Minister ridiculed during trip to India over photo

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) caused an uproar on the Internet with a photo on the sidelines of his trip to India. After he posted a photo of himself with a red dot on his forehead on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday, the waves hit. Some users think Lauterbach is making a fool of himself, others even accuse him of cultural appropriation.

The controversial image is a selfie taken by Lauterbach during a visit to Gugarat hospital. During the appointment, he was shown the clinic, which uses artificial intelligence to better care for patients. “Here we inform ourselves about this technology, which is also interesting for Germany,” writes Lauterbach.

In the photo, the Minister of Health is seen on a hospital bed next to a doctor and two other clinic employees. Everyone wears masks, but only Lauterbach has a painted red dot, called a tilaka, between his eyes.

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The tilaka is a Hindu blessing sign that is usually painted on the forehead in red or yellow. The forehead area is considered the “third eye” where a lot of energy circulates. Even better known than Tilaka is the term “Bindi”, which means “point”. The bindi is considered a traditional symbol of a married woman.

This prompted some users to mock Karl Lauterbach. “Always vaccinate the arm, not the forehead,” we joke. Another comment called it “embarrassing” that Lauterbach was the only one in the photo wearing the red dot. Another user highlights the prevalence of bindis: “Today in India, bindis are worn by single women as well as married women, even by young children. »

Cultural appropriation charge against Lauterbach: what’s behind it?

But many comments also accuse Lauterbach of painting a third eye as cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation means people use a culture that is not their own, for example through music, symbols or clothing. The main criticism concerns the fact that members of the majority society appropriate individual elements of a minority’s culture, commercialize them and take them out of context – in order to ultimately profit from them. This profit can be financial or also mean social recognition.

It is questionable whether Karl Lauterbach wanted to enrich himself inappropriately by showing the red dot on his forehead. As one user writes below the image, painting the tilaka is simply a Hindu greeting ritual. It is not clear where the marking comes from in Lauterbach’s case.

Rosemary Rowse

"Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Web maven. Infuriatingly humble creator. Typical tv specialist. Music aficionado. Proud explorer."

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