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Journalists are renowned for breaking the mould. For going where others may never dare. For standing on the front-line in the heart of the action.

But sometimes it's possible to get yourself in too deep. To wish that you'd not agreed to do what's asked.

Ask Reza Aslan. The CNN reporter has been heavily criticised for his coverage of the Aghori sect.

The episode was aired on Sunday for his latest series called Believer, and it's caused an angry backlash from Hindus in America.

In the footage, Aslan, after having his face smeared with the ashes of human bodies, is asked to wear a headband made of human teeth, drink from a human skull and manages to upset the tribesman who tells him: "I will cut off your head if you keep talking so much.

Credit: CNN

But there's an extra twist. In his coverage, Aslan is given a piece of human brain to eat. Which, perhaps in wanting not to upset his host, he bitterly swallows.

Whereas some may praise his works, others were quick to criticise.

Who are the Aghori?

  • Devotees of the Hindu God, Shiva
  • They base their beliefs on two principles: that Shiva is perfect, and Shiva is responsible for all that occurs; basically everything must be perfect otherwise it denies the sacredness of life to its full
  • They believe everyone is born perfect but there are eight 'great nooses' that restrict this. These include: sensual pleasure, anger, greed, obsession, fear and hatred
  • The practices of the Aghori are based around the removal of these ties

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat and the only Hindu in Congress tweeted: "I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people's misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism."

She added: "Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism."

At one point it seemed that even Aslan realised he was only just keeping his head above water as he tells the director: "I feel like this may have been a mistake."

Aslan demonstrates an instant look of regret after eating brain. Credit: CNN

He was initially told to put a band of human teeth on his head - but instantly felt uncomfortable and removed it. Credit: PA

As part of his investigating, Aslan drank from a skull. Credit: PA

Hindus in America have been quick to jump to defend their faith and highlight that the Aghori is only a small cult - possibly with fewer than 100 members.

The Aghori believes that nothing can taint the human body, but its beliefs and practises are rejected by orthodox Hindus.

So, does Aslan regret it?

It would appear not: the journo retweeted a headline stating: "Why CNN's Reza Aslan Shouldn't Eat Human Brains." His response was simply "you work all your life for a headline like this."

Featured Image Credit: CNN

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