The Republican Party in Texas issued an apology after an ad equating Lord Ganesha to the party’s elephant mascot received backlash from Hindus in the United States.
The ad, which was published in a local Texas paper called Indian Herald in Fort Bend County, asked readers the question “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours”. The donkey is the mascot of the Democratic Party.
Reacting to the ad, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) demanded an apology while acknowledging that the move appeared to be an attempt by the party to reach out to Hindus though the ad was “problematic and offensive”.
“While we appreciate the Fort Bend County GOP’s attempt to reach out to Hindus on an important Hindu festival, its ad — equating Hindus’ veneration of the Lord Ganesha with choosing a political party based on its animal symbol — is problematic and offensive,” Rishi Bhutada, Board Member and Fort Bend County resident, was quoted as saying on the HAF website.
“The implication regarding the worship of animals as gods was also disheartening to HAF leaders, as that is a common misconception taught in US schools, which frequently ends up becoming a taunt used to bully Hindu students,” read a statement on the website while drawing attention to the much bigger problem of racism.
Following the outrage, Fort Bend Republican Party chairman Jacey Jetton wrote a letter stating, “The ad was not meant to disparage Hindu customs or traditions in any way. We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by the ad. Obviously, that was not the intent.”
“This ad was created with input from those of Hindu faith so that we could properly pay respect to the sacred festival. This highlights the difficulty in outreach that can be positive for one group but not for another in the same community,” Jetton wrote.
HUF accepted the apology though the statement made by the Fort Bend County GOP was not sent directly to the organisation.
The ad was also criticised by Democratic Party leaders.
“Asking Hindu-Americans if they would rather vote for a donkey or an elephant by comparing Ganesha, a religious figure, to a political party is highly inappropriate,” wrote Sri Preston Kulkarni, a US House candidate from Texas.
“The Fort Bend County Republican party must retract this ad,” he wrote while sharing the ad that was featured in the Texas paper.
Asking Hindu-Americans if they would rather vote for a donkey or an elephant by comparing Ganesha, a religious figure, to a political party is highly inappropriate.
— Sri Preston Kulkarni (@SriPKulkarni) September 18, 2018
It is noteworthy that the ad was originally used in 2013 as a creative for Zomato, which listed out all the positive qualities of the Hindu God. The same was reused with additional banners and political messages in the Republican Party ad.