Walk anywhere in New York City and you’re bound to come across defaced ads, with graffiti that can be racist, homophobic, or just messy. The ubiquity of such a thing makes Gap’s response to one of its defaced ads all the more uncommon.
Earlier this week, writer Arsalan Iftikhar came across an Instagram photo from his friend Robert Gerhardt, a New York City-based photographer. The shot was taken in the Bronx, and it showed a Gap ad featuring a Sikh model with derogatory statements scribbled onto it:
Sikhism is its own religion that started in India but its members have been the victims of several high-profile mistargeted Muslim hate crimes due to the turbans the men wear.
Iftikhar is a writer dedicated to making the voice of peaceful Muslims louder than that of radicals. He tweets under the name “TheMuslimGuy,” also the title of his personal website. He posted the Instagram pic to his thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers as a disturbing example of racism.
And though he did not tag Gap, they quickly responded:
The Twitter rep also changed the page’s banner photo to the original ad:
The ad features fashion designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia (you may have seen him in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic”) along with artist Quentin Jones. It is part of the “Make Love” campaign, and has been greeting Gap customers for the past couple of weeks in every American store.
Ahluwalia decided to make a subtle comment on the ad scandal that didn’t place any of the attention on himself. It addresses the “Please Stop Driving Taxis!” graffiti scrawl and links to a BBC article about being a Sikh cabbie in the U.S.:
“I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban who is considered as beautiful as a busty blonde-haired white girl in see-through lingerie,” he wrote.
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