A holy war of sorts is breaking out in Britain over a Christmas stamp which some say is offensive to members of the Hindu faith, purportedly showing Hindus worshipping Jesus Christ.
The stamp features a man and woman with Hindu markings adoring the baby Jesus, and is one of six mother-and-child stamps debuting today.
Hindus are now demanding Royal Mail, the British postal system, withdraw the controversial depiction.
“Would the worldwide Christian community feel comfortable if the government of India issued a Diwali stamp with a Christian priest offering worship to baby Krishna?” asks Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain.
The new stamps were designed from religious images around the world, with the Hindu stamp taken from a 17th century painting on display in Bombay, India.
London’s city art gallery says it’s an Indianized version of a European print of The Holy Family with Saint Anne.
“While many people doubt the authenticity of the age of the painting, we believe that even if this were true, it would be insensitive to use it at a time when the issue of conversions in India has been a subject of heated debate,” said Kallidai. “Even if we accept that an artist in 1620 A.D. took the artistic license to portray practicing Hindus worshipping the baby Christ, we should be asking if this is politically and sensitively correct in the 21st century.”
This year’s stamp designer, Anglican priest Irene Von Treskow, chose the picture for Royal Mail, saying it was so interesting to see a Mughal painting with a Christian subject, adding the image is not offensive.
“How can it be?” she asked the London Telegraph. “It is 17th century art.”
Royal Mail says no insult was intended with the stamp.
“We thought it would be nice to return to a religious theme,” a spokesman told the paper.