Washington: Ravi Bhalla, the first ever Sikh mayor of a city in New Jersey, has been allegedly racially targeted after his photoshopped image as an Arab dictator was published on a local website.
The New Jersey-based website, "Hudson Mile Square View", ran an image of Hoboken Mayor Bhalla that resembled the lead character played by British actor Sacha Baron Cohen in the comedy film "The Dictator".
The photo was part of a story titled, "Ravi Bhalla goes to the mattresses... for his tax increase".
It accused Bhalla of "summoning all the powers" of his office to "reinstitute a tax increase" that was not approved by the city council.
According to the website, Bhalla had proposed a 3 per cent tax increase but the council slashed it to 1 per cent. The story said now "the pushback from the Mayor's office to take back the tax reduction is underway".
Sikh activists denounced the image as racist.
Community speaker and activist Simran Jeet Singh tweeted on Tuesday: "Ravi Bhalla is the first-ever turbaned Sikh elected as Mayor in US history. "
"He's endured immense racist abuse, from flyers calling him a terrorist to death threats against him and his family. Now, someone is photoshopping Ravi to depict him as a despot. This is racist and wrong."
Audrey Truschke, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book Aurangzeb, too, expressed her solidarity with Bhalla.
She tweeted: "Disagreeing with politics is OK, discrimination and racism is not. Read this thread, and the thread it references at the end, to educate yourself about ongoing prejudice in America. Such hate will cease when we all reject bigotry. Solidarity with @RaviBhalla".
Later on Tuesday night, the website said that the image was submitted by a reader.
The website has earlier also photoshopped his images.
In February 2017, it posted a photo of Bhalla with a "Pinocchio" nose.
Hudson Mile Square View, which calls itself "Hoboken's biggest website covering government, politics and corruption", has been critical of Bhalla right from the beginning of his mayoral term in 2017.
This is not the first time that Bhalla, the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, has experienced racist attacks over his religion and turban. Soon after his election in 2017, racist flyers calling him a terrorist were circulated in the city.