Hindu group offended by GOP ad: 'Would you worship a donkey or an elephant?'

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Hindu American Foundation offended by Ft. Bend County GOP ad.

The Fort Bend County Republican Party is getting backlash after an ad it placed in an Indian-American newspaper.

The Hindu American Foundation is calling on the Fort Bend Republican Party to apologize for the ad about the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival.

The ad included imagery of the Hindu deity Ganesha, which has the head of an elephant, and included the text, "Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours."

The Hindu American foundation 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."

The Fort Bend GOP responded with the following statement:

"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."

Here is the full statement from the Hindu American Foundation:

The Hindu American Foundation today called upon the Fort Bend County Republican Party to clarify its intentions regarding the use of Lord Ganesha in an ad urging support of the Republican Party.

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? The choice is yours."

"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," said Rishi Bhutada, HAF Board Member and Fort Bend County resident.

He further stated that using religious imagery in order to explicitly appeal for political support should best be avoided by any political party.

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."

Bhutada also called upon the Fort Bend County Republican Party to apologize for the offensive and inaccurate reference, not run the ad again, and for elected officials in the County to send the same message to the Party as well.


Here is the full statement from the Ft. Bend GOP:

The Fort Bend County Republican Party placed an ad in the India Herald on September 12 that was meant to be a greeting for Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival that was celebrated September 13.

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. As the party's first Korean-American Chairman, I have seen successful party outreach and understand the complexities of those efforts. 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.

It is our goal to build understanding and relationships with all of the different communities in Fort Bend County so that we can best convey our ideas and values. We welcome all those who are willing to be part of that process.
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