A recent defacing of clothing retailer GAP's advertisement featuring a Sikh model has become the latest sign of the community’s continuing struggle to regain normalcy after the events of September 11, 2001.
The ad, featuring actor and jewellery designer Waris Ahluwalia with illustrator and filmmaker Quentin Jones, was defaced with racist comments in New York, last Sunday.
A photographer, Robert Gerhardt, took a photograph of the defaced ad and posted it on his Facebook page and on Instagram.
Shortly after Gerhardt uploaded the image, Arsalan Iftikhar, a senior editor for Islamic Monthly and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, saw it and shared it on Twitter and on Facebook.
The picture shows the caption “Make Love” changed to “Make Bombs”, and “Please stop driving TAXIS” scrawled on the poster.
Iftikhar said that when he came across the picture, he wanted the world to see how millions of brown people are viewed in America today, Huffington Post reported.
Within a day of posting the picture, GAP replied to Iftikhar, asking him to help them find the location of the ad.
Iftikhar told The Daily Mail, "This whole story just proves that we do not live in a post-racial America yet when South Asians and those perceived to be Muslims cannot even grace fashion advertisements without racial epithets being directed their way", the report added.
GAP also extended its support by changing the background picture of the company's Twitter account to that of Ahluwalia's.
The report also said that the company’s prompt action and the show of solidarity was applauded by Sikhs and Muslims alike, and some members of the community started a “Thank you, GAP” campaign to appreciate its action.
The advertisement is part of GAP’s holiday “MakeLove” campaign featuring a wide variety of models.
Ahluwalia, who describes himself as Sikh-American has not spoken about the defacement yet but has simply posted the ad on his Facebook page.
On Wednesday, he posted a comment asking people to thank “those awesome Taxi drivers that take you places”. An ill-concealed riposte to the taxi graffiti.
Ahluwalia couldn’t be reached. And there was no response to a request for comment mailed to media contact address listed on the website of his company, The House of Waris.
GAP responded with a public statement saying the ad was part of a campaign aimed at “inspiring people to fill the world with love this holiday season”.
And the company said it chose Ahluwalia because “they (he and Jones) make art in ways that inspire all those around them”.
Sikhs in the US, said to be anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000, have been the target of racist crimes since 9/11, mistaken for Muslims because of their turban.
In Arizona, Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed on September 15, 2001 by a man who wanted to avenge 9/11 by killing “ragheads” a pejorative term used for those wearing turbans.
And a white supremacist killed six Sikhs at a gurdwara in Wisconsin last August.
There have been 700 incidents of attacks on Sikhs since 9/11, according to one count.
(With inputs from Yashwant Raj in Washington and ANI)
Arsalan Iftikhar's Twitter post:
PHOTO: On this GAP subway ad featuring a Sikh man...Vandals have written "Make Bombs" & "Please stop driving taxis" pic.twitter.com/yvw2vhfexW— Arsalan Iftikhar™ (@TheMuslimGuy) November 25, 2013
Gap's prompt response:
@TheMuslimGuy Hi there. Thanks for informing us. Can you please follow & DM us? We'd like to know the location of this.— Gap (@Gap) November 25, 2013
This advertisement is part of Gap’s holiday “MakeLove” campaign featuring a wide variety of diverse models.
Ahluwalia has landed on multiple best-dressed lists and is a regular in art and fashion circles.
Iftikhar said that the entire incidence proves that we do not live in a post-racial America yet when South Asians and those perceived to be Muslims cannot even grace fashion advertisements without racial epithets being directed their way, the report added.