Billboards depicting soldier next to Muslim woman raise eyebrows, conversation

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 7:30 PM

DALLAS -- It's eye catching, but the reasons people stop and stare are as diverse as the couple pictured on the SnoreStop billboard, which depicts a U.S. soldier and a Muslim wife.

“Initially, I thought it was a creative advertising ploy to get attention,” said Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Because it’s talked about on every major news outlet; blogs and so on and so forth, Facebook, social media."

They won't go up in Dallas until next month, but Salem said if the idea was to get attention, it's working.

Melody Devemark, spokesperson for California-based SnoreStop, said the real idea being pushed is tolerance, along with the notion that their product can help even the most unlikely couples stay together.

“It's about acceptance and inclusion of all couples,” Devemark said. "Whether it’s  race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.”

She said the man in the ad is a real U.S. soldier and the woman is an Iranian-American. Devemark said reaction has been strong, both positive and negative.

This YouTube video explains the concept behind the billboard. The models even share personal experiences with interracial and intercultural relationships.

Some billboard companies have refused to display it, and its location in Dallas has not yet been revealed. Devemark said it would go up sometime in mid-December.

In a statement e-mailed to News 8, Dr. Hind Jarrah of The Texas Muslim Women's Foundation said the ad perpetuates stereotypes instead of defying them.

"The ad definitely is shocking and makes me think, but all the thoughts that it generates are negative, no matter how I try to look for positive nuances in them," she wrote.

Jarrah went on to express concerns that the couple’s married relationship is merely implied, and that others might see it as an expression of a man, who happens to be a soldier, exercising control over a Muslim woman.

Salem disagreed.

"We're always in promotion of anything that promotes dialogue of race, religion, things like that. Things that get people talking,” she said. “And the juxtaposition of these particular people was something that got a lot of conversations started, and I do hope for that in the future.”

In the end, a product meant to help people sleep soundly, might actually be waking them up to new ideas.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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