US-based media house CNN has started a six-part series called 'Believer' anchored by "religious scholar" Reza Aslan. The website describes it as a "spiritual adventure series" where Aslan "immerses himself in the world's most fascinating faith-based groups to experience life as a true believer."
But the channel came under fire after it put out a preview of the latest episode on Varanasi on Saturday. While a lot of Hindus consider the city holy and believe that dying in Kashi or Varanasi will help them attain enlightenment or 'moksha', CNN referred to it as "city of the dead".
This was met with much criticism from social media users from the community, who pointed out that 'city of the dead' title is offensive and downright incorrect.
@CNN I've never heard any of my friends from Varanasi describe the city like this. I also lived there for some time and it was pretty lively— रॉफ़ल इयान बाबू (@iawoolford) March 4, 2017
Some users schooled CNN on the significance of the city, pointing out how 'City of lights' is more appropriate.
Indian authors who have written books on Hinduism too weren't pleased in the least
Sorry @CNN your show on Kashi is culturally tone-deaf, even bigoted. 'City of the Dead'? Do you even know that its known as City of Light?— HindolSengupta (@HindolSengupta) March 5, 2017
Shows like @CNN's City of the Dead exmpl of bigoted oriental gaze on ancient cultures shown as anti-modern - breeds religious fundamentalism— HindolSengupta (@HindolSengupta) March 5, 2017
Neither CNN nor the anchor has reacted to the criticism. Reza Aslan, in fact, put out this post claiming that CNN is the first TV crew to film from inside the city's ghats.
This was a claim readily trashed by users too, who pointed out that it's been done many times before
https://t.co/tQjEvVvia4— The Delhi Lawyer (@delhi_lawyer) March 4, 2017
Well, the series starts today (Sunday, March 5) and it's waiting to be seen how viewers react to the show itself.