Promotion of lamb meat using the image of Lord Ganesha

AHAD Adds Global Hindu Voice to Protest Against Crass Australian Meat and Livestock Advertisement Depicting Lord Ganesha

For Immediate Release

9/21/2017

The following statement was issued by Ajay Shah, Convenor, American Hindus Against Defamation and Utsav Chakrabarty, Public Relations Coordinator, World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)

AHAD Adds Global Hindu Voice to Protest Against Crass Australian Meat and Livestock Advertisement Depicting Lord Ganesha

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), the most prominent Hindu organization against Hindu defamation joins the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Australia’s protest against Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) advertisement depicting beloved Hindu God Shree Ganesha for promotion of lamb meat (https://youtu.be/f8kuoFGgj8s).  The commercial further insults Lord Ganesha eating lamb meat, as “the elephant in the room.”  Additionally, dharmic saints wearing saffron are shown eating lamb meat.

Ganesha, holds a special place in the hearts of Hindus around the world.  Lord Ganesha is also revered by other dharmic traditions around the world, including Jains Sikhs, and Buddhists.  Buddhists, worship Lord Ganesha as the Buddhist God Vinayaka throughout Asia, including China and Japan.  In fact, many Buddhist traditions believe that Buddha himself was an avatar of Ganesha.

Ajay Shah, the Convenor of AHAD said, “To use the symbol of nonviolent faiths to promote a product that that represents the ultimate violence against innocent animals is abhorrent.  It is ironic that, Lord Ganesha is used to promote meat, whereas, millions of Hindus celebrate the festival attributed to Lord Ganesha, by fasting and abstaining from food.  Today, American Hindus stand united in their opposition to MLA’s  advertisement and demand that it be withdrawn immediately.“

AHAD is registering its strong protest against MLA with the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau.  The Bureau has apparently judged the advertisement to be non-offensive.  AHAD contends that Australian Advertising Standards Bureau has absolutely no expertise or right to judge what is offensive and non-offensive to Hindus.  The Bureau should have consulted credible Hindu organizations like VHP- Australia (akilaramarathinam@gmail.com) before making its determination.  AHAD requests the Australian Minister for Multicultural Affairs to take note of this advertisement and take take action against its further propagation.

AHAD will also reach out to Buddhist communities across Asia and urge them to boycott Australian lamb based product until AMC withdraws its advertisement depicting Lord Ganesha and saffron clad Hindu priest and tenders an apology to the Hindu community.  AHAD has also launched an online protest against AMC advertisement (http://indiapetitions.com/protest-meat-and-livestock-australias-portrayal-of-lord-ganesha-eating-lamb-in-advertisement/) where the global community can sign a petition and let their voice be heard.

About American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) is the first and the most prominent Hindu organization in USA.  A project of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), AHAD has been actively monitoring media and products to ensure accurate representation of Hindu dharma, culture, images and icons.

For further information, please contact:

Ajay Shah
Convener, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)
http://www.hindunet.org/ahad
ajay@hindunet.org
Phone: (858) 866-9661

About World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)

World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in USA.  Founded in 1970, it has branches across the country.  For more information, please contact:

Utsav Chakrabarti

Public Relations Coordinator
World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)
P.O. Box 600
460 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

http://www.vhp-america.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vishwa.sampark
Twitter: @VHPANews

om_classic_thong

‘Om’ on thongs invite Hindu ire

‘Om’ on thongs invite Hindu ire

PTI | Feb 7, 2005, 02.41 PM IST

Original URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Om-on-thongs-invite-Hindu-ire/articleshow/1013700.cms

WASHINGTON: An American online store selling womens’ undergarments featuring images of Hindu Gods and religious icons has angered members of the community who have demanded their immediate withdrawal from the website.

In an ad for womens’ thongs, Cafe-Press.com has on display hundred per cent cotton ‘Hindu God Shiva classic thong’ priced at USD 12.99 with the religious deity’s face, another called ‘iGod Shiva Classic thong’ for USD 15 makes a statement “Namaste it loud. Your’re Hindu and you’re proud.”

The ‘Om Classic Thong’ priced at USD 8.99 explains “Om or rather aum is a sacred Hindu symbol that represents the absolute.”

Leading the protest for the products withdrawal is the American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), the largest Hindu anti-defamation group in North America comprising several Hindu organisations.

“We have recently come across two sets of products -thongs and boxer shorts with the images of Hindu deities and symbols imprinted on them…AHAD finds the depiction of universally revered Hindu deities and symbols on the undergarments extremely offensive,” it said in a statement.

The website Cafe-Press.com last week had offended the Sikh community by displaying a range of thongs with the Khanda emblem representing the four pillars of the Sikh faith.

Sikh organisations under the World Sikh Council America Region (WSC-AR) had objected to the display of the thongs and had written to CafePress asking it to withdraw the offensive garment.
“We are very disappointed to know that CafePress is selling an item offensive to the Sikh faith..the underwear with the Sikh symbol and the accompanying language is racist and demeans the Sikh faith. This is especially hurtful because the Sikh community has been prefentially victimised after 9/11,” the WSC-AR complaint said.
The protests had borne fruit with CafePress withdrawing the product line from its site.

There have also been instances of western companies imprinting images of Lord Ganesha and Aum on the sole of flip flop sandals, God Rama’s image on sniff tissues and lunch boxes with images of goddess Kali and Durga.

kohler_small

Nataraja – Lord Shiva as a Scantly Clad Woman Hawks Shower Fixtures

Does this Offend You?

Kohlar Ad

Kohler, one of the most prominent plumbing supply companies is using Lord Nataraja (a form of Lord Shiva) in the form of a scantly clad woman and taking a shower to hawk its new shower products.

The image in the Kohler advertisement appeared in The New York Times on Sunday. Oct 13, 2002. This image is unmistakably that of Lord Shiva as Nataraja. The dancing pose, multiple hands, the hand gestures, the metaphor of water from shower too, resembles the flow of river Ganga (Ganges) usually depicted as flowing through Lord Shiva.

 

 

 

Traditional Nataraja Representation

The tag line for the advertisement “There is a Goddess”, clearly indicates that the advertisement is no coincidence, it is an unequivocal indication that the image of Lord Shiva was distorted and adopted for the advertisement purpose.

AHAD is disgusted by the abuse of the image of Lord Shiva in such a derogatory manner. Just as the scantly clad image of Christ in shower selling shower fixtures would be offensive and evoke strong resentment in the Christian community, this advertisement image has enraged the Hindu community. Hindu deities are worshipped, they are not exotic images to be distorted, mutilated and abused.

The Kohler Company’s insensitivity towards Hindus has been compounded by the fact that several calls placed to the PR department of the company by AHAD have gone unanswered.

AHAD demands that the Kohler Company immediately withdraw all the advertisements with Hindu images, and tender a sincere apology to the Hindu community.

AHAD reminds the Kohler Company that Lord Shiva is revered by Hindus around the world – major Shiva temples are found in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, USA and many other countries – and these countries, Kohler has significant commercial interest.

AHAD requests the Hindu community to visit the AHAD web site and sign the protest book at http://www.hindunet.org/ahad/kohler/

AHAD has taken a lead role in countering the abuse of Hindu images by major corporation and media. AHAD led successful action of the Hindu community and procured apologies from Sony/Aerosmith, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Fortune Dynamics, Sittin Pretty Designs and others for abusing Hindu images and symbols.

Press Release: Hindus Enraged at Kohler Company for Image of Lord Nataraja as Scantly Clad Woman Hawking Shower Fixture

America Hindus Against Defamation Press Release

Hindus Enraged at Kohler Company for Image of Lord Nataraja as Scantly Clad Woman Hawking Shower Fixture

Kohler, one of the most prominent plumbing supply companies is using Lord Nataraja (a form of Lord Shiva) in the form of a scantly clad woman and taking a shower to hawk its new shower products.

The image in the Kohler advertisement appeared in The New York Times on Sunday. Oct 13, 2002. This image is unmistakably that of Lord Shiva as Nataraja. The dancing pose, multiple hands, the hand gestures, the metaphor of water from shower too, resembles the flow of river Ganga (Ganges) usually depicted as flowing through Lord Shiva.

The tag line for the advertisement “There is a Goddess”, clearly indicates that the advertisement is no coincidence, it is an unequivocal indication that the image of Lord Shiva was distorted and adopted for the advertisement purpose.

AHAD is disgusted by the abuse of the image of Lord Shiva in such a derogatory manner. Just as the scantly clad image of Christ in shower selling shower fixtures would be offensive and evoke strong resentment in the Christian community, this advertisement image has enraged the Hindu community. Hindu deities are worshipped, they are not exotic images to be distorted, mutilated and abused.

The Kohler Company’s insensitivity towards Hindus has been compounded by the fact that several calls placed to the PR department of the company by AHAD have gone unanswered.

AHAD demands that the Kohler Company immediately withdraw all the advertisements with Hindu images, and tender a sincere apology to the Hindu community.

AHAD reminds the Kohler Company that Lord Shiva is revered by Hindus around the world – major Shiva temples are found in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, USA and many other countries – and these countries, Kohler has significant commercial interest.

AHAD requests the Hindu community to visit the AHAD web site and sign the protest book at http://www.hindunet.org/ahad/kohler/

AHAD has taken a lead role in countering the abuse of Hindu images by major corporation and media. AHAD led successful action of the Hindu community and procured apologies from Sony/Aerosmith, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Fortune Dynamics, Sittin Pretty Designs and others for abusing Hindu images and symbols.

American Hindus Against Defamation is a coalition of major Hindu organizations in North America. It is sponsored by World Hindu Council of America (VHP-A). For more information about AHAD, please contact Ajay Shah ahad@hindunet.org, Chetan Tanna chetan@pacbell.net or Pratap More sriraam@worldnet.att.net

kohler_small

Press Release: Hindus Enraged at Kohler Company for Image of Lord Nataraja as Scantly Clad Woman Hawking Shower Fixture

America Hindus Against Defamation Letter to Kohler

Hindus Enraged at Kohler Company for Image of Lord Nataraja as Scantly Clad Woman Hawking Shower Fixture

American Hindus Against Defamation
Contact : ahad@hindunet.org

Representing several prominent Hindu organizations in N. America

Public Relations Officer
Kohler Company

Dear PR Officer,

I would like to write to you as the Convenor of American Hindus Against Defamation, a coalition of prominent Hindu organizations in USA devoted to the awareness of proper use of Hindu symbols, icons etc.

On October 13, 2002, your company published an advertisement in the New York Times depicting a disorted image of Lord Shiva in his Nataraja form. The dancing pose, multiple hands, the hand gestures, the metaphor of water from shower too, resembles the flow of river Ganga (Ganges) usually depicted as flowing through Lord Shiva. You are welcome to visit our site:

http://www.hindunet.org/ahad/kohler/

to see how your advertisement is not an original work of art, but abuse of a deity worshipped by the Hindus.

The tag line for the advertisement “There is a Goddess”, clearly indicates that the advertisement is no coincidence – it is an unequivocal indication that the image of Lord Shiva was distorted and adopted for the advertisement purpose.

AHAD is disgusted by the abuse of the image of Lord Shiva in such a derogatory manner. Just as the scantly clad image of Christ in shower selling shower fixtures would be offensive and evoke strong resentment in the Christian community, this advertisement image has enraged the Hindu community. Hindu deities are worshipped, they are not exotic images to be distorted, mutilated and abused.

We would like to inform you that Lord Shiva is revered by Hindus around the world – major Shiva temples are found in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, USA and many other countries – and these countries, Kohler has significant commercial interest.

I am not certain if you realize that this has already caused tremendous hurt in the community and we have been requested by several people to take this issue up with you. For past three days, we have made numerous attempts to contact you, however, you have not returned our phone calls. Your non-responsiveness has only reinforced our belief that you are insensitive to the sentiments of a billion strong global Hindu community.

We demand that the Kohler Company immediately withdraw all the advertisements with images of Hindu deities, and tender a sincere apology to the Hindu community.

AHAD has taken a lead role in countering the abuse of Hindu images by major corporation and media. AHAD led successful action of the Hindu community and procured apologies from Sony/Aerosmith, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Fortune Dynamics, Sittin Pretty Designs and others for abusing Hindu images and symbols.

Our organization website can be found at : http://www.hindunet.org/ahad/ where you can see our stand on similar abuse of Hindu symbols. I have also left my phone no. on your answering machine. I would very much appreciate if you can call me or write to me right away.

Sincerely,

Ajay Shah,
American Hindus Against Defamation

mr_patel_doll

Indians in US not amused by ‘racist’ doll

Original URL: http://headlines.sify.com/1645news1….not~amused~by~’racist’~doll

‘Mr Patel’, a politically-incorrect doll manufactured by a US company, has angered Indians in America.

When smacked on the head, the turban-clad doll talks in a sing-song “Indian accent”. The recorded messages range from “Don’t talk like that in front of my back” and “Hamburger. Everything on it, please, but no beef” to more explicit, unprintable messages.

Manufactures JDK products were forced to change one of the most outrageous messages “In my country, we would have already killed you already” after some customers complained that the message – combined with Mr. Patel’s turban – recalled Osama bin Laden. The message now says: “I do not believe in expiration date. It is always good!”

Spokespersons of JDK Products, however, laughed away allegations of racism. President Jay Kamhi told a newspaper, “Maybe somebody’s going to die of laughter, but that’s it! It’s ludicrous.”

“We played the doll’s recorded messages for Indians of all religions. They were excited about the doll, and we had only a five to ten percent negative reaction,” Kamhi said.

The look of the doll – which sports a Punjabi turban and a bindi, though the two would not normally be worn together and definitely not by a Gujarati named Patel – is part of the joke, said Kamhi

Other Indians, however, were not so amused. Ajay Shah of American Hindus Against Defamation told India-West that “Mr. Patel perpetuates a stereotype that goes beyond ridicule”.

“What would be the impact of this doll on the school children with the last name Patel? Would they be taunted … and when they protest, will they suffer physical harm?”

“Are the manufacturers of this doll ready to accept the legal and moral liability that will inevitably result from the physical and emotional harm caused to the Hindu community?”

Samples of the Mr. Patel doll, priced at $10.50, can be found online at trashtalkerdoll.com.

NYT: NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT – JACKSON HEIGHTS; Of Gods and Soles: Hindu Images on Shoes Lead to Protest

Forget Miami’s Cubans. The New York City Hindu lobby is a force to be reckoned with.

Last month, after a discount store in Jackson Heights started selling sandals adorned with colorful images of Hindu gods, Hindu residents began an e-mail blitzkrieg that elicited hundreds of outraged responses from around the world. In letters addressed to a Hindu anti-defamation Web site and to the manufacturers, the protesters described the placement of Shiva, Ganesha and Gayatri on the top and sides of platform shoes as an insult, and they demanded that the manufacturer cease production and apologize.

”It was really a shock to us, being Hindus,” said Usha Gandhi, a public school teacher who lives near $10 Express, the store on 82nd Street where the shoes were being sold. ”My daughter Sabrina saw it and said, ‘Oh, Mom, you should do something about it.’ ” Ms. Gandhi alerted The News India Times, a weekly newspaper based in Manhattan, but with readers throughout North America and in India.

After the paper published an article about the shoes, Indian news services reported that Fortune Dynamic, the California manufacturer, had stopped producing them, in response to a flood of angry e-mail messages. But according to Patrick Huang, a lawyer for the company, the shoes were discontinued because they were not profitable and the product was dropped before the complaints came in.

While images of Hindu gods may appear on T-shirts, shoes are a different matter, said Ravi Adhikari, the reporter who wrote the article in The News India Times.

”Shoes carry all the filth from the street,” Mr. Adhikari said. ”You are not supposed to take your shoes inside the house even, and there’s no way you could go into a temple with them.”

Danny Mizrahi, who owns $10 Express, said the 54 pairs of Shiva sandals, as they are described on the box, sold out quickly at $5 a pair.

”All kinds of people bought them — young, old,” Mr. Mizrahi said. ”But not Indian people,” he added.

Mr. Mizrahi said he did not know the shoes were a problem until Mr. Adhikari approached him. ”He told me: ‘Did you know this is a god? You’re stepping on god,’ ” he said. ”I told him I had no idea.”

While protesters continue to demand an apology from the manufacturer and some have discussed legal action, Mr. Huang said the company acted within its First Amendment rights.

”We did send out letters expressing regrets, but we do fall short of apologizing,” he said. ”We’re not violating any law; we’re not violating anyone’s trademark. We thought it was like putting the image of the Virgin Mary on a T-shirt. Now we know.”

TARA BAHRAMPOUR

Protests Over Sandals With Deities

NEWS INDIA-TIMES  PAGE ONE STORY

28 JULY 2000 ISSUE

Protests Over Sandals With Deities

By RAVI ADHIKARI

Hindus, who passed by the display window of a shoestore in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, July 17, exclaimed He Bhagwan! (Oh My God), in shock mixed with anguish and anger. The store was selling footwear imprinted with the images of Shiva, Ganesha and Gayatri.

For almost three hours on that day, sitting outside the display window of “$10 Express” on 82d Street, Jackson Heights, this reporter observed that some passers-by and shoppers were appalled by what they saw.

“Even to see this kind of work is a sin. I wish I had not come this way today. God! Please forgive me,” Radha Devi, a housewife from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, who was about to enter the shop but stopped after seeing the such footwear, said. “I don’t know why they indulge in offending the religious feelings of others.”

The store, however, was doing brisk business. Many young girls were scrambling for the shoes.

“It’s dirt cheap and the print is very good,” Sylvia, a 10th-grader from Junction Boulevard, Queens, said. Asked whether she knew anything about the images printed on the sandals, she replied no.

“They are holy gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion. Do you still want to insult them by wearing them under your feet?” this writer asked.

“No. Sangeeta will feel very bad. She’s a very nice girl. I don’t want to hurt her feelings,” Sylvia said of her classmate from India. Without buying the pair of sandals, she walked out in disgust.

But the store manager, who introduced himself only as Danny, said: “The shoes arrived just last week, teen-agers like them very much.” Upon telling him what this reporter told Sylvia, Danny argued: “For them (teen-age shoppers) it’s simply a piece of art. They like the color and design, and it’s only $5.”

“What is your religion?” he was asked. Danny said he is a Jew.

“If someone prints the sacred images of Judaism on footwear, how would you feel?” Danny, bewildered by the question but keeping calm, replied, “I’ll feel insulted and I’ll be very angry, of course.”

“Most Hindus now feel the same way. Do you still want to sell those sandals?” this reporter asked.

“I didn’t know it was that serious. I feel sorry but I’m not the producer or importer. Had I known beforehand, I would not have carried them in my store,” Danny answered with a tinge of regret.

“Of course! This is something offensive,” Paula Gonzalez, a Catholic salesgirl, earlier busy selling the same shoes, overhearing the conversation with the manager commented. “We should respect every religion.”

The high-heeled platform sandals for women, produced under the brand name Classified, are available in sizes 6 to 9. On the box the description runs — Color: `Multi.’ `Made in China using synthetic material.’ The label on the bottom of the sandals reads, `Fabric Upper, Balance Man Made.’

Howsoever the manufacturer or distributor may rationalize, it seems that the shoes were produced with the knowledge that the images are sacred to Hindus. It is to be noted here that the style of the product is named, `Shiva.’

“Whoever be the producer, he has insulted Hinduism,” Pandit Jagdish Tripathi of Satya Narayan Temple in Queens, said after examining the pair.

“Will they spare us, Hindus, if we do the same to other religions’ sacred symbols?” Tripathi asked. “But we’ll never stoop to do anything offensive to others. We respect all religions … This issue should go to the court. The manufacturer should be severely punished so that he (or anyone else) will no more dare to offend in this manner.”

PRODUCT WITHDRAWN?

In a bid to identify the manufacturer, this reporter found out that the company, Fortune Dynamic, was based in the City of Industry in California, near Los Angeles. Some reports say, the company was based in La Puente, Calif.

On July 18, a person who introduced himself as a salesman — over the telephone — confirmed that the company was making the sandals with images of gods came from China. He asked if this writer was a regular customer. And got the reply in the negative.

“Oh. Reporter. I don’t know .. you … better send a fax or something to our company. OK?” the man reacted casually.

When pointed out that Hindus are hurt and are protesting, he hung up, saying: “I don’t know. I couldn’t answer any of your questions. … I’m only working for this company. I’ve a customer here I’ve to go. Take it up with our company. OK.”

According to some news reports, the company, however, had already withdrawn the questionable product from the market. This was after this reporter sent the newstips and photos to some people and organizations seeking their reaction. Subash Razdan, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Federation of Indian American Associations; Consulate General of India and New York; and the Overseas Friends of BJP were among the first to be sent the e-mail. A report from Washington quoted the NFIA as saying, “Following the angry reaction of Indian-Americans of all religious denominations, the sandals were withdrawn from the market, within a few hours, a New York ethnic paper, News India, spread the news about religious slur by e-mail.”

India’s premier news agency, the Press Trust of India also confirmed that the News India’s efforts made the company withdraw the inflammatory product.

Talking over the telephone July 20 afternoon, Lisa Tshering, a reporter with India West, a California-based weekly also admitted that she used newstips and the photos for her publication without knowing that they belonged to this reporter.

“I didn’t know, it was your news idea and photos. I got them through Subash Razdan,” Tshering said.

On July 22, this reporter once again visited the Jackson Heights shop to check whether the controversial merchandise was still on the shelf, as some news report and community activists claimed.

Surprisingly enough, a Spanish-speaking salesman who was occupying Danny’s place, said the stock went out because of the heavy demand. “One person was grabbing two-three pairs, it went out instantly,” the man apparently in his early 40s said without disclosing his name or position, but he said Danny was off on Saturdays.

To another question whether he received any letter or call form Fortune Dynamic, the producer of the bad product, regarding withdrawal, the man simply said: “No. We didn’t receive anything from the company. It was just sold out. Maybe we’ll receive another shipment sometime next week.”

CONDEMNED WORLDWIDE

This reporter also e-mailed the newstips and photos to some other people, seeking their views. This had a ripple effect.

The people who reacted ranged from a 7-year-old Ankita Sharma of Pleasenton, Calif., to community activists, religious scholars, computer professionals, university professors, and housewives. They have all expressed their resentment and shock. Believe it or not, even a 4-year-old boy has resented the affront.

Usha Gandhi, however, was the first to call the offices of News India Group, to condemn the product. Talking to this writer in Satya Narayan Temple, July 18, Gandhi, a New York City school teacher, said: “First, my daughter saw the shoes in the store. I felt really bad. We Hindus worship our gods but never abuse the spiritual symbols of other faiths.”

Sabrina, Usha’s `first witness’ daughter, added: “I’ve seen many people wearing T-shirts with Om and gods stamped, but it’s outrageous to wear godly symbols under one’s feet. I can’t even think of doing the same with the holy cross or any other similar symbols.”

“Merchandizing sacred symbols is not new in this country. Here, everything boils down to money. And the problem with we Hindus is that we’re tolerant beyond tolerance. Until you make a big noise no one is going to listen to you, especially in this country,” Premnath Sharma, a Rego Park, Queens, resident said.

Sharma’s reference was to the cover of Virgin Records with God’s image, Lord Krishna’s photo in Genre (Gay) magazine, mystifying the story of Krishna in TV series Xena, T-shirts with Om in Macy, dancing gods/goddesses in Karma Nightclub, and a variety of religo-cultural tatoos, not all in good taste.

American Hindus Against Defamation, an organization which has always been in the forefront on such issues has put up a separate Web site to lodge the protest (http.www.hindunet.org/ahad/shoes). AHAD, in the past, had protested against Xena, Hindu-bashing by the Southern Baptists, and Sony-Areosmith’s Ninelive’s album cover. Till the press time for News India-Times, July 23 evening, more than 500 people have already signed the Web site protest letter to the company.

“Never before we’ve received the fastest and widespread response, like this time. Hindus all over the world will not let this issue die just like that,” Ajay Shah, an AHAD convener, who is also the administrator of the Global Hindu Electronic Network, said.

“Forget about America and India, people are protesting from all over the world, from Qatar to Australia and from South Africa to United Kingdom. We would like to thank News India and the reporter for bringing up the issue, otherwise it would have gone unnoticed.” Aside from Web-protest and hundreds of telephone calls, about 150 e-mail messages were received in newsindia1@aol.com and a similar number of e-mail letters were sent to this journalist’s personal address.

Excerpts … The Conversation With Fortune Dynamic

Is that Classified shoe manufacturing company?

Yes. Yes.

I would like to ask you about one of your products. Its style is named `Shiva.’

Oh! Would you like to speak to salesman?

Yes please, or the manager there.

Oh! Actually they are busy right now. Do you have a sales … ?

No. I’m not your regular buyer. Someone is interested in style Shiva.

Oh! OK. Actually I’m going to transfer you to one of our salesmen and he will answer your question.

(The line was transferred but went to the voice mail of a man. I tried again to speak to the same woman. When I explained the matter, she transferred me to another line. I heard a man’s voice Hi sir! I’m calling from New York.

New York? How can I help you?

I would like to know something about the sandals you make — styled ‘Shiva’.

What do you like to know?

Where did you get the designs from? You’ve printed Hindu gods and goddesses on the sandals. Who designed them for you?

I don’t know.

You are the producer?

No. I’m a salesman.

OK. Where did you get those shoes? Who supplied you?

China.

China?

Yeh.

Is there someone else who can give me more details?

What do you want to know?

Many people here in New York are objecting to the shoes, saying the sandals have gods and goddesses’ images on them and you can’t simply print them on shoes.

You are our customer?

No. I’m a reporter.

Oh! Reporter. I don’t know .. you … better send a fax or something to our company. OK?

Ok. Tell me one thing … The person who gave me this telephone number told me that you were the producer or main importer of shoes from China and you have supplied them to hundreds of stores all over America.

I don’t know. I couldn’t answer any of your questions. Ok?

But you know that the shoes carry Hindu gods and goddesses on them.

I’m only working for this company. I’ve a customer here I’ve to go. Take it up with our company. OK.

Whom should I address to? Hello … Hello …

Only the heavy sound of hanging up came in reply.

PHOTO CAPTIONS ======

1. RAVI ADHIKARI: The reporter who brought the issue to the fore (Ravi_PP.jpg)

2. The New York shoestore which sold the sandals (All photos: Ravi Adhikari) (Store.jpg)

Ravi Adhikari is a senior editor with Manhattan, New York City-based News India-Times (www.newsindia-times.com). He joined the popular weekly after receiving an MS degree from the City University of New York in 1997.

Entered into the profession of journalism nearly 2 decades ago, the veteran journalist from Nepal, the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, is credited for several breaking stories, back home and in the US.

Apart from the recent work of bringing the abusive sandal’s story to the fore, Mr. Adhikari is also credited for bringing several other major stories to the attention of the South Asian community in the United States.

Some of them are:

1. Hindu-bashing by Southern Baptists during 1999 Deepawali

2. Muslim religious leader’s involvement in sexual abuse to children in a NYC mosque

3. Plight of holy cows in Indian slaughterhouses, and illegal cattle trade
28 JULY 2000 ISSUE

Protests Over Sandals With Deities

By RAVI ADHIKARI

Hindus, who passed by the display window of a shoestore in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, July 17, exclaimed He Bhagwan! (Oh My God), in shock mixed with anguish and anger. The store was selling footwear imprinted with the images of Shiva, Ganesha and Gayatri.

For almost three hours on that day, sitting outside the display window of “$10 Express” on 82d Street, Jackson Heights, this reporter observed that some passers-by and shoppers were appalled by what they saw.

“Even to see this kind of work is a sin. I wish I had not come this way today. God! Please forgive me,” Radha Devi, a housewife from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, who was about to enter the shop but stopped after seeing the such footwear, said. “I don’t know why they indulge in offending the religious feelings of others.”

The store, however, was doing brisk business. Many young girls were scrambling for the shoes.

“It’s dirt cheap and the print is very good,” Sylvia, a 10th-grader from Junction Boulevard, Queens, said. Asked whether she knew anything about the images printed on the sandals, she replied no.

“They are holy gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion. Do you still want to insult them by wearing them under your feet?” this writer asked.

“No. Sangeeta will feel very bad. She’s a very nice girl. I don’t want to hurt her feelings,” Sylvia said of her classmate from India. Without buying the pair of sandals, she walked out in disgust.

But the store manager, who introduced himself only as Danny, said: “The shoes arrived just last week, teen-agers like them very much.” Upon telling him what this reporter told Sylvia, Danny argued: “For them (teen-age shoppers) it’s simply a piece of art. They like the color and design, and it’s only $5.”

“What is your religion?” he was asked. Danny said he is a Jew.

“If someone prints the sacred images of Judaism on footwear, how would you feel?” Danny, bewildered by the question but keeping calm, replied, “I’ll feel insulted and I’ll be very angry, of course.”

“Most Hindus now feel the same way. Do you still want to sell those sandals?” this reporter asked.

“I didn’t know it was that serious. I feel sorry but I’m not the producer or importer. Had I known beforehand, I would not have carried them in my store,” Danny answered with a tinge of regret.

“Of course! This is something offensive,” Paula Gonzalez, a Catholic salesgirl, earlier busy selling the same shoes, overhearing the conversation with the manager commented. “We should respect every religion.”

The high-heeled platform sandals for women, produced under the brand name Classified, are available in sizes 6 to 9. On the box the description runs — Color: `Multi.’ `Made in China using synthetic material.’ The label on the bottom of the sandals reads, `Fabric Upper, Balance Man Made.’

Howsoever the manufacturer or distributor may rationalize, it seems that the shoes were produced with the knowledge that the images are sacred to Hindus. It is to be noted here that the style of the product is named, `Shiva.’

“Whoever be the producer, he has insulted Hinduism,” Pandit Jagdish Tripathi of Satya Narayan Temple in Queens, said after examining the pair.

“Will they spare us, Hindus, if we do the same to other religions’ sacred symbols?” Tripathi asked. “But we’ll never stoop to do anything offensive to others. We respect all religions … This issue should go to the court. The manufacturer should be severely punished so that he (or anyone else) will no more dare to offend in this manner.”

PRODUCT WITHDRAWN?

In a bid to identify the manufacturer, this reporter found out that the company, Fortune Dynamic, was based in the City of Industry in California, near Los Angeles. Some reports say, the company was based in La Puente, Calif.

On July 18, a person who introduced himself as a salesman — over the telephone — confirmed that the company was making the sandals with images of gods came from China. He asked if this writer was a regular customer. And got the reply in the negative.

“Oh. Reporter. I don’t know .. you … better send a fax or something to our company. OK?” the man reacted casually.

When pointed out that Hindus are hurt and are protesting, he hung up, saying: “I don’t know. I couldn’t answer any of your questions. … I’m only working for this company. I’ve a customer here I’ve to go. Take it up with our company. OK.”

According to some news reports, the company, however, had already withdrawn the questionable product from the market. This was after this reporter sent the newstips and photos to some people and organizations seeking their reaction. Subash Razdan, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Federation of Indian American Associations; Consulate General of India and New York; and the Overseas Friends of BJP were among the first to be sent the e-mail. A report from Washington quoted the NFIA as saying, “Following the angry reaction of Indian-Americans of all religious denominations, the sandals were withdrawn from the market, within a few hours, a New York ethnic paper, News India, spread the news about religious slur by e-mail.”

India’s premier news agency, the Press Trust of India also confirmed that the News India’s efforts made the company withdraw the inflammatory product.

Talking over the telephone July 20 afternoon, Lisa Tshering, a reporter with India West, a California-based weekly also admitted that she used newstips and the photos for her publication without knowing that they belonged to this reporter.

“I didn’t know, it was your news idea and photos. I got them through Subash Razdan,” Tshering said.

On July 22, this reporter once again visited the Jackson Heights shop to check whether the controversial merchandise was still on the shelf, as some news report and community activists claimed.

Surprisingly enough, a Spanish-speaking salesman who was occupying Danny’s place, said the stock went out because of the heavy demand. “One person was grabbing two-three pairs, it went out instantly,” the man apparently in his early 40s said without disclosing his name or position, but he said Danny was off on Saturdays.

To another question whether he received any letter or call form Fortune Dynamic, the producer of the bad product, regarding withdrawal, the man simply said: “No. We didn’t receive anything from the company. It was just sold out. Maybe we’ll receive another shipment sometime next week.”

CONDEMNED WORLDWIDE

This reporter also e-mailed the newstips and photos to some other people, seeking their views. This had a ripple effect.

The people who reacted ranged from a 7-year-old Ankita Sharma of Pleasenton, Calif., to community activists, religious scholars, computer professionals, university professors, and housewives. They have all expressed their resentment and shock. Believe it or not, even a 4-year-old boy has resented the affront.

Usha Gandhi, however, was the first to call the offices of News India Group, to condemn the product. Talking to this writer in Satya Narayan Temple, July 18, Gandhi, a New York City school teacher, said: “First, my daughter saw the shoes in the store. I felt really bad. We Hindus worship our gods but never abuse the spiritual symbols of other faiths.”

Sabrina, Usha’s `first witness’ daughter, added: “I’ve seen many people wearing T-shirts with Om and gods stamped, but it’s outrageous to wear godly symbols under one’s feet. I can’t even think of doing the same with the holy cross or any other similar symbols.”

“Merchandizing sacred symbols is not new in this country. Here, everything boils down to money. And the problem with we Hindus is that we’re tolerant beyond tolerance. Until you make a big noise no one is going to listen to you, especially in this country,” Premnath Sharma, a Rego Park, Queens, resident said.

Sharma’s reference was to the cover of Virgin Records with God’s image, Lord Krishna’s photo in Genre (Gay) magazine, mystifying the story of Krishna in TV series Xena, T-shirts with Om in Macy, dancing gods/goddesses in Karma Nightclub, and a variety of religo-cultural tatoos, not all in good taste.

American Hindus Against Defamation, an organization which has always been in the forefront on such issues has put up a separate Web site to lodge the protest (http.www.hindunet.org/ahad/shoes). AHAD, in the past, had protested against Xena, Hindu-bashing by the Southern Baptists, and Sony-Areosmith’s Ninelive’s album cover. Till the press time for News India-Times, July 23 evening, more than 500 people have already signed the Web site protest letter to the company.

“Never before we’ve received the fastest and widespread response, like this time. Hindus all over the world will not let this issue die just like that,” Ajay Shah, an AHAD convener, who is also the administrator of the Global Hindu Electronic Network, said.

“Forget about America and India, people are protesting from all over the world, from Qatar to Australia and from South Africa to United Kingdom. We would like to thank News India and the reporter for bringing up the issue, otherwise it would have gone unnoticed.” Aside from Web-protest and hundreds of telephone calls, about 150 e-mail messages were received in newsindia1@aol.com and a similar number of e-mail letters were sent to this journalist’s personal address.

Excerpts … The Conversation With Fortune Dynamic

Is that Classified shoe manufacturing company?

Yes. Yes.

I would like to ask you about one of your products. Its style is named `Shiva.’

Oh! Would you like to speak to salesman?

Yes please, or the manager there.

Oh! Actually they are busy right now. Do you have a sales … ?

No. I’m not your regular buyer. Someone is interested in style Shiva.

Oh! OK. Actually I’m going to transfer you to one of our salesmen and he will answer your question.

(The line was transferred but went to the voice mail of a man. I tried again to speak to the same woman. When I explained the matter, she transferred me to another line. I heard a man’s voice Hi sir! I’m calling from New York.

New York? How can I help you?

I would like to know something about the sandals you make — styled ‘Shiva’.

What do you like to know?

Where did you get the designs from? You’ve printed Hindu gods and goddesses on the sandals. Who designed them for you?

I don’t know.

You are the producer?

No. I’m a salesman.

OK. Where did you get those shoes? Who supplied you?

China.

China?

Yeh.

Is there someone else who can give me more details?

What do you want to know?

Many people here in New York are objecting to the shoes, saying the sandals have gods and goddesses’ images on them and you can’t simply print them on shoes.

You are our customer?

No. I’m a reporter.

Oh! Reporter. I don’t know .. you … better send a fax or something to our company. OK?

Ok. Tell me one thing … The person who gave me this telephone number told me that you were the producer or main importer of shoes from China and you have supplied them to hundreds of stores all over America.

I don’t know. I couldn’t answer any of your questions. Ok?

But you know that the shoes carry Hindu gods and goddesses on them.

I’m only working for this company. I’ve a customer here I’ve to go. Take it up with our company. OK.

Whom should I address to? Hello … Hello …

Only the heavy sound of hanging up came in reply.

PHOTO CAPTIONS ======

1. RAVI ADHIKARI: The reporter who brought the issue to the fore (Ravi_PP.jpg)

2. The New York shoestore which sold the sandals (All photos: Ravi Adhikari) (Store.jpg)

Ravi Adhikari is a senior editor with Manhattan, New York City-based News India-Times (www.newsindia-times.com). He joined the popular weekly after receiving an MS degree from the City University of New York in 1997.

Entered into the profession of journalism nearly 2 decades ago, the veteran journalist from Nepal, the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, is credited for several breaking stories, back home and in the US.

Apart from the recent work of bringing the abusive sandal’s story to the fore, Mr. Adhikari is also credited for bringing several other major stories to the attention of the South Asian community in the United States.

Some of them are:

1. Hindu-bashing by Southern Baptists during 1999 Deepawali

2. Muslim religious leader’s involvement in sexual abuse to children in a NYC mosque

3. Plight of holy cows in Indian slaughterhouses, and illegal cattle trade