Gap Responds to Racist Remarks Toward Sikh Model by Promoting Him

It started last week with a photo of a defaced Gap billboard on the platform of a 6 train stop in the Bronx.

Next to the familiar face of Sikh actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia someone scribbled "please stop driving taxis."

Above that, that same someone changed Gap's tagline "make love" to "make bombs."

The photo, taken by photographer Robert Gerhardt, was soon shared to a wider audience by Islamic Monthly senior editor Arsalan Iftikhar.

"When I first saw my Facebook friend's photo of this GAP subway advertisement defaced by vandals with racist messages, I wanted the world to see how millions of brown people are viewed in America today," Iftikhar told the Huffington Post.

It's unclear how many people ultimately saw Iftikhar's post, but it took only one response to make a valuable difference.

A few hours after Iftikhar's tweet went up, Gap contacted him directly to learn more about the incident.

As impressed as Iftikhar was, he was far more moved by what came next.

"In addition to Gap’s rocket-fast attempt to find out more details about the situation," he wrote in a Daily Beast column, "I have to say that the best part about the company’s response to this social media campaign is that it currently has the Sikh model as their current Twitter background photo below."

Gap Responds to Racist Remarks Toward Sikh Model by Promoting Him

(Their Facebook cover photo, too.)

Indeed, what began as a random vandal's attempt to mock a stranger ended up making that stranger one of the most visible models in America during the busiest shopping season of the year.

The Sikh community has responded to Gap's gesture with a thank you letter expressing gratitude for "rais[ing] the profile of Sikhs in ways the community couldn’t have accomplished with its limited resources."

And Iftikhar hopes this is just the beginning.

"As the year 2014 inches closer to us," he writes, "I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban who is considered as beautiful as a busty blonde-haired white girl in see-through lingerie."

Gap Responds to Racist Remarks Toward Sikh Model by Promoting Him

[screengrabs via @TheMuslimGuy, @Gap, Gap on Facebook]