A controversial advertisement which depicted an image of Ganesha, directed at Hindu-Americans has been drawing flak on social media.
The advertisement which originally appeared in the September 12 edition of the Indian Herald, a local paper in Texas, carried a caricature image of Ganesha, which was originally posted by Zomato, with a controversial caption - "Would you rather worship a donkey or an elephant?" The logo for the Republican party is an elephant.
This advertisement, which was printed for the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, drew a lot of flak, after Hindu-Americans pointed out how offensive this was, and how nobody "worships political parties."
Indians on social media were also not pleased and were quick to call out the ad. They pointed out how the Zomato logo, from where the image was originally created, was still included in the print. Not only did they steal a copyright image, they took it out of context and politicized one of the largest festivals in India.
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
"The ad appeared to be an attempt to reach out to Hindus on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi and urged Hindu American voters in the county to vote Republican by asking “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant?” oh my https://t.co/OKr7RQzFqD — Seth Oldmixon (@setholdmixon) September 19, 2018
When I first saw this ad, I was severely bothered by how it implied Hindus worship animals as gods. Can't tell you how many times I had to deal with that in school growing up. "Hey, you believe in a monkey god, right?" "So if I eat beef, did I just eat your god?" ... /1 https://t.co/npZv305KTB — Rishi Bhutada (@rishi_bhutada) September 18, 2018
I'm actually less mad about the racism in this than about how they apparently can't photoshop out a @Zomato logo — Actually A Doctor (@NikhilKrishnasw) September 19, 2018
The three great crimes of the Republican Party: treason, racism, and copyright infringement — Actually A Doctor (@NikhilKrishnasw) September 19, 2018
This is in poor taste and terrible design. — The Designing Chica (@designingchica) September 18, 2018
Hey @Zomato, did you approve of your logo/trademark being used to advertise on behalf of the Fort Bend County Republican Party?! — Matt Viner (@mattdyne1) September 19, 2018
This is so offensive to the Hindu community, and to all ppl, for that matter. Using a religious symbol to coerce ppl to make a political choice is just plain low and disgusting. — Amy Griffin (@amy_amohg55) September 19, 2018
Following the ad, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) asked for clarification on the advertisement, stating how it was offensive to Hindu beliefs.
HAF Seeks Clarification From Fort Bend County Republican Party About Use of Ganesh on Political Ad https://t.co/7eKopc3oLP pic.twitter.com/sarOSChpBv
— Hindu American Fdn (@HinduAmerican) September 18, 2018
In a statement, Rishi Bhutada, HAF Board Member and Fort Bend County resident said, “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.”
He further stated that using religious imagery in order to explicitly appeal for political support should best be avoided by any political party.
The press release also added how, "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."
According to the Foundation’s Media Toolkit, “Although Hindus respect and honor the cow, they do not worship the cow in the same sense in which they worship the Divine. Hindus consider all living things to be sacred, an attitude reflected in reverence for the cow.”
Following this, the Republican party apologized, with a statement clarifying how its intent was different and chairman Jacey Jetton offered their "sincerest apologies" in a statement.