Adding your own personal flair to subway art is not uncommon: graffiti abounds in the tunnels of New York, Los Angeles, Washington and elsewhere. But it's rare that someone's addition to an ad or poster in the underground causes a commercial and cultural reaction like this one.
Gap ads that are part of the company's "Make Love" holiday campaign starring actor and jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia and filmmaker Quentin Jones were defaced with several racist comments against Muslims.
"It featured a female model and a man wearing the distinctive turban of the Sikh religion," an article in the New York Times said. "Someone had defaced the advertisement, crossing out the word 'Love' and replacing it with 'Bombs!' Another line of graffiti scrawled underneath, in a different hand, read: 'Please Stop Driving Taxis!’ ”
Photographer Robert Gerhardt told The New York Times, “It was anti-Muslim graffiti on a man who is clearly Sikh but was being confused as a Muslim. Hatred doesn’t ever seem to go away.” Gerhardt has made a study of Muslims in America, and posted a photo of the graffiti on his personal Facebook and Instagram pages.
Senior editor of The Islamic Monthly, Arsala Iftikhar, then reposted the photo, alerting Gap to the issue via Twitter, a story in the New York Daily News said. The clothing company responded immediately.
"Hi there," the tweet said. "Thanks for informing us. Can you please follow & DM us? We'd like to know the location of this."
They then put Ahluwalia and Jones in the top spot as their cover images on Twitter and Facebook.
Iftikhar responded at The Daily Beast, saying, "Companies like Gap are doing a great job forging a path for minority and under-represented fashion models (like Waris Ahluwahlia above) who do not conveniently fit into our traditional American notions of beauty and actually challenge how we have superficially defined those terms since our country’s existence."
“Gap is a brand that celebrates inclusion and diversity," Gap told the Daily News. "Our customers and employees are of many different ethnicities, faiths, and lifestyles and we support them all."
The company also told the Daily News they will be replacing the damaged images. Unfortunately, vandalism of the ads has occurred in other locations, and on other photos in the campaign.
Other public figures featured in Gap’s “Make Love” holiday ad campaign include Tony Bennett, Connie Britton, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Q-Tip and Lisa Ling.