#AmericaIsBeautiful: I talk to Arab American News about Coke’s ad (aka, I have never talked about soda this much in my life)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this is the Superbowl commercial that sparked a national discussion on language, immigration, and Muslims in the media:

I spoke to Ali Harb of the Arab American News about the commercial. Here is the portion of our discussion that was published:

“Raquel Evita Saraswati, an American Muslim activist and writer who focuses on issues related to the status of women in Muslim societies, described the ad as an ‘obvious albeit clever marketing strategy.’

Saraswati said she had mix reactions to the ad. She was pleased to see a favorable display of Muslim women on television, but she did not expect much from the debate that would follow the ad.

‘As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, I noted that my own reaction to seeing a woman in a headscarf was twofold: it was personally meaningful to see a positive representation of a hijabi, but I also immediately knew that it would spark a national discussion,’ she told The Arab American News. ‘I also knew that the media’s version of the national discussion would leave out many voices, lack nuance, and avoid the most critical questions about why the image both troubled and inspired many.’

She added that the ad is an indicator that Muslim women are often addressed and identified by their dress code.

‘I was reminded that in every context Muslim women are still discussed in terms of what we wear,” Saraswati said. “This is true both in the media and within our own communities. Once again, the burden of ‘representation’ rests squarely on our bodies – to be discussed and debated, and to absorb the brunt of what is often a tense discourse.’

Saraswati said despite the differences of the groups portrayed by the commercial, which include a gay couple with a child at an amusement park, two Jewish men looking out of a window and a group of young people dancing on a street, they can all be a part of one American experience.

‘America’s beauty is not in the similarity of my struggle to yours,’ she said. ‘America’s beauty is in its commitment to individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and the diversity of individually lived experiences. America’s beauty is not diminished by the hateful reactions of some or even the flaws of some of our leaders. Rather, America’s beauty lies in the freedom to dissent and to challenge one another in a free marketplace of ideas.'”

Read the entire article here.
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