HAF Writes to Saturday Night Live about Offensive Ganesha Skit

Washington, D.C. (January 19, 2011) - HAF sent the following letter to Saturday Night Live's Executive Producer regarding the offensive Ganesha skit that aired on January 8.  A pdf version of this letter can be downloaded by clicking here.
Dear Mr. Michaels,
It has been brought to the attention of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) that the January 8th Saturday Night Live skit, “Grady Wilson’s Tantric N’ Tasty,” contained a scene entitled, “The Wrath of Ganesh,” which has deeply offended many Hindus due to an enactment of the Hindu God, Lord Ganesh, with crude gestures, simulating a sex act.
Lord Ganesh is worshiped as the Remover of Obstacles by approximately one billion Hindus around the world and is the first invoked during most, if not all, auspicious celebrations.  As with all Hindu iconography, every facet of the various depictions of Lord Ganesh are deeply symbolic. His elephant head is believed to represent both the strength of knowledge and right action.  He is depicted with a large belly which is symbolic of generosity.  Lord Ganesh also has a single tusk which signifies the importance of focus and discretion.  Images of Lord Ganesh adorn not only Hindu temples, homes, businesses, and offices, but also those of Buddhists and Jains.
SNL’s crass and degrading use of Lord Ganesh in its skit was both insulting and disrespectful to the Hindu community at large.  HAF is continuously engaged in interacting with and educating  the media to present a balanced portrayal of a religious tradition poorly understood in the United States, and skits such as the one referenced here are significantly counterproductive.  While almost “anything” may go in the realm of comedy and satire, it is our hope that producers at NBC will recognize the difference between humor that works and humor that hurts.
As one of the most widely watched television networks serving an ethnically and religiously diverse audience, we would hope that NBC more proactively exercise multicultural respect in its programming.   We believe that it is incumbent upon NBC to address the concerns of the Hindu American community responsibly.  We request that NBC publish online an explanation as to its perspective regarding the deep offense caused by the skit and, importantly, choose to not air the Lord Ganesha segment on online versions and re-runs of the show.  The Hindu American Foundation stands ready to work with NBC to arrive on a mutually satisfactory resolution to this unexpected, and needless, controversy.
HAF is an advocacy group providing a progressive voice for over two million Hindu Americans. The Foundation interacts with and educates leaders in public policy, academia, media and the public at large about Hinduism and global issues concerning Hindus, such as the portrayal of Hinduism, interfaith relations, tolerance and pluralism. We await your direct and formal response by Monday, January 31.  Finally, please consider HAF as a resource available whenever dealing with issues that engage Hinduism.  Feel free to contact us at 301.770.7835.
Thank you.