Meena Harris, who has been very active on social media with support for her aunt Kamala for the upcoming election, said in a tweet which has now been deleted: “I am speechless, other than to say that the first day of Navratri was LIT.”
Navratri is a nine-day Hindu festival, which is currently being celebrated, to worship the feminine deity Durga. Durga is known as the goddess of war, and symbolises the victory of good over evil.
The image shared by Meena Harris, a 36-year-old lawyer, was based on one of the most famous representations of the goddess, where she is seen riding a lion and killing a demon with a trident.
Meena’s image had Kamala Harris’s face photoshopped onto Durga’s body, while the face of her lion had been replaced by the Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. At the bottom of the image, a small demon being slain by the goddess has been replaced by the face of president Donald Trump.
The image received strong criticism from a number of American Hindu groups, who called it offensive to their religious beliefs.
"Your tweeting a caricature of the feminine divine, Maa Durga, with faces superimposed, deeply aggrieved many Hindus globally," Suhag A Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said in a tweet on Monday.
HAF says it represents the interests of the Hindu American community, and has previously issued guidelines for the acceptable commercial use of images relating to the religion.
Rishi Bhutada of the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC) said the "offensive" picture was not created by Meena Harris herself. It had been circulating on WhatsApp before her tweet, he said, and the Biden campaign confirmed to him that the image was not its own work.
"Given that, I believe that an apology should come from Meena Harris even though she did delete the tweet, and no one else. Our religious iconography should not be used in the service of politics in America - I said the same when the Fort Bend County GOP did it in an ad in 2018, and it holds the same here," Mr Bhutada said.
Ajay Shah, the convener of American Hindus Against Defamation, said in a statement that the image has offended and outraged the religious community.
On Saturday, the first day of the Navratri festival, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both tweeted their greetings to the US Hindu community. Ms Harris called the festival “an inspiration to all of us to lift up our communities”, while Mr Biden wrote: "May good once again triumph over evil — and usher in new beginnings and opportunity for all."
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