A Texas Republican group’s recent ad in a Houston-area publication called “India Today” poses a puzzling question to its readers.
“Would you worship a donkey or an elephant?” riddles the ad, with a half-page image of the Hindu religion’s Lord Ganesha sitting above it, along with a “Happy Ganesh Chathurthi” greeting. The ad was placed in the periodical by the Republican Party of Fort Bend County.
Ganesh Chathurthi is a Hindu festival that lasts 10 days, celebrating the deity’s birth, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
See, Lord Ganesha, the Hindu god of prosperity and wisdom, has an elephant’s head, and the Republican Party’s mascot is an elephant, so, pairing the two for political purposes is pretty savvy brand synergy, right?
Wrong, say members of the Hindu community in southeast Texas.
“Equating Hindus’ worship of Ganesh with a political party’s symbol is wrong and promotes inaccurate stereotypes about the Hindu-American community,” Sri Preston Kulkarni, who’s running against Republican incumbent Pete Olson for a congressional seat in that district, wrote in a Facebook post, in response to the ad. “No party should use a religious icon in an attack ad.”
The Democratic candidate called for the Republicans to retract the ad and apologize for the perceived insensitivity.
The Hindu American Foundation also spoke out against the ad in a news release. One of the organization’s board members, and a resident of Fort Bend County, which is just to the west of Houston, called the ad “problematic and offensive.”
“Another new low for those who (1.) lack intelligence & (2.) underestimate the intelligence of others,” Rekha Venkataraman said in the comments of Kulkarni’s Facebook post.
The Fort Bend County Republicans issued the following apology, via KTRK:
“The ad was meant to be part of the celebration and acknowledge the occasion. The ad was not meant to disparage Hindu customs or traditions in any way. 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. We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by the ad. Obviously, that was not the intent.”