Religious groups denounce anti-Muslim subway ads

Religious leaders are rallying against controversial ads placed in 10 New York City subway stations that insinuate that Muslims are … Continued

Religious leaders are rallying against controversial ads placed in 10 New York City subway stations that insinuate that Muslims are savages.

The ads, purchased by the American Freedom Defense Initiative say, “In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially rejected the ads, citing a policy against demeaning language. However, after AFDI filed suit, a federal court upheld the ads.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is led by Pamela Geller, a right-wing blogger and activist best known for her staunch opposition to a proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Geller’s Stop Islamization of America as a hate group.

As rioting continues in the Middle East over the “Innocence of Muslims” movie trailer, there is concern that the subway ads could inflame tensions even as they are protected by the First Amendment.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about the ads on his weekly radio show, “America is different. We tolerate dissenting views. We tolerate things that we may find despicable. … The belief is that the First Amendment protects you and me, but we have to protect everyone else if we’re going to have that freedom, and it’s the right ways to go about it. In this case the courts ruled and the MTA has to comply.”

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, fears that the ads will “contribute to the atmosphere of anti-Islam hostility,” adding that there has been a “widespread repudiation of the hate message promoted by these ads.”

The Interfaith Center of New York gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday (Sept. 25) to rally against the ads. “These ads fuel anti-Muslim sentiment that aims to divide us, but we will always come together, louder and stronger, for respect and dignity,” said Valarie Kaur, director of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary.

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  • GrampaCaligula

    It’s nice to see that more rational attitudes still prevail in the US. There really seems to be rampant tolerance towards Islamophobia in recent years. As Americans, we shouldn’t stand for it.

  • Pogo4

    Some people, especially Americans, believe that people are basically individuals and the right of the individual is the thing to be protected above all. Many other ethnic groups – most of the thrid world and some Israelis, believe that people are members of a community and have above all obligations to that community. The communities have various social myths -e.g. the Wailing Wall (built by King Herod up dirt which the radicals pretend was the wall of the second temple), Mohammed’s night journey up to heaven, interpreted as being from Jerusalem, the virgin Mary (based on a mis-tranlation), the stories of Abraham, written a thousand years after his death, Noah’s Arc, the Tower of Babel, the Garden of Eden – all adapted from Babylonian tales, the Mormons – need I go on?. Anyone who knows many Muslims knows that it is widely diverse, sometimes with beliefs based on traditional customs of the various ethnic groups, and that many Muslims are very tolerant of others; a minority are not.

    A lot of what people believe may be of questionable validity but may help to hold the group together. The big difference among religous practitioners is that some are compassionate and tolerant of others (e.g. the general tolerance of Muslims for Jews for several centuries up to 1920 while Europeans were oppressing and killing them). Most Muslims today are critical of Zionism because they feel European Jewish immigrants unfairly took land from the 700,000 Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 and Muslims feel that today Jews are threatening their holy places in Jerusalem. But there is still some tolerance for Jews(e.g. there are still Jews in Iran that have resisted offers of big subsidies to move and they have a seat in the Iranian Parliament). But there are some Muslims who are violent and intolerant including a minority in Egypt, Libya etc, There are also some very intolerant places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan – some Hindus in neighboring India have the same South Asian social customs and some of them can be equally intolerant. Iran is currently a very intolerant place, though historically that was not the case. Some Muslims, Christians and Jews are tolerant of others, while some use their religion to foster hatred of other groups. The poster supporters fall in the latter catgegory. Put simply their religion is based on a belief in hatred.

    Good to see that some American Jews are speaking out agains this hatred. It gives hope that some day (post Netanyahu? and post Ahmadinejad?) there may be a peaceful solution to the struggles in the Middle East that involve Israel.

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