Washington: An American media commentator has rustled up a storm after he equated the holy Ganges to a disease and lambasted Indian health care system for not being overtly costly like the American one.
The Ganges, a river held sacred by the Hindus, "sounds like a disease", the Fox News commentator said, drawing protests from the Hindu community.
Fox News Channel`s Glenn Beck criticised the Ganges in his opinion show "The One Thing", in the section called “This is the best America has to offer?” which was aired on Sunday.
He said: "One big river they have there, that sounds like a disease. Come on, it does. I mean if somebody said, I am sorry, you have a really bad case of Ganges."
Hindu leader Rajan Zed said that the Ganges was sacred to Hindus worldwide and Beck`s remarks were "very hurtful to the devotees".
“The Ganga is sacred to one billion Hindus worldwide and such remarks were very hurtful to the devotees. Besides apparently denigrating the religion, it was belittling the entire community," Zed said in a letter he wrote to News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, Fox chairman Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck. He demanded a statement on this matter.
The letter pointed out that Hinduism was the world’s oldest and third largest religion and its deep philosophical thoughts could not be taken lightly.
The uproar has got support from Jewish communities in the US. Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, a California Jewish community leader said ridiculing religious symbols in the name of free speech was not acceptable.
Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev condemned the comment and criticized the TV channel for calling Becks a ‘senior reporter’. “People like him should come down to the Kumbh Mela which is being organized next month and take a dip in the Ganga to clean their sins,” he told Zee News.
In an episode of the same program aired two days earlier, Beck flayed the health care system in India for its low price which has led to a medical tourism wave in the country.
The program aired a video clip of an American woman who explained she had gone to Delhi for a hip replacement due to the extremely low price of the surgery. She wondered aloud why the surgery cost $40-, $50,000 in the US and where was all that money going while in India it was much less.
To this, Becks said: "The best I can figure is all that money goes to high-tech hospitals and doctors who studied at Harvard rather than ‘Gajra Raja medical school’. Oh sure, yeah, you know, it`s weird. You can buy a Gucci bag on any New York street corner for like four bucks. No different than the 3,000 dollar real thing. They`re identical! They are! Yes, yes."
His diatribe invited scornful comments from various American news blogs that called Becks xenophobic, bigoted and said it was his old tactic to grab attention.
But there has been no apology from the TV host or the channel. Beck had earlier courted controversy when he had made a racist remark against President Barack Obama. The channel later said it was Beck’s personal opinion.
Ganga is the most sacred river to Hindus and is considered the lifeline to millions of Indians who depend on the mighty river for their daily needs.