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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Defaced Gap Ad Goes From the Subway to the Web to Its Demise

As the New York City-based photographer Robert Gerhardt waited last Sunday for the No. 6 subway train to take him from the Bronx to Manhattan, he spotted a poster from Gap’s “Make Love” ad campaign. It featured a female model and a man wearing the distinctive turban of the Sikh religion.

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!”

So Mr. Gerhardt, 36, who has been documenting the lives of Muslims in the United States for years, took out his camera and posted a photograph of the defaced ad on his Facebook page and on Instagram. “It was anti-Muslim graffiti on a man who is clearly Sikh but was being confused as a Muslim,” Mr. Gerhardt told The Lede. “Hatred doesn’t ever seem to go away.”

Shortly after Mr. Gerhardt uploaded the image, Arsalan Iftikhar, a senior editor for Islamic Monthly, saw it and shared it with about 40,000 followers on Twitter and on Facebook. Reza Aslan, a historian and professor, also shared it online.

It finally came to the attention of Gap, which wrote to Mr. Iftikhar on Twitter asking for the location of the graffiti-scrawled ad.

The man in the advertisement is Waris Ahluwalia, a jewelry designer and actor. The woman is Quentin Jones, an illustrator and filmmaker.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ahluwalia told his Facebook followers, “Make sure to say thank you to those awesome Taxi drivers that take you places,” linking to a BBC report on the difficulties drivers face in New York City.

And Ms. Jones wrote on Twitter, referring to the ad:

Mr. Iftikhar said on Wednesday that Gap was displaying the picture as the background art on its Twitter account @Gap.

In response to a reporter’s query, Gap said that it was not answering questions about the graffiti, but added, in part:

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.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Gerhardt, the photographer, returned to the same Pelham Bay subway platform at Buhre Avenue in the Bronx, which he regularly uses, and noticed that the advertisement was no longer there.

In its place was a poster for a Tyler Perry movie, “A Madea Christmas.”