Wellington: A Sikh candidate, who is running for a place in the city council of Hamilton in New Zealand, has had one of his election billboards defaced with the word ‘ISIS’ plastered over it in black paint.
Yugraj Singh Mahil, the first Sikh to run for a place on Hamilton’s city council, was pictured on the billboard with another candidate Anna Casey-Cox, Radio New Zealand reported.
Both are first time candidates in the city’s east ward, standing as part of the Community Voice group. Mahil said the campaign had been going well until he received the news that one of his billboards in the suburb of Hillcrest was graffitied with the word “ISIS”.
“It’s more than insulting. People mostly change the appearance of the person but tagging such a group is very harsh, very distressful,” he was quoted as saying.
Mahil said in his 17 years in Hamilton he had never faced this sort of behaviour. “I think this is due to the turban; that happens sometimes, people get confused, they think only Muslims wear turbans,” he said.
However, with Hamilton’s gurdwara the first to be established in New Zealand, he said, most people in the area were more aware. “Sometimes these sort of things, I think teenagers or kids they do it, they don’t have enough knowledge about the religions and they don’t know the difference,” he said.
Anna Casey-Cox said she found out yesterday when she saw a photo of the billboard on Facebook and within 20 minutes they were able to take the billboard down and clean off the words.
She said it was one thing to deface a billboard with something like a moustache, but painting the name of the violent extremist group was sick and ignorant.
“This was a different kind of defacing of a billboard and it was just at a whole different level. And I think it’s just somebody who’s not even thinking. It’s just someone who is relatively ignorant has done it,” she said.
“I really don’t know what the motivation would be other than to incite some concern in the community and get at the Muslim community perhaps,” she added.
Mahil said his wife is now too scared to leave the house while his two daughters are also horrified.
“My daughter and my wife got really upset … my wife is a little bit worried about going outside so we try to be safe and don’t go out at night, but still I have to go out and want to give this my best shot,” he was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald.
“It means the whole community gets shocked, all of the Sikh community. I have been receiving calls from various Sikh leaders that this is bad and we have to make a noise about it and raise awareness,” he said.