Row over photoshopped image depicting Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla as an Arab dictator

Ravi Bhalla

A local website ran a photo of Bhalla superimposed on an image of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character in The Dictator.

A Hoboken, NJ, website that covers local government and politics is under fire over a photoshopped image that depicts the city’s Sikh Mayor Ravi Bhalla as an Arab despot.

The “Hudson Mile Square View” ran an image of the mayor that resembles the lead character played by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the comedy The Dictator. The photo was part of a story titled “Ravi Bhalla goes to the mattresses… for his tax increase!”

It accused Bhalla of “summoning all the powers” of his office to “reinstitute a tax increase” that was not approved by the city council.

According to the website, the mayor had proposed a 3 percent tax increase, but the council slashed it to one percent. The story said now “the pushback from the mayor’s office to take back the tax reduction is underway.”

But Sikh activists denounced the image as racist. Sikh speaker and activist Simran Jeet Singh tweeted on Tuesday: “Ravi Bhalla is the first-ever turbaned Sikh elected as mayor in US history. He’s endured immense racist abuse, from flyers calling him a terrorist to death threats against him and his family. Now, someone is photoshopping Ravi to depict him as a despot. This is racist and wrong.”

Audrey Truschke, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book Aurangzeb, too, expressed her solidarity with Bhalla. She tweeted: “Disagreeing with politics is OK, discrimination and racism is not. Read this thread, and the thread it references at the end, to educate yourself about ongoing prejudice in America. Such hate will cease when we all reject bigotry. Solidarity with @RaviBhalla”

The website said, in an update, that the image was submitted by a reader. However, the Mile Square View had used a similar photo of Bhalla last August. In fact, the site has a history of using photoshopped images of the mayor. In February 2017, it posted a photo of Bhalla with a pinocchio nose.

Hudson Mile Square View,  which calls itself “Hoboken’s biggest website covering government, politics and corruption,” has been critical of Bhalla right from the beginning of his mayoral term.

This is not the first time that Bhalla, the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, has experienced racist attacks over his religion and turban. Soon after his election in 2017, racist flyers calling him a terrorist were circulated in the city.


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One Comment

  1. Ranbir S. Bhalla

    Hoboken is definitely not a racist town! Election of Mayor Bhalla and his current popularity in Hoboken itself proves that! However, the blogger who wrote the blog post is a well known Trump, Breitbart, and other racist persons/organizations, supporter. Good news is that hardly anyone reads his blog posts!

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