Urban Outfitters, a publicly traded American retail company which offers a variety of lifestyle merchandise, has apologized to Hindus upset over socks carrying image of Lord Ganesh and offered to remove it from stores and website immediately.
In an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest, Crystal Carroll, Public Relations Manager of Urban Outfitters, wrote: “We sincerely apologize if we offended the Hindu community and our customers. We appreciate Rajan Zed and the Universal Society of Hinduism for bringing this matter to our attention and for helping us understand the cultural and religious sensitivities this product carries. We will remove the Ganesh Socks immediately from our website and stores.”
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, thanked Urban Outfitters for understanding the concerns of Hindu community, which thought Lord Ganesh’s image on socks was highly inappropriate.
Rajan Zed suggested corporations to send their senior executives for training in religious and cultural sensitivity so that they had an understanding of the feelings of customers and communities when creating new products or launching advertising campaigns.
Zed has earlier said that Lord Ganesh was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be wrapped around one’s foot. Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled, Rajan Zed had argued.
Zed had also pointed out that such trivialization of Lord Ganesh was disturbing to the Hindus world over. Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it hurt the followers, Zed added.
Sock which Hindu devotees were finding objectionable was a crew-length cotton sock topped with a Lord Ganesh graphic at the trim, which sold at $8 on website. Urban Outfitters website described it as “Awesome” and “UO Exclusive”.
Philadelphia (USA) headquartered firm Urban Outfitters, Inc. offers Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and BHLDN brands through stores in USA, Canada, and Europe; besides garden center, catalogs, websites and wholesale. It boasts of its “established ability to understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level” and calls its brands “both compelling and distinct”. Richard A. Hayne and Tedford Marlow are President of Urban Outfitters, Inc., and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Outfitters Group respectively.
In Hinduism, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking.