Israeli ‘Freedom is basic’ niqab advert criticised

Still image from the Hoodies advertisement showing a women wearing a niqabImage copyright Hoodies
Image caption The ad asks “Is Iran here?” as Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli wears a niqab

An advert for an Israeli clothing company which shows a woman ripping off a niqab and headscarf, has been heavily criticised online.

The ad, for clothing brand Hoodies, opens with a caption reading “Is Iran here?” and shows Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli wearing a face veil.

Ms Refaeli then removes the niqab and dances before a voiceover states: “Freedom is basic.”

The video has been viewed thousands of times on various social media platforms and has triggered outrage and attracted accusations of Islamophobia.

It comes at a time of rising tension between Israel and Iran.

Many took to social media to express their disappointment and anger at the advert.

Bar Refaeli also shared the video on her Facebook page.

Ms Refaeli is one of the most prominent Israeli supermodels, and has more than five million followers on Instagram and Facebook.

Popular Israeli-Arab vlogger Nas Daily shared his reaction to the advert with his almost 10 million followers on Facebook.

He called the advert “terrible” and said he felt “angry” about the representation of Islam and women generally.

Image copyright Hoodies
Image caption After Bar Refaeli removes the niqab the narrator announces: “Freedom is basic”

The online clip is part of a wider marketing campaign by the company which includes billboards and TV adverts.

The video was viewed more than 200,000 times on Instagram before it was removed by Hoodies on Tuesday evening.

However, an alternative version was later uploaded to the company’s YouTube account, also featuring a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf and a Jewish man wearing a skullcap (kippah). Also the slogan “Is Iran here?” has not been used.

Image copyright Hoodies
Image caption A more diverse version of the advert was later released by the company

The ads, many of which pose the question “Is Iran here?”, are particularly divisive in the context of increasing tensions between Israel and Iran.

Iranian authorities have in the past year detained women who have protested against the country’s compulsory hijab laws and human rights activists who have defended them. In Israel there are no specific rules about what women should wear.

While the vast majority of reaction to the advert has been critical, some social media users suggested that the company was highlighting human rights abuses in Iran.

One commenter wrote: “I think it is good they highlighted Iran’s human-right abuses on forcing women to cover up. That should be the real story here. I did not see it about a religion, more about Iran forcing the women to wear certain clothes.”

However, many questioned the insinuation that women who wear the niqab lack freedom and suggested people should be free to choose what they wear.

The BBC has contacted Hoodies for comment.