Community and religious leaders are outraged over South Ozone Park school mural depicting principal as Hindu goddess

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A mural at a middle school in South Ozone Park is creating a major controversy.

A mural, which was hanging above the rear exercise lot at Junior High School 226, located at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd., depicted the school’s principal Rushell White as a six-armed Hindu goddess, Daily News first reported.

The representation of White as a Hindu deity has angered many parents, students and staff at the school, and across the nation as well as Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, who has asked that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Education (DOE) Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina to apologize for the offensive mural in a statement he made from Nevada.

“Hindu goddesses were highly revered in Hinduism and were meant to be worshiped in temples or home shrines and not to be used indecorously or thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects in a public school premises; which reportedly had considerable number of Hindu students,” Zed said in his statement.

Zed noted that Hinduism was the oldest and third-largest religion of the world, with about 1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and “it should not be taken frivolously. No faith, larger or smaller, should be ridiculed at,” he said.

According to DOE, the mural was part of a student-led art project inspired by, and completed with, the school’s arts residency. An allegation regarding the mural has been referred for investigation and it was taken down by the principal in consultation with the superintendent on Monday.

“We encourage artwork and expression that is inclusive and respectful of all communities, and the school has taken down this mural,” said DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye.

“Ensuring our schools are inclusive and respectful environments is a high priority of this administration,” added Austin Finan, spokesman at City Hall. “This student-painted mural has since been removed.”

QNS has reached out to JHS 226 and is currently awaiting a response.

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