Coca-Cola ad sparks heated debate in Qatar

February 04, 2013 - 2:23:11 am


DOHA: The controversial Coca-Cola Super Bowl advertisement that many here see as painting Arabs in a bad light has triggered a heated debate in the Qatari community, with some calling for a boycott of the popular American drink.

Several commentators taking part in the debate that was raging on local social networking sites have expressed anger over the ad that shows an Arab walking through a desert pulling a camel, as cowboys, Las Vegas girls and others race by him to reach a gigantic bottle of coke. The Arab man is out of the competition from the beginning since his camel refuses to budge.

The ad was first put on  Cola-Cola’s website and was to be aired from yesterday coinciding with the start of the Super Bowl, the US National Football League championship.

The ad first created a controversy in the US with American-Arabs objecting to it. What seems to have additionally irked them, as well as some citizens here, is that it asks viewers which characters should win the race in an online vote. The contest does not allow a vote for the Arab character.

The best way out is for all the Arab countries to ban Coca-Cola, said a commentator. “If Arab countries ban or even threaten to ban the drink, the company would immediately issue an apology,” said another.

The Americans in their media always paint Arabs in bad light and portray them as uncivilised and as terrorists. “And you feel that you are being looked down upon and discriminated against when you are in the US as a student or as a medical tourist,” said a commentator.

The Americans think Arabs still live in deserts and ride camels, was how yet another commentator reacted, taking part in the debate over the Coca-Cola ad. “Thank God, they didn’t insult Muslims and Islam,” said yet another commentator.

This is racism. The ad makes a mockery of Arabs, said some others. “Yes, this is an act of racism and discrimination, for everyone was taking part in the race to reach the gigantic Coke bottle except the Arab,” was the opinion of still others.

However, there were some who said there was no need to take the ad seriously. “The idea is good and after all it is an ad, so we must take it sportingly,” said one participant. What might presumably turn the debate more heated is the fact that at least one commentator hinted he agreed with the ad and said: “This is a fact. Muslims and Arabs are consumers and they never take part in competitions”.

What was wrong with the ad, wondered another man, saying it was natural for them to show an Arab in a desert with a camel. “This is our natural environment,” he said, adding fuel to  the fire.

The Peninsula