Controversial billboard: What's the problem with this photo?


ARM Snore Stop

It seems that many people are offended by this photo on a billboard of an American soldier hugging a Muslim woman in a niqab, a traditional Muslim covering. And each of the offended people have their own different reason. On Twitter, people have called it head-turning and controversial, while in Britain a writer for The Guardian calls it racist.

The photo features a real soldier and his girlfriend, according to a San Diego TV station, and the ad is inspired by a real married couple, according to the website of SnoreStop, the company using the ad.

Yes, SnoreStop.

The ad is selling a throat spray that is supposed to help people stop snoring and thus keep them “together.”

Here are some “comments from the public” posted on the company’s website:

“For some people it’s just too soon. The tragedy of 9/11 is still so fresh in people’s minds and now we’re being told we have to accept the enemy being a part of our lives and culture.”

And this:

“I’m not racist, but I feel like they’re trying to shove this ‘political correctness’ thing down our throats.”

Not all comments are negative, one we found on Twitter from user @loveinheadscarf said: “Thumbs up for challenging stereotypes: US billboard ad features soldier and Muslim woman in niqab #betogether.”

And the soldier featured in the ad has responded to the controversy, saying on his Facebook page “I did this because I am no stranger to other people’s discrimination,” according to the San Diego TV station.

We did a little digging on his Facebook page and he does appear to be a soldier. We saw pictures of him in uniform with E-4 rank, including one where he is tagged as being at “Camp Roberts Army National Guard.”

So, perhaps another question people should be asking is: Why is an American soldier using his uniform in an ad campaign for a commercial company?

According to AR 670-1 “Wearing Army uniforms is prohibited in the following situations:

(1) In connection with the furtherance of any political or commercial interests, or when engaged in off-duty civilian employment.”

Does the Billboard offend you? And if so, why? Leave your comments below.


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  1. It is absurd to make any statement inferring that either the soldier or woman in the photo is the enemy. That is a myopic and extremely stupid sentiment. Women who dress in traditional Muslim garb are not the enemy. People who think as such are shining beacons of the ignorance most American’s live with. Grow up people, use some common sense, and stop discriminating people who may dress, speak, or even act in traditional Middle Eastern ways. For shame America, for shame.

  2. This image doesn’t offend me. There are mixed relationships and marriages all over the Army. People need to get over it. Not all Muslims are bad. We’re not blaming all of Christianity for Westboro, are we? Get educated, people. I do wonder about the regulations on wearing a uniform in the ad, however.

  3. The uniform – if the military got so bent out of shape about photos of nursing military moms in uniform, why not this? Even if they aren’t paid, there is an implication involved for him to endorse ANY product in uniform.

    Also, I’d be interested in knowing why is she in the niqab if she’s the wife of an American? There are so many women in Muslim-controlled nations who would love to be free of them so it begins to feel as though he set out to create controversy more than endorse a product he’s successfully used.

  4. He is a National Guard POG. Those people look for every opportunity they can find to get props for being (in the Army.) They’ll wear their uniform out to the bar in Cleveland if they think it will help them get mileage on the reputation of actual Soldiers.

  5. No it doesn’t… After spending time with people from the Middle East, I have come to realize that the people who inhabit that peninsula are not the enemy. The men who take extremism to the next level, and kill our people, other than the soldier using his status integer army for commercial benefit… There is nothing wrong with this billboard. After all what is an American?

  6. Rosemarie Valdez on

    I am so confused by this that I don’t even know if I should be offended. What the hell does a soldier and a woman wearing a niqab have to do with snoring anyway?!

  7. Not a problem at all.
    How any soldiers have wives from the time in Europe or Korea. Soldiers tend to be much more accepting then the general public.

  8. I find nothing wrong with it. I’m pretty sure the Arab Americans who serve within our military bravely find nothing wrong with this bill board as well.

  9. It doesnt offend me that this so called “soldier” is married to said muslim. That’s what makes america great. We can marry damn near whoever the hell we want. The real problem here for me is the fact of the uniform. Only POG McPOG-POG here would do some asinine crap like this. Tim is right these butt wipe national guard/reserve pogs will wear acu’s like its a god damn outfit from american eagle. I mean seriously REAL SOLDIERS can’t wait to get the damn thing off cause we are in it so much. Leave it to this guy ro start another shit storm that will effect real soldiers in the real man’s army!

  10. This is horrid and completely out of line. That Soldier has no right to use his uniform to advertise a product. I could care less about who his squeeze happens to be, I’m pissed off that this Joe would do that. I hope he catches the full weight of the UCMJ.

  11. This isn’t offensive to me, but I can see how conservative Muslims would be offended. I found out PDA is frowned upon in Islam, so them hugging up on each other might irk someone.

    As for the uniform, the soldier should know better or at least ask his chain of command prior to doing the photo shoot.

  12. No it doesn’t bother me. The same issue followed our wars with Germany, Japan, Korea and Viet Nam. It is understandable as families had loved ones killed or injured by the “enemy” in these wars. There is usually suspicion, and often animosity, by people on both sides of the war(s). Doesn’t mean it is right, it is just a human response to loss.

  13. Tim Orielly: ANY soldier that is willing to sign on the dotted line IS a REAL soldier! Have you forgotten how many times these Reserve and Guard units have deployed over the past 12 years? Were the IEDs, bullets, and rockets any less harmful to these citizen warriors? You want to tell the 20th SF they aren’t “real” soldiers?
    You sir, need a reality check!

  14. Chrystine Collins-Blums on

    I am more offended by a soldier using the uniform to endorse a product than I am by a US service member being married to a Muslim. Caring about that is ridiculous. And to poster Tim O’Reilly – hey 1988 called and wants its stereotype about the National Guard back. “Those people”? Are you for real? We are all brothers and sisters in arms. When I was in Iraq we had ARNG, Army, Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air Guard all working together. Grow up.

  15. You know what my first thought was? That that woman better hope that her identitiy doesn’t come out because she will be in grave danger. That’s this woman’s first thought.

  16. My family through out it’s generations of service has seen the eyes of the enemy many, many times. This is also true for myself, I am an O.I.F. Veteran. Last time I checked we are at war with terrorist NOT the Muslim faith or Arabic race. Through my family’s service and many times of other people’s service from history it IS NOT uncommon for a soldier to “bring home the enemy”. I do not know what people have a problem with. Love is love. This soldier is stronger than I am because I could not bring myself to love someone of that region for what all I have done, been through, and seen. He is stronger and braver than most. Check your history folks. Stop with the “I’m the victim” mentality that’s one of the few things wrong with this country. Nice to know that WE fought for freedom for YOU, but can’t practice it ourselves…. Good Job America!!!

  17. Mitchell D Nelson on

    Pogs? Really? So, when we “Pogs” serve multiple tours over there and some of us come home in flag draped boxes, or torn to bits, we are just trying to “…get mileage on the reputation of actual Soldiers.” Cape yourself till I get tired, Mr. Tim O’Reilly. Not all of us “pogs” use our Guard status for silly agendas, such as what you purport. Having been both AD and Guard, I can definitely tell you I have seen SM’s, operating below the standard, in both components. Keep that in mind next time you want to make sweeping generalizations, sir. I’m pretty sure my three buddies that were killed last year, in a suicide bomb attack while on patrol, would certainly disagree with you.

    On a separate note, I don’t agree with the SM (service member), using his uniform in an advertisement, unless he was cleared by his chain of command. But, I see nothing wrong with his wife wearing her niqab, if that is what she is comfortable wearing.

  18. Why the uneducated remark abou the National Guard? Ill informed is the best I can say for you. My son-in-law was KIA in Iraq…as were many of the National Guardsman who were sent both there and to other conflicts. How dare you denigrate our armed services… what ever branch it may be? As for the the pic….love comes in all sizes, colors, shapes and, yes, dress. Now his wearing his uniform… kinda wonder what kinda trouble that might cause for him. He may well have been ill advised!

  19. George Mattson on

    I’m conflicted. On the one hand, it offends me that he’s violating Army regulations by wearing this in what I assume was not an officially sanctioned Army advertisement. Also, while I respect the fact that he’s doing something for his country, I would have to admit that most of us in the regular army (i.e., full-time active duty) felt very similarly to Tim O’Reilly.

    On the other hand, though, I definitely appreciate the fact that this billboard advances a message of tolerance and understanding for a group of people who traditionally get treated like dirt in this country and I have to ask why this would even be a concern. This country was founded on the principles of freedom of speech and religion, yet somehow that often gets misconstrued as freedom only for anyone white and Christian. Ask yourself if you’d be just as offended if he were African American and she were white, or one of them was Hispanic, Asian, or some other race? The fact that some Islamic extremists are terrorists doesn’t mean that everyone who looks brown is dangerous, and if you honestly look at that woman and think she’s dangerous just based on how she looks, you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself how you’re any better than a terrorist who wants to kill Americans just because we’re American.

  20. Completely inappropriate use of the uniform. I couldn’t care less about the political message or product, you simply can’t wear a military uniform to endorse a product.

  21. The only thing that gets me about this ad is the soldier wearing his uniform to endorse a product. He should have more professionalism than this and his NCO support channel needs to correct him immediately.

  22. I love it because yes some people from the middle east are the enemy BUT NOT EVERYONE is bad. It makes me so MAD to see people judge them just because of their religion. It does not matter what type of religion or geographical region one comes from, one should be treated as a person. I am all for the troops and I understand why they are fighting I support that. But this Photo proves that everyone is different you should not judge one by his or her looks. I think more of these need to be put up….

  23. No, I don’t find the advertisement offensive nor is it at all racist (Islam is not a race or ethnicity, it’s an idea)

    However like most public advertisements, it’s unoriginal and stupid. Anyone who IS offended by this nonsense is giving the company undeserved credit for their bad idea: How bored do you have to be to print this BS? Honestly? Isn’t there still a war going on in Afghanistan? Are rapists still going unpunished while victims continue to suffer?

    And as far as the E4 in the ad itself, while I can’t agree with the unfortunate choice to appear in uniform, I say leave that dork alone: Keep your own Soldiers in line before you blast someone else’s, for all anyone knows, maybe his C.O was okay with this.

  24. The ad company did something right, I mean really, look at all this ( now free) advertising from just one billboard for there product.

    A question of mine, why is it ok that the military can pose in there uniforms for ad related campaigns for recruitment and other campaigns … why is it not ok to wear there uniforms off duty or for there own purposes, I mean they earn the right to feel a sense of pride to earn and wear the uniform in the first place?.

  25. The picture of the guy and his gal is awesome. We brought home Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and German wives without any fuss, so who cares now? And a Muslim Woman in traditional garb ain’t the enemy. Less so than the VC village women in rags who suicide bombed the troops during that conflict. As for wearing the Uniform…. well, I’m sure his superiors will think its better for PR to let it slide.

  26. i agree,it is not the time to try and shove this in our faces,i lost 2 family members in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and many fellow soldiers in the afghanastan war,I did 2 deployments myself,i am not ready to accept muslims as anything but the enemy that they are,to show a muslim and a soldier together is disgracefull,there are a million better ways to sell a spray to stop snoring,it doesnt show them in bed or anything its just a picture of two people,i believe they were trying to get at people when they put that up,it worked,its offensive to me,i also agree that it is against army regs to advertise for a non military group in uniform

  27. It only offends me because the soldier is in violation of Army Regulations and I’m sure that the U.S. Army will take appropriate disciplinary actions. If he would have stayed out of uniform, no problem here.

  28. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a US soldier showing support and kindness to anyone. We are supposedly there to help and reassure. The US military is not a terminator but rather a force for good in this world. Showing our humanity only confirms our role. The cemeteries and crosses we’ve left behind serve to confirm our national philosophy.

  29. I agree with the majority about being a non issue with the guy being with a muslim woman and the fact he should be punished by UMCJ IF he didn’t get proper clearance to do so from his command. what i do NOT agree with is the GUY (damon B) thinking all national guard and reserves are jacked up. I will agree there are jacked up units and soldiers, but there are just as many “POG’s” in the active side as in the national guard and reserves. Look at all the dumb rules the army has. it is not because of us dumb POG reservists.. it is because some POG active duty service member was jacked up got hurt and a new rule popped up because of it. I have spent my fair share over seas out of the wire doing my country proud. while looking and being an absolute professional. Just remember what you do for a living Damon B is great but i get the job done with not even half the training you get and half the support you get..ohhh and when i got back from my last deployment. I had to start my life over for the third time… FYI I served under the 101st, 82nd, and 1stID… so you can take your POG and stick it up your duff

  30. Usually i like to read the comments before i comment and some of you people are seriously confused. Just because this guy is in the NG or reserves doesn’t make him a POG. Whatever his reason for wearing the uniform and whether it’s right or wrong has nothing to do with his service commitment. I’ve been in the reserves for 12 years, 3 deployments and other stateside MOB’s for years. I’ve been overseas more then my active friends, so who gives a damn if he’s in the NG.

  31. I still question this guys legitimacy since he is in fact not wearing DA approved ACU’s in the picture. Note that there is no velcro below the flag on his sleeve as there are on all real ACU’s. Also, look at his nametage where if you zoom in you see the -U.S- of the U.S ARMY tape that should be on the opposite side of his uniform. So what we have is an individual who is either not a real Soldier, or a real Soldier wearing his uniform in advertising in violation of Army policy, with a fake uniform that has the patches placed incorrectly. All this while assisting in manipulating people’s patriotic tendencies by advertising in uniform for something that has nothing to do with the Army

  32. Tim O’Reilly- you must be a POG yourself. If you are a “grunt” you are a hypocrite. You put down the Guard and/or Reserve and say they look for “every opportunity” to capitalize off of “real” soldiers. I know a lot of “real” soldiers and a good portion of them are far worse than any reserve/guard people I have known. I was active duty and reserve and saw my friends, reserve and active duty counterparts die, get wounded, blown up by IEDs, SAF, indirect fire, divorce, emergencies back home, combat, good times and bad. So don’t put your lame ass, ignorant and denigrating point of view regarding any member of the armed forces unless you want your ass handed to you.

  33. Ok so everyone on here thats ripping into this guy because he is in his uniform on a billboard is prejudiced for one reason or another, probably most of you because he is with an “enemy”. Ok so tell me…..WHY is this woman an enemy? Has she herself done something wrong? I do not consider anyone an enemy until they wrong me or my country, and there is no evidence showing this woman to be an extremist on a jihad.

    As for the use of the uniform in this picture… I am assuming that everyone on here adheres to ALL 670-1 regs? I can pretty much guarantee most of you have consumed alcohol while in uniform. Also for our female soldiers……excessive make up and non reg hair colors and styles……ALL OVER the REGULAR army. Not just NG/Reserves. My last trip to Ft Benning made me sick.

    Also he can get permission to use his uniform in this manner from his chain of command. So who on here has proof that he did not obtain said permission?

    Seriously all of you folks on here that like to shoot off at the mouth because your farts dont stink need to do research on the situation before you go calling this guy a POG, or his girlfriend an enemy.

  34. I have to agree with most on here that the photo – to me – in and of iteself is not offensive. The fact that he is in uniform and endorsing a product is, though. I can only think of three reasons this would have happened. One – he and his chain of command were misled as to the purpose of the billboard. If they were told it was simply going to be a public service announcement endorsing unity or brotherhood. If that’s the case, I believe they were still wrong in allowing it to happen since it could still be construed as a commercial use of the uniform. Two – as Ty (#33) points out, this may not be a “REAL” ACU and the Soldier might have assumed since he wasn’t in a real uniform, it wasn’t a violation of Army regualtions. I’ll leave that to the legal beagles to sort out, but as a Public Affairs practitioner for more than 24 years, I still would have counseled the Soldier not to do it since it would straying into a gray area that could come back to bite him in the butt. Three – the Soldier is either didn’t know about the regs prohibiting this kind of activity (?), didn’t care because he was going to make some money from it, or didn’t care because he felt it was for the greater good to promote acceptance. The bottom line for any of these scenarios, though is that the photo shoot probably shouldn’t have happened. I would be curious to hear the explanations from the Soldier and his chain of command as to their line of thinking about this issue, though.

  35. Wait a minute, if UCMJ states that you can’t wear your uniform at a political rally…How the heck is what this POG doing wearing it for obviously political reasons!

    I would love to see where this DOPE deployed, if at all!
    If he really did “deploy”, being the “reserves” he probably “deployed” to some cushy place like Kuwait!

    See, what they’re trying to do
    is take us for a bunch of idiots!

    They’re trying to put a “peace-lovin”, “they’re like us” spin.
    What BS, all you have to do is ask some of my fellow VETS who’ve been to Muslim countries.

    Like the sewer pit hole of Iraq…. I almost felt sorry for their women and young girls who they treat their cattle better then they treat their women… having to wear that black hijab head to toe all day whenever outside, were all you see is their sad eye balls, gloves, long black boots (they seemed to have a thing with black) …in that Iraqi 120, 30 even 40 degree heat. As for “tolerance” we always seem to hear about them. Our Christian terps had to act like Muslims around other Muslim’s to survive.

    I recall once, seeing this one Iraqi woman who made the mistake to lift up her head piece to wipe the sweat from her face. Only to get a fist to her face from, I’m guessing her husband. He knocked her to the ground, she got up, didn’t say anything, put on the her head piece and walked off doing her business.

  36. The relationship does not bother me. The pimping of the uniform for commercial profit does. Also, if this young woman is observing traditional Muslim values what kinds of activities could she possibly be doing within the parameters of her religion that would require her to be in the same room as a sleeping infidel male?

  37. BTW, those who are citing how often they’ve been overseas with the NG/USAR are being disingenuous. How often have you been to a combat zone? How often have you been mobilized without volunteering for it? Most of the NG/USAR folks I know at this point are extended because they can’t make comparable money on the outside. There are certainly exceptions, and there are certainly USAR/ARNG folks who have made the ultimate sacrifice. But please don’t compare the time you volunteered to deploy to Qatar with a deployment to Tikrit.

  38. what she chooses to wear is her choice. i see lots of women wearing that kind of head covering and face veil every day here in Philadelphia. its no different than my wearing a scapular, or my friend wearing his Kippot … she is a civilian and she can wear anything she pleases within the law.

    he, on the other hand? he is a DISGRACE. when i was in the military we had strict rules about not giving even the appearance of “official” support for ANYTHING. we couldnt even wear our uniforms to a political event to attend!

    unless he has written permission from the branch of service? he should be on trial.

  39. This ad is doing exactly what it’s designed to do: Spark controversy and add attention to the product. It’s a genius advertising technique. No, I’m not offended at all. As long as the troop doesn’t get kickbacks on behalf of this company, he’s OK.

  40. I don’t know what the big deal is. With respect too his status of RA, Reserve, or Guard, does that matter? Since we are making generalization’s about National Guard. At one time the National Guard was supplying about 60% of combat power in Iraq, during the surge. Many Guardsmen in there, non Combat arms MOS; are better train and experienced than there AD peers.
    Two, many guardsmen are prior AD combat arms -combat veterans. Three they tend to be older thus more mature and married, many are self-employed . They pay big taxes give up big earnings in the real world. They also have more of a bond with the community they serve, the American People. I respect all members who serve . The genesis of our Army were not Active Duty Federal Soldiers, they were guardsman

  41. I am not offended. Not in the least.
    I AM concerned about using your country’s uniform to promote a commercial product. What’s next? McDonald’s offering the Marine Mac and using real Marines to advertise it?
    Coast Guard condoms? Air Force deodorant?
    It’s disgraceful to use your uniform to advertise a product. Period.

    As to the woman’s beliefs: I subscribe to no organized religion. Those that do should remember that when you point a finger, three other fingers are pointed back at YOU.
    For 2,000 years, the followers of Christ have murdered, pillaged, raped, tortured and committed untold horrors upon those of their own belief, as well as others.
    So have Bhuddists, Muslims, Jews and a host of other religions.
    A cherished American right — placed there by the founders, most of whom were Christian — is choice of belief. Anyone who is offended by this woman is a lousy American because they haven’t the foggiest notion of real Freedom.
    But that freedom does not extend to commercial use of the uniform. That soldier should face an Article 15.

  42. you guys are so misinformed…this dude is no soldier and she is not Arab at all…he’s a civilian and this is just a commercial shooting….just look at his out of regs hair cut, no unit patches and name tag…

  43. The billboard would appear to violate the provisions of AR 360-1, which prohibits direct or implied endorsement of a product or service by soldiers or the Army.

    However, since he’s in the National Guard (this has been a topic of discussion in many a Public Affairs forum), he’s not subject to UCMJ when not in drilling or ‘man-day’ status, or on annual training.

    In civilian life, he’s an employee of the company.

    Dumb move on the young man’s part.

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