A Veiled Woman During the Super Bowl? No!!

Thank God for DVR.  Otherwise, I might have thought I had hallucinated when I saw not one, but two images of Arab-looking veiled Muslim women flash across my TV last night.  I mean, I’m used to seeing those images, but it’s usually on CNN, and she’s usually called “The Black Widow.”

But this time it was during the Super Bowl, the most-watched television event of the year.  My living room was home to this year’s gathering, and I was watching the game with a room full of Palestinians.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I did invite one white guy, you know, for diversity’s sake.

When the Muslim women so quickly appeared and disappeared on my screen last night (as they often do in my real life), chaos ensued.  One of my fellow Arabs immediately screamed, “Wait, were those hijabis?” (“Hijabi” is our affectionate term for women who wear the “hijab,” one of the Arabic terms for the veil.)  Another one said, “Yeah, it was right after they showed the Jewish guys looking out the window.”  We re-watched the commercial 4 or 5 times, had some discussion, and gave each other high fives before we got back to the game.  The white guy was puzzled by the whole process.

I also immediately thought, “Wow, this is going to definitely piss off some people.”  Images started running through my head of Nina Davuluri, last year’s Miss America pageant winner, whose victory sparked tweets like, “How is miss America Indian? This is America… Not India,” and “More like Miss Terrorist,” and “Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?”  I also thought of Sebastien de la Cruz, the 11-year old Latino American child who sang the national anthem at a San Antonio Spurs game last June.  Sebastien was introduced by the city’s mayor, Julian Castro, who is also of Mexican descent.  His performance inspired tweets like, “What’s up with this little Mexican kind singing the anthem at the heat game,” and “9 out of 10 chance that kid singing national anthem is illegal.”  He sang the anthem pretty well, and without an accent!  But these tweets were especially outrageous.  You really have to have a lot of nerve to tell a Mexican he shouldn’t be singing in a place called San Antonio.

And so, little to my surprise, the tweets about the Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad began to flow:

Hey @CocaCola This is America. English, please.

This is an outrage. America the Beautiful in foreign languages #SuperBowlAds #BoycottCoke

Coke having a commercial with an American song in other languages… not cool. Coke. GTFO with that.

I had to google “GTFO.” Not cool.

And some had that distinct, all too common, anti-Muslim flair:

Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language. Way to go coke. You can leave America.

Now I could say some sterile things to diffuse the debate.  I could say that America is a nation of immigrants, or that the hard work of immigrants is the backbone of this country, or that we all came from immigrants at one time or another.  I could say that America, in fact, has no official language.  I could say that 157,000 Latinos serve in the American armed forces, along with about 15,000 Muslims.  I could even say that immigrant doctors save thousands of white American lives every day.

But the truth is that none of those statements would appease the critics.  Those who so furiously disapproved of the ad are angry because this is not the America that they signed up for.  This is not the America that they want to pass on to their children.  These people see patriotism as the exclusive domain of white, Christian, conservative citizens.

Those of us who were happy, and even proud, to see Coke’s Super Bowl commercial should not be afraid to call those who denounced it exactly what they are: racists.

The America depicted in the Coke ad is exactly the kind of America we live in.  Yet those who hated the ad hate this fact too, and they wrap up their hatred in jingoistic loyalty.  Those who most loudly profess to love America seem to misunderstand her the most.



About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. It is sad people are so damn racist in THE country of immigrants. Keep up the fight, Amer…they need to be called on this atrocious behavior and thinking.

  2. Interesting article Amer. It is unfortunate but there are many Americans out there who have long since forgotten what it means to be American. Within the last century or so, there has been a disconnect between the as many of the ‘Americans’ have been living there for multiple generations. The idea of being an immigrant is distant to them. It is unfortunate to say, but many immigrants have had to go through this racist process before receiving respect. It is additionally unfortunate for recent Arab immigrants, as the politics of our day are quite messy. Italians, Japanese, and even Irish went through a lot of racism in the United States. Look at Italians today, they have been one of the more successful immigrant groups as many of them came from nothing and worked hard to be successful. The people often left out of conversation are those natives who roamed the land before the Europeans. Today, it seems that society disregards them as being a part of the land. There are racists in America, but they also exist throughout the world. It is a really sad thing. They all typically share one thing: they are unhappy people.

  3. Great article! And great commercial. No one should be offended by the diversity displayed or the multi-lingual rendition of the song. Official language or not, I do feel however that immigrants should learn English. There should be a common language that we all speak and English is by far the majority. But, no one should forget or stop speaking their native tongue.

  4. What could possibly be more American than diversity. Who among us (unless we are Native American) didn’t come from somewhere else? Only a very narrow mind could so narrowly define what it is to be American. Get over yourselves, people! I’d like to see more commercials like this. Not everyone is our enemy.

  5. Greetings from the other side of the ocean!

    We Europeans like to think of ourselves as the great grand mother of America, probably because half of our population (ok, I know im exaggerating now) couldn’t stand the thought of living with the other half who stayed behind (namely us). It looks like some bad elements from our society sneaked on the boats as well.
    Here is some description of the stowaways: they are probably some white jobless guys, believing that immigrants have “sneaked” inside (not just moving, like other people) our country to take away from us our potatoes and jelly fish (no kidding) – the national dishes that we are so proud of, but also was partly the reason that half of our population couldn’t take it anymore and deserted us for America in the first place (if you eat tasteless fish looking like jelly with boiled potato every day (without spice of course, what is that some kind of imported stuff?), you will understand what they suffered) – and force us to eat hummus and tahini (and some-other-stuff-we-didn’t-learn-how-to spell-yet) every day!!! (and now, I guess they would begin to babble about hijab-eye-TV-screan-torture sponsored of the Taliban-family in Saudi Arabia as well) They also believe that woman joined some scary conspiracy (also called feminism) to ripe every man from all kind of masculinity, and they should move back to the kitchens asap before they come to power and take away all men their manly tools (yes, its vulgar, I know). They are generally not very fond of native-rights either (oh yes! we have our Indians as well) and even though they don’t say it out loud, they generally think that gays should be stoned in the street. Some of them claim we should go back to the “good old christian values” (whatever that is), but free float of prostitution, casinos, drugs and alcohols is quite alright. If you are so unfortunate to hear one of them open they’re mouth, you will hear the word “crusade” unlikely often (and no, the word was not invented by Bush, and the only reason we was so furious with America during his presidency was because he didn’t give us the credit for this excellent word!), and some of them probably have some secret crusader costume in they’re closet all “made in china” (like this handsome guy: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-HccnQrxKqp8/TktNBWOCMqI/AAAAAAAAADA/iPQ32yUneQ4/s1600/breivik_i_festantrekk.jpg ). A lot of them join together in organizations and party’s with some suspicious name like “National Front”, “Peoples Patriot Party”, “Progress party”, “Freedom party” (and I found one even called “Attach”, witch is quite a ugly self-fulfilling prophecy when you think about it). The strangest things about this white-crusader-patriot-club-party-something, is the reaction they’re words get from the audience of white-ordinary-people. It’s like they are spreading some kind of panic virus, giving old women heart attach every time an immigrant pass them on the street, family’s hiding under the the bed and shivering if they hear a prayer call or a Ding-Dong that doesn’t come from the church, or seeing an immigrant woman on the telly, or see them succeed in some way or another (but of course we all love kebab 03.00 in the weekends, and the cheap Italian restaurant on the corner (you might think they are European, but they are actually Kurdish, “sneaky” no?). And btw we don’t consider Italians as Europeans as well, they talk (in our ears screaming) to much, dance to much, enjoying too much, show to much feelings, they are the “immigrant from inside” (however when it comes to Al Capone, he’s all ours!). We all just know that outside our safe borders there is a world of dangerous people all waiting to “sneak” inside our country in an unite “invasion” to force us eat their food, weir their clothes, sing their songs (and what more?) (that this “other people” “out there” might not be so much fond of us as we are of ourselves, haven’t even crossed our minds)

    But… to take myself back to the point: If you find some of this stowaways in your country (or on twitter) fitting this description above, PLEASE DO KEEP THEM, because we do not want them back. This people brand themselves with words of “progress”, “freedom”, “patriotism”, (or glorious somethingsomething), but they are nothing of that kind. They often demand from other groups that they should adapt their kind of ideal society (described above), when in reality it is they who cannot adapt our new, modern and pluralistic society.

    So do consider them as a humble present from us to you, some of your great grand parents. After all we are a little angry after you took half of our population, steeling our fabulous words (like crusader), making all your famous movies in OUR language, and now you got even the nerve to clothe yourselves with our nationalism!

    It is intolerable, and as a European it is breaking my heart.

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