FREE SPEECH IS integral to this country: the right to criticise the government; the Church; our head of State, Queen Elizabeth. Naturally, there are constraints, eg, on racism, as well as some of the strictest libel laws in the world.
A balance has also to be struck, but the limited censorship of ideas and images is mostly in place only for reasons of state security.
The first that Hackney designer Sera Ulger, who runs fashion firm Suldn knew that something was up, was when her business’s social-media accounts were hit by what she terms “heavy trolling… and “a lot of unreasonable comments” about a swimsuit featuring a colourful drawing of a Hindu deity.
Campaigner Rajan Zed, of Nevada, USA, emailed her and press-released Loving Dalston to demand “immediate withdrawal of [the] swimsuit carrying images of Hindu deity Durga”. He had spotted on her website an image of a Hindu goddess in some of her products. The Goddess Sherwali [another name for Durga] swimsuit is priced at £95.
Zed, who describes himself as a “Hindu statesman”, fires off complaints around the world, apparently with some success: an English craft brewery stopped using the Om symbol on its bottles after he protested. It is worth noting that British Christians rarely become cross (couldn’t resist) about the use of the symbol of their faith.
Zed says that Hindus want free artisic expression and speech as much as anybody else — “but faith was something sacred and attempts at trivialising it hurt its followers”. To support his campaigns his site solicits donations.
Samiksha Jain, a London postgraduate scholar from New Delhi, said the swimsuits were offensive to Hindus. The designer should have sought more information before “using an image that is of cultural significance to millions of people”.
Sera Ugler told Loving Dalston: “I had no intention of offending anyone. I have the upmost respect for religions as I am from a background with Muslim heritages.”
She apologised for any offence that her design “may have caused to the Hindu community”.
The symbol was still on items advertised on Suldn today.
David Altheer 010219
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. A link in no way expresses support for any site.