Gap praised for quick response to racist graffiti against Sikh model, as more evidence of vandalism pops up
Racist graffiti replaced the words ‘Make Love’ with ‘Make bombs’ on a Gap subway poster featuring Brooklyn designer Waris Ahluwalia. Gap reacted by placing Ahluwalia front and center on its Twitter and Facebook profiles. But more examples of graffiti are showing up.
By Carol Kuruvilla / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Images of Sikh Model Waris Ahluwalia in Gap’s new “Make Love” campaign are still being defaced in New York City.
A vandal apparently tried to rip Ahluwalia out of a Gap ad inside the Christopher St. station.
Evidence of racist graffiti against the Sikh actor and designer started appearing online on Tuesday. Journalist Arsalan Iftikhar alerted his social media followers to a subway ad that compared the 39-year-old Ahluwalia to a terrorist.
The vandal replaced “Make Love” with “Make bombs,” then wrote, “Please stop driving taxis.”
Gap has been lauded for its quick response to the graffiti. The company asked Iftikhar for the whereabouts of the defaced ad. Then, it placed Ahluwalia front and center as its cover image on Twitter and Facebook.
“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,” the company said in a statement released to The News.
Gap spokeswoman Kari Shellhorn told The News that the company plans to erase all signs of the offensive remarks.
“We are working quickly to replace the vandalized images,” Shellhorn said.
The company’s supporters were quick to show their approval online.
Ahluwalia is an actor and designer who grew up in Brooklyn. He’s popped up on numerous “best dressed” lists and is known for his signature look—a sharp, tailored suit and his custom pink desert boots.
Ahluwalia has come to be seen as something of a role model for Sikhs, according to Kanwar Singh, a practitioner of the faith who lives in Richmond, Va.
After hearing about the racist graffiti, Singh started a Facebook page thanking Gap for choosing Ahluwalia to be a part of the “Make Love” campaign. Singh says he’s heard from hundreds of people — both Sikh and non-Sikh — from around the country and the world who have come out in support of Gap.
One of the most heartening messages he got was from a parent named Ashmeet.
“I took my 5-year-old son to see their billboard just to show him we are not that ‘different’ after all,” the message read.
There have been numerous instances of hatreds against Sikhs in the years after the 9/11 attacks. In September of this year, Sikh Columbia professor Prabhjot Singh was attacked by a group of thugs yelling “Osama” and “terrorist.” And last August, a temple shooting in Wisconsin claimed the lives of six Sikh people.
“I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every single Sikh man, woman and child in this country has faced racism in some way,” Singh told The News.
“It’s been a struggle since 9/11 to educate others about our faith, who we are and what we believe in,” Singh said.
While some members of the community have criticized Gap for using the image of a Sikh man to sell their clothes, others are glad to see support from such a large American company.
“What Gap has done is they’ve placed a Sikh model on advertisement all across America,” Singh said. “Our community would never have been able to afford that kind of campaign.”
“We are grateful every single day to people in our community who recognize and support us,” Singh said.