COLUMBUS, Ohio – A car dealership's tongue-in-cheek radio advertisement declaring "a jihad on the automotive market," will not be changed, the company said, despite drawing sharp criticism that the ad's content is offensive to Muslims.
Several stations rejected the spot from Dennis Mitsubishi, which boasts that sales representatives wearing "burqas" — the head-to-toe traditional dress for some Islamic women — will sell vehicles that can "comfortably seat 12 jihadists in the back."
"We firmly believe the ad does not in any way disrespect any religion or culture, but we feel, I guess, that maybe poking a little fun at radical extremists is fair game," dealership president Keith Dennis said on Saturday. "It was our intention to craft something around some of the buzzwords of the day and give everyone a good chuckle and be a little bit of a tension reliever."
While Dennis defended the ad as a harmless attempt to bring levity to a serious situation, the Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called it disrespectful.
"Using that as a promotional pitch when so many are dying from the criminal activity of suicide bombers, that's not funny," chapter president Asma Mobin-Uddin said. "I don't think it's appropriate when it causes real pain. It exploits or promotes misunderstanding in terms already misunderstood or misused."
In the ad, Dennis talks about "launching a jihad on the automotive market."
"Our prices are lower than the evildoers' every day. Just ask the Pope!" the ad says. "Friday is fatwa Friday, with free rubber swords for the kiddies."
A fatwa is a religious edict.
Some radio stations are balking at the dealership's attempt to poke fun at extremists.
"With no disrespect to their creativity or their desire to build business, everything we're about is promoting the values of diversity. To air things of that sort would go against our mission statement," said Jeff Wilson, general manager of three Radio One stations in Columbus.
The dealership claims nothing in the ad is intended to promote a negative stereotype of Islam. A group that previewed the ad didn't raise any objections, although no one from the group was Muslim, Dennis said.