The new year has brought new anti-Islam attack ads to New York City’s subway system.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative, a conservative organization infamous for its controversial take against the Islamic faith, has purchased ad space in 39 subway stations across New York City. When passengers look up to check the time on 228 of the subway system’s clocks, they’ll also see a photo of flames engulfing the World Trade Center accompanied by a quote, attributed to the Quran: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”
The group is well-known for its inflammatory ads. Last September, the AFDI ran ads implying Muslim radicals were “savages,” declaring: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially rejected the ads, the AFDI sued, citing their right to free speech. The court ruled in favor of the organization and its outspoken executive director, Pamela Geller, and the ads went up in 10 subway stations. But New Yorkers didn’t take well to the posters — Geller told New York City’s WCBS 880 that “all 10 were defaced or destroyed within an hour.” An Egyptian-American activist and journalist was arrested after publicly spray-painting one of the ads.
Similar ads adorned bus stops and buses in Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale, Fla in the fall. The group’s posters in D.C. called for readers to “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The Department of Homeland Security advised Washington’s Transit Authority to hold off on posting the ads in October for security reasons. Geller immediately sued, claiming the delay violated her First Amendment rights. Though the judge in the case called the ads “hate speech,” she ordered the WMATA to display them. Metro riders retaliated with Post-it notes covering especially offensive words and calls for a boycott from one member of Congress.
Bolstered by her continued legal success, Geller railed against her opponents last month, telling New York City’s WCBS 880 that they simply wanted to quash her right to free speech. “I cannot imagine why anyone would be outraged by the truth, but this is the era that we’re living in,” she said. “Truth is the new hate speech, and just telling the truth is a radical act.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the latest batch of AFDI subway ads will run for a month – albeit with a disclaimer, taking up a third of the ad space, clarifying that the views expressed are NOT endorsed by the MTA.