NEW YORK, U.S., January 17, 2013 (Washington Post): When Uma Mysorekar looks at the members of the new Congress, the Indian immigrant and practicing Hindu can see that, for the first time, there's someone who shares her ethnicity and someone who shares her faith. To her surprise, they are two different people.
Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is the first practicing Hindu elected to Congress. Rep. Ami Bera of California, also a Democrat, is the third Indian American to serve in the House. Gabbard, however, isn't from India, where Hinduism originated and to which the vast majority of its adherents have ethnic ties. Bera is a Unitarian.
His two Indian American predecessors in Congress, Dalip Singh Saund and Bobby Jindal, also were not practicing Hindus. The late Saund, a California Democrat elected in 1956, was Sikh. Jindal, a Republican elected to the House in 2004 who is now Louisiana's governor, is Catholic.
Gabbard's presence in Congress creates an interesting moment for Hindus in the United States, a chance to celebrate a barrier broken but also a topic of discussion as they ponder how closely religion and nationality are entwined, or whether they even should be.
Gabbard "is a Hindu representative. It doesn't matter where she came from," said Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, a temple in the New York borough of Queens that is one of the country's oldest.
According to an analysis issued last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there are about 1 billion Hindus in the world. Of those, 94 percent are in India, and 99 percent in the larger South Asia region. The analysis, based on data from 2010, the latest available, estimated the population of Hindus in the United States at 1.79 million. Most are of Indian descent.
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