Hindus outraged at Newsweek Obama cover

November 27, 2010 6:34:41 PM PST
A controversial cover of Newsweek magazine has prompted international outrage and led to calls of a boycott.

The cover depicts President Obama as a Hindu god and it is being met with harsh criticism from some Hindus.

"I was offended," says Mihir Meghani of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF).

It's what is on the cover that is causing problems for HAF members. It shows President Obama with six arms, standing on one leg, with a caption reading, "God Of All Things." The image is similar to the Hindu God Shiva Nataraja.

"It becomes an issue of contention for many Hindus who don't like their symbols being usurped or being used for other purposes," Meghani says.

Shiva Nataraja is the god of creation, destruction and grace. Each arm represents a different attribute. The president, who was in India recently, is shown trying to balance war, peace and the economy.

"Newsweek should have had better sensitivity," Meghani says.

The Hindu American Foundation wants Newsweek to apologize and to explain to readers what the god symbolizes, but Hindus in Malaysia are taking more drastic measures. They are demanding the government remove the issue from all of the country's newsstands.

Professor of advertising, Michal Strahilevitz, has seen the cover. She says the magazine's editors should have known better.

"I just thought, 'What a dumb thing to do,'" she says. "There are just many ways to express that there are many things he's balancing, and they could've expressed something about him being in India as well without using a deity. You can express him being in Italy without making him look like the pope."

Newsweek is a global magazine and is available is several countries. American readers meantime, had mixed reactions to this week's cover.

"I wasn't even sure if it was supposed to be about Hinduism but yeah, it looks like he's juggling," says John Ringhofer of Berkeley.

"I know they're trying to make an analogy of some kind. I don't think they're successful and I think the person who did it didn't know what they were doing," says Walter Ratcliff of Oakland.

Newsweek did not return any of ABC7's phone calls or requests for a statement.


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