Blog: Leonie BarrieCulture clash

Leonie Barrie | 17 June 2005

An AIDS fundraiser in Toronto has found its tagline of ‘Two cultures collide’ a little too near the mark. For the South Asian community is enraged at the alleged “misrepresentation” of Hindu deities in the event’s marketing material. The East meets West theme chosen by Fashion Cares’ 19th fund-raising annual gala organised by the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) last weekend has sparked an international protest among Hindus, who say the event was disrespectful to their culture and religion. They are now staging protests and calling for apologies.

ACT’s good intentions at setting up the event – which is expected to raise more than $1 million – have been undermined, even though around two dozen activist groups, including the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, are said to brought the issues to its attention a month before the show.

Fashion seems to be a prime example of potential incidents that spark a clash between cultures. Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus have all been consistently offended by the fashion world misappropriating their religious symbols to sell clothes – with most recent examples including the House of Minelli which featured Hindu gods on its latest footwear collection; and London department store Harrod’s and designer Roberto Cavalli being forced to withdraw swimsuits and lingerie depicting Hindu deities.

The latest uproar is unlikely to be the last, but must surely serve as a wake-up call to mainstream organisations when dealing with ethnic groups.


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