Bush Ad Offends Some Arabs
Gregg Krupa, Detroit News, Mar. 14
Dearborn — Prominent Arab-Americans and local Democrats called on the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to pull a television advertisement that shows the face of a young Middle Eastern man, saying the ad is offensive.
“They are trying to use stereotypes to defame a community,” said lawyer Nabih Ayad.
Arab critics of the television spot said the president’s campaign for re-election would not have spurred controversy if it had broadcast a picture of Osama bin Laden or other recognizable terrorists, rather than the anonymous Middle Eastern man.
“I would not mind if they were to use a true image of terrorism, like a known terrorist,” said Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “But to use just a typical ordinary face of a Middle Easterner or a person of Arab descent is very serious and plays into the idea that Americans should be afraid of Arabs and Arab-Americans in general.”
Responding to the criticism, the Bush-Cheney campaign issued a statement: “We think that the ad fairly depicts the challenges and threats our country is facing in these times.”
The new 30-second advertisement is called “100 Days.” It’s playing nationally in select markets, including Metro Detroit, and is also featured on the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site.
An announcer says that Democrat John Kerry would “weaken the Patriot Act used to arrest terrorists and defend Americans.” As the audio plays, an image of a dark-skinned, dark-eyed young man appears on the screen, along with images of a traveler looking at an airport schedule and a person wearing a gas mask.
“It is creating a negative stereotype of a young, unidentified, but clearly Middle Eastern male,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington.
“I have boys who look like that,” Zogby said about his sons. “I have cousins who are in the American military fighting in Iraq who look like that.”
The Michigan Democratic Party issued a statement saying the advertisement offended the Arab-American community.
“He’s trying to pit one group against another,” said party Chairman Melvin “Butch” Hollowell. “And disparaging loyal American citizens in this way, he should be ashamed of himself.”
Azzam Elder, Wayne County corporation counsel, said the image hurts people who “have felt the sting from stereotyping.”
“When you are the president of the United States,” Elder said, “every word you utter resonates around the world.”