Honda: Anti-jihad ads reminiscent of McCarthyism

Astrid Riecken FOR THE WASHINGTON POST Controversial posters on the Israel Palestinian conflict are placed at Georgia Avenue Metro stop … Continued

Astrid Riecken

FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Controversial posters on the Israel Palestinian conflict are placed at Georgia Avenue Metro stop and three other Metro stations after a court battle. The same posters were also placed in the NYC subway system where they were vandalized.

This week felt like a throwback to the 1950s, to McCarthyism and fear mongering. I, and countless others, spoke out in defense of Muslim Americans who were feeling attacked by ads on New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. public transit systems that compared Muslims to “savages”. Physical safety was of serious concern for many Muslim Americans, which is why the three transit authorities appropriately delayed or declined the ads, later to be court-ordered into running the ads.

What happened next is what alarms me most. Anyone who stepped up to defend fellow Muslim Americans was deemed by the ads’ sponsors as the “enemy.” I’ve heard this accusation before, except when I was much younger, growing up in Colorado in a Japanese internment camp.

This is what the ad says: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” The logical and reasonable inferences here are the following: jihad (read: Muslim, due to etymology) equals savage. Muslims, thus, are savages.

Now, of course, there are people who have done violence using the name of jihad and any violence of this nature — or any nature – should absolutely be deplored and abhorred. But the ad didn’t make this

distinction and instead assumed that all things jihad — ergo, all things Muslim — is “savage” and must be defeated.

It’s easy to understand why nonviolent and patriotic Muslim Americans in Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco may have been too frightened to ride public transit and, in fact, found other transport out of fear for life.

By beckoning the transit patron to wage war against the savage, the ad fell not far from falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, except this time a crowded subway system. Remember: when it comes to public safety, there are permissible limitations on free speech consistent with the terms of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The reality with religion — whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu or other — is that all of these groups have the potential for peace and the potential for violence. The prophets of all of the above have preached peace at some point and yet there are believers of all six of these religions that have exacted violence on others in the name of their religion.

Violent extremism in any form, under any banner, religious or other, should never be tolerated and should always be actively and aggressively prevented or stopped.

In this vein, Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups have banded together in New York City and Washington, D.C. to counter the ad’s negative narrative with positive messages. One D.C.-based nonprofit is taking out ad buys on Metro with the message “Love Your Muslim Neighbors”

and local universities are considering discussion groups at the four D.C. Metro stops that carry the ad, in an effort to educate, de-escalate and mediate a constructive way forward for religious coexistence and tolerance. This is good because it stimulates a necessary discussion on where we are headed as a nation and as an interreligious family.

Let me be absolutely clear. Protecting free speech is, without question, an essential cornerstone of this country, but so, too, is responsibility. Our founding fathers didn’t fight for free speech so that Americans could proudly and vehemently use hate speech on each other, inciting fear of each other.

This is not the America they helped build or foresaw for the future. Nor is it, frankly, what the prophets preached.

The public transit should be an inviolable public trust, where all of America’s public feels safe and welcome. That is currently not the case and it is the responsibility of members of Congress to help change that.

Since 2001, U.S. Congressman Mike Honda has represented California’s 15th Congressional District, which includes western San Jose and Silicon Valley.

Related content from On Faith:

Judge: Metro must allow anti-jihad ads

Don’t deface anti-Muslim Metro ads

Muslims: Keep calm and carry on

Anti-Muslim subway ads throughout New York City: Fighting for faith?

In defense of the right to offend

About

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.