As part of its latest advertising campaign, Gap features a male Sikh model alongside a female model with the caption “Make love.” Vandals in the New York City subway scribbled out the “love” and replaced the word with “bombs.” As photos of this defaced ad circulated the social networking world, Gap took authoritative action, AdWeek reports.
It was Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and senior editor at The Islamic Monthly, who snapped the photo of the offensive ad and tweeted it to his 40,000 plus followers. “I wanted the world to see how millions of brown people are viewed in American today,” Iftikhar said.
Along with “Make bombs,” the defacers also added “Please stop driving taxis” to the Gap poster. The Sikh model in the photo is identified as Waris Ahluwahlia, a fashion designer and actor.
Iftikhar asked his followers to share the photo to generate some social buzz; soon after the photo became viral throughout Facebook and Twitter:
“After hundreds of re-tweets and Facebook shares by people of all colors and backgrounds around the country, there was so much social media buzz in less than one day that Gap contacted me directly after hearing about its vandalized advertisement and wanted to know the exact location,” he added.
The same day Iftikhar posted the photo, Gap responded with lightning-fast quickness: “@TheMuslimGuy Hi there. Thanks for informing us. Can you please follow & DM us? We’d like to know the location of this,” Gap tweeted.
While Iftikhar was very impressed with Gap’s fast response to the defaced ad, he was most dazzled by Gap’s next move: “I have to say that the best part about the company’s response to this social media campaign is that it currently has the Sikh model as their current Twitter background photo.”
This just goes to show you how social media has revolutionized the voice of the public. With the emergence of Twitter, Americans can now bind together to protest any injustices to affect change — all with just 140 characters and one click of a button.
Moreover, it shows how Sikhs continue to be misunderstood in the US. NBC in the Bay area did a story, speaking to ordinary Sikhs who report a rise in discrimination post-9/11. Sikhism is a religion that started in India in the 15th century. However, a Stanford survey finds that it remains a mystery for many people. Many respondents to the survey mistook Sikhs for Muslims.
“That a large U.S. corporation began to understand that we are part of the American fabric, that we are just as American as anybody else and actually not that bad-looking either,” a California business owner, Mandeep Dhillon, told NBC News.