An ad in Australia depicting religious figures from different faiths, chatting and eating together at a backyard barbecue, has earned backlash over its portrayal of the Hindu God Ganesha.
Meat & Livestock Australia was promoting lamb meat in the TV commercial and showed the Indian deity eating meat with Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Thor, and others.
Members of the Australian Indian community are mainly taking issue with the fact that Ganesha, one of the best-known and most worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon, is considered a vegetarian by Hindu practitioners.
In the ad, Buddha was shown poking fun at the god depicted as a man with an elephant’s head.
“Should we address the elephant in the room?” he asked in jest.
Apparently offended, Ganesha shot back with: “Not funny 2,500 years ago, not funny now”.
Nitin Vashisht, a spokesperson for Indian Society of Western Australia, said the ad was insensitive, according to ABC.netnet.
“I don’t think they realize how revered a God Ganesha is within the Hindu community and by and large the Indian community,” he said. “[He is a] vegetarian teetotaller, and that’s really God for us and most of the Indian community.
“He is shown as … eating lamb and looking for a new marketing strategy for himself [and that] is really very insensitive to the community.”
He also noted how important Ganesha is to Hinduism.
“There is no Indian prayer … [that does not] start with invoking Ganesha first, and there is no Indian temple — it doesn’t matter for whichever God — which [doesn’t have] a Ganesha in there,” he said.
The group is seeking an apology from MLA to the Indian community and the removal of the ad. Netizens have also expressed their disgust over the ad, with many calling out the company for its apparent disrespect for other people’s faith.
In response to the negative criticisms, MLA group marketing manager Andrew Howie released a statement explaining that the ad campaign was intended to promote unity and inclusivity.
“The campaign features gods, prophets, and deities from across a wide range of religions alongside atheism, in a clearly fantastic nature, with the intent of being as inclusive as possible,” the statement said.
“To achieve this we undertook extensive research and consultation.</b
“Our intent is never to offend, but rather acknowledge that lamb is a meat consumed by a wide variety of cultures and capture how the world could look if people left their differing views at the door and came to the table with open arms, and minds.”
Vashisht noted that since Australia is a multicultural society, it is imperative that MLA understands such an ad’s implication to the hundreds of thousands of Hindus living in Australia.
Interestingly, Islam’s Mohammed was noticeably absent in the controversial ad, although he did make a phone call to apologize for missing the barbecue, because “he has to pick up kids from day care.”
A depiction of Mohammed in any medium is considered highly offensive to some Muslims which in the past has resulted in threats of violence to offending parties.