Josh Frydenberg accused of racism towards Hindus

Canberra: Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been accused of making “racist” comments about Hinduism and other Indian religions in Parliament.

Frydenberg made several references to the Indian religions in Parliament on February 28 while responding to the Opposition Labor Party’s proposal to pursue a “wellbeing budget”, reports Xinhua news agency

“They (Labor) are inspired by their spiritual leader, the member for Rankin,” he said, referring to the party’s treasury spokesperson Jim Chalmers.

“I was thinking yesterday, as the member for Rankin was coming into the chamber fresh from his Ashram deep in the mountains of the Himalayas barefoot in the chamber, robes flowing, incense burning, beads in one hand, wellbeing budget in the other, I thought to myself: ‘What yoga position the member for Rankin would assume … to deliver the first wellbeing budget?'”

In a statement issued on February 29, the Hindu Council of Australia described the comments as “brazen, racist and Hindu-phobic”, calling for an apology.

“The comments made by Frydenberg are derisive and very offensive to the Hindu community,” the statement said.

It also criticized Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other senior members of the government for laughing at Frydenberg’s statement.

“What is more unsettling to the Hindu community is that the floor of the house, the shrine of democracy, was used as the stage to disrespect the Hindu community,” the council said.

“This behaviour shows a lack of respect to the Hindu community and undermines deep faith in multiculturalism that we all, as Australians, are so proud about.”

Frydenberg clarified that, “The butt of the joke was Labor’s Jim Chalmers and his thought bubble of a well being budget. No offence was intended but of course I apologise for any offence taken.”

Hinduism is a minority religion in Australia, making up 1.9 per cent of the population as of the 2016 census.