Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Enticing Ads in Arabic

See that harmless looking ad over there on the left? That's not just some random ad. It's a screen capture of an ad I saw on my monitor. I put it there on purpose for you to look at. It is the same type of ad that has popped up on my computer screen all through this year. Apparently internet services can tell from my IP address that I am in Egypt and therefore assume that I am an Egyptian, so they display ads in Arabic.

Normally I wouldn't think twice about it. Companies want to advertise their products and it is only smart to advertise in the language of the people viewing the advertisements.

What is alarming is how many of these ads have to do with immigration to America. While I can't fully read the ad, I can see the stars and stripes and even read the word "America" in Arabic. I can also see two women with long, luxiourious, uncovered hair. At first glance this might not mean anything to you or me, but it could be very important to a woman who feels oppressed by an intolerant culture that holds women back and forces them to cover their hair. Showing hair is a symbol of freedom in this ad.

Understand, I am not alarmed about people from the Middle East moving to America. If they are hard working people, with good heads on their shoulders, if they're yearning to breathe free, I'm all for it. What alarms me is how America is being pitched to these people. America, the land that accepts the tired, poor, huddled masses, is becoming harder and harder to get into. In fact, I believe to immigrate to America you pretty much have to luck out and win the immigration lottery.

I have met so many people in Egypt, especially Christians, who look to America for a better life. They want to move to America, but time and again they tell me that it is difficult to get to America, that they can't win the lottery that permits only a tiny fraction of people to immigrate. These people are desperate to move.

So what exactly is this ad advertising? Is it someone saying they can get people on the fasttrack if they are given a not-so-small fee? Is it someone that is ripping desperate people off by accepting this kind of money and then never following through? I don't know. I can't really read the ad, so my guess is as good as yours. But it does make me skeptical.

So, I clicked on the link and I was taken to a very official looking web site decked out in red, white, and blue. At first glance a person could be tricked into thinking it is a U.S. government website, but what confirmed my suspicions was the domain ending in ".org" as opposed to the U.S. government's ".gov". It even says in fine print at the bottom of the page, " website is a private entity and is not a governmental agency." I am not linking to the site because that would only give the site credibility in the eyes of search engines, and that's not something I want to do.

I will, however link to THIS PAGE. It shows how much the site in question resembles the U.S. State Department's web site and prooves to me what I assumed from the beginning. The site is "an independent for-profit organization." Does that mean they are ripping people off? No. But I continue to be skeptical. It makes me uneasy to think that someone might be using my country as a pitch in a scheme to separate desperate people from their money, desperate people I have gotten to know personally.

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