—GAP has been forced to defend its holiday campaign after anti-Muslim graffiti appeared scribbled on one of its advertisements posted in New York City’s subway system.
The subject of the racist graffiti is Waris Ahluwalia—a jewelry designer and actor who is Sikh, not Muslim.
For GAP’s holiday campaign—the theme of which is ‘make love’—Ahluwalia, 39, poses with model and filmmaker Quentin Jones. But where the advertisement reads ‘make love’, one unknown New York vandal has crossed out ‘love’ and written in ‘bombs!’ below.
The graffiti also includes a line that reads, ‘Stop driving taxis!’
The vandalized ad was originally found and captured by New York photographer Robert Gerhardt on the downtown platform of the Buhre Avenue 6 train stop in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx.
Gerhardt forwarded the images to Muslim journalist and commentator Arsalan Iftikhar who quickly shared it with his near-40,000 cumulative followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Iftikhar told MailOnline that the photo made him want ‘the world to see how brown people are viewed in America today.’
Gerhardt’s image received a wave of responses, many of which expressed outrage over the graffiti.
‘[This] makes me very very sad. The world is becoming more hateful,’ responded one Twitter follower. ‘Sadly typical,’ replied another.
Iftikhar’s multiple Twitter dispatches were also re-tweeted by influential Muslim author and commentator Reza Aslan to more than 54,000 of Aslan’s own followers – helping draw more attention to the misinformed graffiti.
Gap even responded to Iftikhar’s tweets to inquire where the graffiti was located.
Representatives for the brand tell MailOnline that they are now ‘working to replace the image [in the Bronx].’
They also issued a statement that says: ‘Gap is a brand that celebrates inclusion and diversity. Our customers and employees are of many different ethnicities, faiths, and lifestyles and we support them all.’
When Gap’s ‘Make Love’ holiday campaign debuted earlier this month, the brand received an outpouring of positive responses on its Facebook page from members of the Sikh community.
Iftikhar feels that ‘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.’
Ahluwalia is a well-known face in fashion circles. He designs the celestial jewelry label House of Waris, which earned him a prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination in 2009, as well as an official membership with the CFDA.
Most ironically, in this case, designer has been named on multiple best-dressed lists by the likes of Vanity Fair and British GQ for his original style which typically takes on the uniform of a black turban, a long beard, and an impeccably-fitted suit.
Ahluwalia is also a muse for the film director Wes Anderson, who has cast him in movies including The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited.
He is just one of the subjects in GAP’s ‘Make Love’ holiday campaign, which also stars Cyndi Lauper, and Tony Bennet.