Columns / Discourse / November 6, 2013

Billboard-sized xenophobia: Discrimination in America

The politics in the Middle East never simmers, but recent domestic issues have stirred a controversy in our own backyard. Sunset Boulevard, located in Los Angeles, is 22 miles in length passing through iconic, glamorous towns such as Hollywood and Beverly Hills before traveling along the Pacific Ocean. Getting a drivers attention on Sunset Blvd. is probably no easy task, but SnoreStop, a company that produces anti-snoring products, has managed to capture a captive audience.

The advertisement features a U.S. soldier — identified by his uniform — holding close to him a Muslim woman. The woman is identified by her hijab (head scarf) and her niqab (piece of fabric covering her mouth and nose) and is wearing a wedding ring.  The advertisement also includes #betogether and a slogan of “keeping you together.”

Reaching all areas of the United States, this bold public relations decision on behalf of SnoreStop has been met with erroneous and inappropriate criticism. Critics state that this ad is “a slap in the face to our military,” but my question is why? In this day and age are people still sensitive to diversity? Is the “slap in the face” the critic refers to simply a Muslim woman’s relationship with a U.S. soldier? If so, then I have not heard sufficient reason for why that is a problem at all.

I want to remind my readers that we are living in the 21st century with the most diverse and also the most pragmatic and understanding generation there has ever been. However, the criticisms that this billboard has been subjected to reveals racism, prejudice and a level of zero on the acceptance scale.

To begin with, Melody Devenmark, who is the Vice President of communications at SnoreStop stated, “We wanted one image that summarizes the whole campaign,” which shows that the company was able to understand that our country is now incredibly diverse. Thus, they wanted to represent all ethnicities and cultures together.
The company did their research and in fact, veteran Jamie Sutton, and his Muslim wife, Aleah were the inspiration for the billboard. The models for the advertisement are also a real couple. Built to specifically promote tolerance and acceptance, the SnoreStop Company does so in a shocking, well researched and effective fashion, pushing the country forward.

A spokeswoman for the company sums this up by stating, “If you have Muslims in an ad for a product that’s not about religion or not a PSA, it’s a sign that we’re accepted as a cultural norm.”

Criticism is not just stemming from Americans. Social media is buzzing with Muslim activists claiming the billboard is offensive and inappropriate as well. First, I think this is absurd. Most believe the billboard to be not genuine because a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man according to the Quran. However, who is to say that this soldier isn’t Muslim? You or I do not know who he is, where he comes from and just because he is white does not prove that he is not a Muslim. That being said, it is also 100 percent plausible that this man is not Muslim and my response to these people is that they should mind their own business and fix their own issues before worrying about others. I, among many others, have gotten accustomed to society making wrongful and unnecessary assumptions while discussing matters people believe to be wrong of others, acting as though they are the only true guardians and believers of Islam. (BTW, back-biting is a sin in Islam.)

Many began to question how this image of an American soldier and his Muslim wife is actually relevant to the products of SnoreStop. The company clearly states that it helps people stay together, but this is where it gets deep. “It’s ironic, because so many couples have gone through so many struggles just to be together,” Devemark said. “And something like snoring keeps them apart on a nightly basis.”

More billboards will be going up in cities such as Houston, Salt Lake City, New York, San Diego and other larger cities around the country. I commend SnoreStop for taking a stance against prejudice and false assumptions and moving toward tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the United States. For those who claim this is neocolonialist propaganda and to those that believe the advertisement is disrespectful, you are the people who are holding this country back as it attempts to push social bounds to define the new diversified America.

Tags:  Aleah Sutton American military Jamie Sutton Melody Devenmark military muslim SnoreStop xenophobia

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1 Comment

Nov 07, 2013

I’m a retired vet. I know for a fact that there plenty of US service people married to devout Muslims. Only people who are unaware about our military are ignorant of that fact. Besides, I believe that the billboard is a beautiful thing. Kudos to SnoreStop, they may have found a customer.

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