Burger King displayed Hindu deity disrespectfully for promoting a meat sandwich
Hindu American Foundation (HAF) leaders demanded that Burger King, the international fast food chain, immediately cease an advertisement campaign it deemed "highly disrespectful and offensive to Hindus worldwide" in a letter sent to corporate headquarters late last Tuesday. The Foundation was alerted by its membership in Spain of a print advertisement depicting an image of the Hindu Goddess, Lakshmi, seated atop a meat sandwich, other foodstuffs and the catch phrase, "A snack that's sacred," in Spanish.
"I was horrified to walk by a Burger King store in my neighborhood to discover an image of the same deity that I worship at my home altar, displayed so disrespectfully promoting a meat sandwich," said Monica Pahilwani, a Spanish Hindu. "A multinational corporation with a global presence should be much more aware of religious and cultural sensitivities, and how truly repelling such an advertisement could be to Hindus."
Hindu depictions of divinity in the form of Gods and Goddesses are sacred to Hindus and the use or consumption of meat in a religious context is generally proscribed. In fact, Hinduism has the highest proportion of vegetarians among the major religious traditions. Spanish Hindus demanding physical removal of all of the ads in Fuengirola, Spain already met some success locally. The geographic reach of the advertisement campaign was unknown, and it is unclear if similar ads are running in other countries as well. The Foundation wrote in its letter that Burger King demonstrated a lack of cultural and religious sensitivity in this case, and asked that the corporation immediately apologize to Spanish Hindus and remove all ads using sacred Hindu images.
"An advertisement knowingly and intentionally using sacred symbols, especially those of another religious tradition, for purely commercial purposes can be offensive in and of itself," stated Suhag Shukla, Managing Director and Legal Counsel for the Foundation, "Compounding this insult is the use of the sacred image for the sale of a meat product--Burger King's judgment in associating a burger with a Hindu Goddess is absolutely baffling."
Just last year, Burger King withdrew an advertisement in Spain and Britain featuring a wrestler wrapped in a Mexican flag, after the Mexican ambassador to Madrid condemned it as offensive. In both the television and poster advertisements, a squat, large-bellied man wrapped in a Mexican flag, appeared opposite an athletic American cowboy to illustrate the cross-border mix of flavors of Burger King's Texican Whopper burger. And earlier this month, an ad using obvious sexual innuendo to sell its "BK Super Seven Incher" in Singapore garnered the criticism of several advertising analysts.
"Burger King, in its efforts to drum up sales, seems to be have taken out of its marketing equation respect of ethno-religious sensitivities," added Shukla. "We are determined to follow this issue to ensure that Burger King stay true to its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion as it reaches out to its global consumers."
The Hindu American Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.