from many viewers and prompted backlash from many American Hindus after it was aired Sunday, the Daily Mail reported.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the only Hindu in Congress and one of the more high-profile critics of the episode, blasted CNN for using “sensationalist” ways to promote Hinduism.
“I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism,” Gabbard wrote on Twitter. “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,” she added.
Aslan, 44, met with the Aghori sect when he was invited to eat cooked brain tissue during a ritual in which they also spread ashes from cremated human bodies on his face.
He drank an alcoholic drink out of a human skull before he ate the brain.
The Aghori guru got mad at Aslan at one point when he shouted, “I will cut your head off if you keep talking so much.”
The guru started eating his own feces before throwing it at Aslan, to which Aslan responded, “I feel like this may have been a mistake.”
The Aghori are devotees of the Hindu god Shiva and believe that the human body cannot be tainted. But orthodox Hindus reject their beliefs and practices.
Indian-Americans have criticized CNN for highlighting the practices of a cult of less than 100 members, saying that it does not represent mainstream Hinduism.
“With multiple reports of hate-fuelled attacks against people of Indian origin from across the US, the show characterises Hinduism as cannibalistic, which is a bizarre way of looking at the third largest religion in the world,” US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) said in a statement to the Hindustan Times.
Indian-American industrialist and Trump adviser Shalabh Kumar also denounced CNN for its broadcast.
“CNN, Clinton News Network has no respect for Hindus. All Hindus worldwide should boycott CNN,” he wrote on Twitter.
Aslan seems to have no signs of apologizing for the segment, clarified in a post on his Facebook page that the Aghori are “an extreme Hindu sect” that is “not representative of Hinduism.”