The screen showed a balding man with tawny skin and a salt-and-pepper goatee, and seconds later it spelled out his name: Mujahid Abdul-Rashid. The advertisement went on to show him fishing, playing in a yard with two toddlers, and sitting down to a family meal.
One week later, again during an N.F.L. game, the same commercial appeared. This time I listened to the words. The advertisement was for Prudential’s financial products for retirees. Mr. Abdul-Rashid was talking about his own retirement after 19 years as a clothing salesman, and the family time he now intended to enjoy.
“That’s my world,” he said over that closing shot of the family dinner.
What I had just seen was something rare and laudable: what seems to be the first mass-market product commercial featuring an identifiably Muslim person not as a security risk, not as a desert primitive, but as an appealing, everyday American.
As if to underscore the point, the Prudential commercial with Mr. Abdul-Rashid was appearing on television during the same period last fall that saw two widespread commercial campaigns vilifying Muslims. One was the series of ads on New York subways and buses placed by a group led by Pamela Geller, the outspoken blogger and critic of Islam, which depicted a worldwide conflict between the civilized West and Islamic “savages.” The other was the billboard during the presidential campaign that showed President Obama submissively kissing the hand of a sheik.
Then, during the Super Bowl last weekend, a Coca-Cola commercial trotted out the stereotype of the Arab on camelback.
An aphorism says that no good deed shall go unpunished. You can only hope that Prudential’s silence about its own admirable commercial isn’t an example, in a nation where Islamophobia persists, of a good deed that is being disavowed.