An advertisement picturing a U.S. solider and a fully-veiled Muslim woman in an embrace has provoked mixed reactions on the internet.
The billboard promotes sleeping aid brand SnoreStop and aims to show how its medication can benefit couples by enabling them to have a tranquil, snore-free night’s sleep.
Muslims concerned that the ad promotes the message of a couple sleeping together outside of wedlock need not be worried - the ad shows the woman wearing a wedding ring.
Erected in Los Angeles on the city’s famous Sunset Boulevard, the billboard aims to “show couples that you don’t normally see in advertising,” SnoreStop spokeswoman Melody Devemark said in a TV interview according to U.S.-based news website Huffington Post.
“I think they don’t understand that there are couples like this that do exist,” she added.
Social media users responding to the ad’s twitter hashtag #betogether had mixed feelings about the billboard, with many praising its message of equality and diversity while retaining its shock value.
“What an amazing ad. I wish more companies represented couples like this,” wrote twitter user Hooverr1.
Another twitter user, @Shahkaal said that it was “great to see diversity in Ads” while @KarimiScreamy wrote that the ad was a “good sign of tolerance.”
However, some individuals felt that the ad was “bigot-baiting” and “ignorant.”
Facebook user Debbie Herrera wrote that she liked the ad’s “diversity but... I also think this is in poor taste... I would think this would be offensive to Muslim’s [sic].”
Twitter user @uncolonisedmind wrote that the ad’s usage of a niqabi (a women who wears a face-covering veil) was “ignorant and stereotypical.”
An article on Texas-based news outlet Houston Press website described the billboard as “bigot-baiting.”
‘A worthy image’
A spokesman for a U.S.-based Muslim civil liberty advocacy group told Al Arabiya News that the organization’s reaction towards the advertisement has been “towards the positive side.”
“I think that that is a worthy image which is designed to spark debate on the issues of races and religion and ethnicity,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies and professor at American University in Washington DC, said that because the billboard depicted the couple in “a very classic, matrimonial pose,” it was not intended to cause outrage.
“Billboards like this are going to get responses,” Ahmed told Al Arabiya News.
While the advert will soon be rolled out across other cities in America, was it first displayed in liberal LA as a way of gauging reactions?
“Los Angeles is famous for being the most advanced… state of the United States. In that environment, I would say that this is a fairly mild initiative,” said Ahmed.