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 Republican Party of Fort Bend County, Texas, apologized after its ad in the regional newspaper The India Herald received backlash from the Asian American community, reports HuffPost.
The ad depicted the Hindu god Ganesha, an elephant-headed deity, who was likened to the Republican Party’s elephant symbol, the ad reading, “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours.”
Almost 20 percent of the county’s population is Asian, with a relatively high number of Urdu, Gujarati and Hindi speakers. Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Jacey Jetton said in a statement released Wednesday that the ad was placed in “celebration” of the Hindu festival Ganesh Chaturthi, which began on September 13 this year.
“This ad was created with input from those of Hindu faith so that we could properly pay respect to the sacred festival,” wrote Jetton. “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.”
“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, a board member of the Hindu American Foundation and Fort Bend resident.
Sri Preston Kulkarni, an Indian American Democrat running to represent Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, also shared his thoughts on Facebook.
“When I saw the ad, I was shocked. Imagine if this was about the Jewish religion or the Christian religion,” Kulkarni told HuffPost. “Is that any way to talk about somebody’s faith? Asking Hindus to vote Republican by comparing a religious figure to the GOP’s mascot? In America we don’t worship political parties.”
Lakshmi Sridaran, the director of national policy and advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), doesn’t find it unusual that politicians are trying to appeal to South Asians since they are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country. However, she finds the ad concerning because misleading representations of communities can contribute to “racist rhetoric, discourse and narratives.” “Focusing on the issues should be the most important component of appealing to any community,” she said.
“The Republican Party’s apology was a step, but they need to do more to prove that they do not stand for such divisive rhetoric,” said Kulkarni.
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