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Why a Hindu deity will be displayed in Times Square on Wednesday

  • Published at 11:20 am August 5th, 2020
A man with an umbrella walks through Times Square as the city feels the effects of Tropical Storm Isaias in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 4, 2020
A man with an umbrella walks through Times Square as the city feels the effects of Tropical Storm Isaias in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 4, 2020 Reuters

And why it is so controversial

Billboards in New York’s Times Square will be displaying images of the Hindu deity Rama and the Ram Mandir on Wednesday, drawing the ire of anti–Hindu nationalism groups, civil rights organizations, and Muslim advocates.

The display marks the opening of the Ram Mandir in the Indian city of Ayodhya on the same day, with Hindu Americans planning hours-long celebration in the area.

Opponents to the display have rallied to protest the events they describe as a display of “Hindu fascism,” reports Slate. 

The protests have already been successful at convincing one of the ad companies -- Branded Cities -- that run the billboards, to back down from displaying the images. However, two other companies -- Disney and Clear Channel Outdoor -- are still set to display them.

Why the billboards, and the temple, are so controversial

The Indian city of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Rama, considered to be the seventh human avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, making it a holy site for Hindu devotees.

Tensions over the site started in the 1500s when king Babur, founder of the Islamic Mughal empire, ordered the construction of the “Babri Masjid” in Ayodhya.

The mosque was built on a hill known as “Rama’s fort,” and according to nationalist Hindus, a shrine to Rama at the site was demolished to make way for it.

While some scholars refute this theory, the narrative among Hindu supremacists is clear: A Muslim religious site encroached upon a Hindu holy place and destroyed sacred artifacts while doing so.

The matter escalated in 1992 when members of far-right Hindu organizations organized a rally at the mosque that turned violent, culminating in its destruction.

Following the incident, riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims across the country, leaving some 2,000 dead.

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