How a NASA tweet fueled a religious divide

How a NASA tweet stoked a religious divide

The NASA logo is displayed on a cell phone screen. Photo by Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto via Getty Images

This week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tweeted to announce her latest application date for her fall internship program, along with footage of four interns currently working with her.

Their tweet ended up going viral, but probably not for the reasons they had foreseen.

One of the photos showed an intern of Indian descent named Pratima Roy posing with a desk filled with idols and photos of Hindu gods and goddesses. This photo has now become the object of a religious divide.

“I found the photo of an intern surrounded by gods and goddesses used by NASA as perpetuating the stereotype [that] Hindus, even though they are science students, are extremely religious and always seek divine blessings, ”Ashok Swain, academic and peace and conflict research professor, told VICE World News. “It is very unusual to see a student’s or intern’s workplace look like a family altar. ”

Swain was one of the first social media users to call out NASA for what he saw as a tweet that stereotyped all Hindus as devout worshipers, but decided to delete his tweet after sparking hostile trolling.

Many Twitter users felt the photo glorified stereotypes and questioned why a scientist an organization like NASA presented religious images.

Others applauded NASA for offering a platform to a woman of Indian descent, and felt this photo showed their internship program included all ethnicities.

But it looks like the intern in the controversial photo did have a Hindu altar on her desk.

Roy, who has been an intern at NASA’s Glenn Research Center since last year, condemned the “vicious attacks” on her in a tweet. “My Gods are my inspiration to achieve greater goals [in] my life, “she tweeted.” Science and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) can coexist because our civilization is not / has never been dogmatic beyond reason. ”

Roy is a computer engineering student who worked with NASA on a project related to their Moon to Mars mission.

“I truly believe that God and the support of my family [have] gave me the opportunity to do an internship at NASA, ”Roy said in an interview for a NASA blog. “God is watching everything we do and want in our lives, and a dream can come true! ”

Some Twitter users said the backlash of the tweet revealed “Hinduphobia,” a term that refers to anti-Hindu sentiments. This term is often used by right-wing leaders and supporters in India for those who criticize controversial Hindu gods (highly revered gurus) or the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Movies and web series that have received negative reactions for “attacking religious feelings” have also been referred to as “Hinduphobes” in India. Previously, many Indians threatened to boycott retail giants like Amazon for selling underwear and doormats with Hindu symbols.

A 2020 study on the social realities of American Indians by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace points out that while a 1911 report by the United States Congress declared that Hindus were “universally regarded as the least desirable immigrant race so far admitted to the United States”, United States census data now asserts that American Indians enjoy a standard of living that is roughly double that of Americans. median American household.

Follow Shamani on Instagram and Twitter.


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