A series of anti-jihad ads opposed by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) will nonetheless be seen in subway stations next week after the MTA lost a court battle to block their posting.
The ads, which read "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man; Support Israel. Defeat Jihad," will be posted in 10 subway stations on Monday, September 24.
The ad's debut coincides with the United Nations General Assembly, a yearly meeting in which leaders from around the world convene in New York City to discuss pertinent issues.
This year's assembly will be marked by numerous unresolved crises in Muslim-majority countries, including a civil war in Syria, continued transitions of power in northern Africa and anti-American riots in many Muslim-majority countries.
The NYC MTA initially blocked the ad's posting but then lost a legal battle against the ad sponsor, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI), headed by conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
The ads have previously been seen in San Francisco's buses, where they were defaced by local artists. Geller is also currently suing the Washington, DC transit authority to post the ads there. Officials said this week her case would be deferred due to widespread anti-American violence abroad.
"To be clear, we have not rejected the ad, merely asked the advertiser to be sensitive to the timing of the placement out of a concern for public safety, given current world events," a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority statement said, referring to recent protests and riots which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, among others.
Geller defended the ads in a recent FDI blog post, saying, "The premise of my ad was that a war on innocent civilians is savage. As long as the Palestinian Authority continues its savage policy of fomenting violence...the number of young Muslims willing to blow themselves up or to slit Israeli throats will continue to increase. That is savage."
However, American Muslim organizations have come out against the ads, denouncing then for their Islamophobic nature while also standing by the American right to speak one's mind.
"First and foremost, we support freedom of speech and the First Amendment,
Zainab Al-Suwaij, Executive Director for the American Islamic Congress, a non-profit based in Washington, DC told RTTNews.
"Do we like what the ads say? No. Nor is it a helpful contribution to our ongoing national dialogue, especially in this environment of heightened tensions. However, they have a right to state their opinion, and that's where America's greatness resides," Al-Suwaij added.
"The key now is in the response, which must be peaceful and thoughtful. Ultimately, I think this will serve to galvanize the Muslim community in overcoming its internal divisions and finding a voice to speak out for itself," Al-Suwaij also told RTTNews.
The issue will no doubt also strike a chord with Muslim diplomats in New York City next week for the UN meeting, although most of them are unlikely to see the ads themselves.
The Palestinian Authority will receive extra attention at the world body, to which it is not a member, by applying for inclusion as a "non-member observer" next week.
After the New York court ruled in favor of the FDI, the Anti-Defamation League made a statement that read, "We believe these ads are highly offensive and inflammatory. Pro-Israel doesn't mean anti-Muslim. It is possible to support Israel without engaging in bigoted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes."
In response, Geller said her ad isn't meant to be anti-Islam. "By calling me anti-Muslim, the writer of the article implies that every Muslim is a jihadi who wants to impose sharia and 'eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within and sabotage its miserable house,'" Geller wrote in the same FDI blog post.
It is unclear at this time which stations the ad will appear. NY MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan would not confirm the specific locations.
by RTT Staff Writer
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