A series of anti-jihad metro ads, previously seen in the New York City subway and San Francisco buses, have appeared this week in Washington, D.C. After a lengthy court battle over their possible designation as hate speech, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) ruled the ads could be posted.
The ads, which read "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, Defeat jihad," are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a conservative organization headed by blogger Pamela Geller.
Initially, both New York and Washington transit officials attempted to block the ads, saying they amounted to hate speech and could incite violence.
However, in July, a Manhattan federal judge ruled the ads were protected under the First Amendment right to free speech and could be posted freely. They then went up in 10 NYC subway stations, including Times Square.
Similar ads, however, were blocked for a time in Washington, D.C. metros after WMATA officials said anti-American sentiment overseas, sparked by a U.S.-produced anti-Islam video, could also erupt state-side.
However, like in New York, Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled on October 8th the ads could be posted under D.C. law. They have now gone up in four capital-area metro stations.
In New York, immediate reaction against the ads has been contentious and mixed. Street artists and activists defaced many of the ads within days, spray-painting over them or stamping them with them large "hate speech" tags.
In D.C., one commuter covered one ad completely in Post-It notes. Then, this week, two Georgetown students of Muslim faith petitioned the WMATA to remove to ads.
"We fully recognize the First Amendment rights of the AFDI to post these ads. We take no issue with that," Georgetown University Interfaith Council President Jordan Denari told a campus newspaper.
She added, "But we must go out there and provide a counter-narrative. We must show that Muslims are an important part of the community here."
The two petitioning students, sophomore Nabeel Zewail and senior Saaliha Khan, will be distributing flyers about forgiveness and cultural awareness at the four metro locations.
Another Muslim organization based in D.C., the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), will also be posting 16-foot banners in the same four metro stations showing a woman in a hijab next to the Qur'an quote, "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant."
Geller meanwhile defended the New York ads last month, crediting the MTA for deciding not to take them down and instead opting to include a "disclaimer" on all "political" ads placed in New York subways from now on.
"Despite critical media and the howling mob of miscreants, political, cause-related ads will run," Geller wrote on her blog, Atlas Shrugs.
When the New York ads first premiered, Geller defended them in a 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 them 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, D.C. told RTTNews in September.
"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.
Now that she has achieved a win in the courts, Geller will also move ahead with new ads in Washington metro stations. The new ads feature pictures of burning World Trade Towers and feature the following two Qur'an quotes:
"Slay the unbelievers wherever ye find them," and "Those who disbelieve our revelations- we shall expose them to the fire. As often as their skins are consumed, we shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment."
WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel said despite the highly inflammatory rhetoric, the new ads will probably also be approved.
by RTT Staff Writer
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