BOSTON — Dunkin' Donuts has pulled an online advertisement featuring Rachael Ray after complaints that a fringed black-and-white scarf the celebrity chef wore in the ad offers symbolic support for Muslim extremism and terrorism.
The coffee and baked-goods chain said the ad that began appearing online May 7 was pulled over the weekend because "the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee."
In the ad, Ray holds an iced coffee while standing in front of trees with pink blossoms.
Critics who fueled online complaints about the ad in blogs, including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, said that the scarf wrapped around her looked like a kaffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress. They say such scarves have come to symbolize Muslim extremism and terrorism.
Malkin wrote in a column posted online last Friday that the kaffiyeh "has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons."
In a statement released Wednesday, Dunkin' Brands Inc. said the scarf had a paisley design and was selected by a stylist for the commercial.
"Absolutely no symbolism was intended," the Canton, Mass.-based company said.
A Dunkin' spokeswoman said the ad appeared on the chain's website as well as other commercial sites.
Amahl Bishara, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Chicago who specializes in media matters relating to the Middle East, said criticism about the scarf's use in the ad showed misunderstandings of Arab culture and the multiple meanings that symbols can take on depending on someone's perspective.
"I think that a right-wing blogger making an association between a kaffiyeh and terrorism is just an example of how so much of the complexity of Arab culture has been reduced to a very narrow vision of the Arab world on the part of some people in the U.S.," Bishara said. "Kaffiyehs are worn every day on the street by Palestinians and other people in the Middle East -- by people going to work, going to school, taking care of their families, and just trying to keep warm."
Although some extremists and terrorists may wear kaffiyehs, "to reduce their meaning to support for terrorism has a tacit racist tone to it," Bishara said.
Of the decision to pull the ad, Malkin wrote in a posting following up on last week's column that "it's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists."
Ray, host of the Food Network television program "30 Minute Meals" as well as a syndicated daytime talk show, began appearing in ads for Dunkin' Donuts in March 2007. When Dunkin' announced the partnership, it said Ray would be featured in TV, print, radio and online spots in a campaign running through 2010.