Justin Trudeau

People Are Pissed Off About Justin Trudeau's ‘Diwali’ Greeting

“Diwali Mubarak” is not a thing my dude.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
October 17, 2017, 4:31pm
PMJT lights an oil lamp for Diwali. Photo via Twitter 

This story has been updated to include comment from the PMO.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued his Diwali greeting Monday night, and though he looked the part—dressed in a black sherwani—something about it was a little off.

"Diwali Mubarak! We're celebrating in Ottawa tonight. #HappyDiwali!" he tweeted.

Record scratch.

The thing is, Mubarak is an Urdu word meaning "blessed" that is not typically associated with Diwali, a Hindu holiday otherwise known as the festival of lights. Eid Mubarak is a thing—Eid is a Muslim holiday. (Some Hindus also speak Urdu but "Diwali Mubarak" still struck a lot of people as unconventional.)

As many have pointed out, "Diwali Ki Badhai" may have been a more appropriate greeting—badhai means "congratulations" in Hindi. You'd think Trudeau would know this, considering how much time he seems to spend around brown people.

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, told VICE there are many different ways to say "Happy Diwali," including "Diwali Mubarak." He noted that Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has used the greeting "Saal Mubarak" to wish Gujarati people a Happy New Year, which takes place right after Diwali. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also used the phrase "Diwali Mubarak."

"Obviously before marking celebrations in different languages we consult with people who know what they're talking about," Ahmad said. "So my understanding is that there are various ways of saying 'Happy Diwali'… but there are different opinions on it"


He did not comment on the backlash to the PM's tweet, which included an article in the Hindustan Times. However, he did point out that Trudeau also used the greeting in the speech he gave yesterday.

"I know that Punjabis say it, I know that Urdu-speaking Indians say it, and I understand that Hindi-speaking Indians say it too. It's obviously a huge country with many different dialects, and different ethnic groups and linguistic groups so I'm sure there are many different opinions on what the best use of terminology is."

Trudeau's Facebook post, however, was edited to remove "Diwali Mubarak."

Of course, this isn't the most egregious error of its kind we've seen recently. It's not as bad as say, a CBC reporter confusing Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister for innovation, science and economic development with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Nor was it as cringeworthy as that time Laureen Harper bhangra danced in Brampton, Ontario.

But it was a bit of a flub nonetheless. Perhaps next Diwali, the PM should defer to Vin Diesel.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.