Republicans in Fort Bend County, Texas, have apologized after using the Hindu deity Ganesha in a campaign ad.
The county’s Republicans posted the ad in a local newspaper, Time India Herald, during the Hindu festival Ganesh Chaturthi, a celebration of Ganesha’s birth.
“Fort Bend County Republican Party wishes a Happy Ganesh Chathurthi to the followers of Hindu faith,” the top banner of the ad reads.
But then the ad featured another line, which likened the god to the Republican Party’s elephant logo and compared it to the Democrat Party’s donkey mascot.
It asked voters: “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours.”
The ad prompted outrage, with the Hindu American Foundation issuing a statement saying the use of Ganesha was both “problematic and offensive.”
“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,” Rishi Bhutada of the foundation said in the statement.
They urged politicians to think twice before using any religious imagery for political gain.
Fort Bend County Republican Party chairman Jacey Jetton issued an apology over the ad soon after, writing the group “should have been more respectful.”
Following the county’s Republican Party’s apology, the foundation updated its statement saying it appreciates the move.
“However, how they plan to not make a similar mistake in the future in their outreach to the Hindu community, and all communities in Fort Bend, remains an open question,” the foundation said.
The ad also garnered criticism from politicians, including Indian-American Sri Preston Kulkarni, who is a Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress from Texas.
He tweeted the ad earlier this week, writing: “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.”
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In an interview with HuffPost, Kulkarni said he was “shocked” to see the ad.
“When I saw the ad, I was shocked. Imagine if this was about the Jewish religion or the Christian religion,” he said.
“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.”