"Our hands are tied," Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) spokesman Aaron Donovan told The Associated Press
. "Under our existing ad standards as modified by the injunction, the MTA is required to run the ad."
The ad reads, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
The advertising campaign was orchestrated by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, or AFDI, whose executive director radical conservative blogger Pamela Geller, is a fiery critic of Muslims, liberals and mainstream Jewish organizations, The Jewish Week
In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center branded AFDI a hate group, while the Anti-Defamation League said in March that Geller “fuels and fosters anti-Muslim bigotry in society,” The Jewish Week
Geller, as head of a group called ‘Stop Islamization of America’, helped spur a months-long campaign two years ago to remove a planned Islamic community center blocks from the World Trade Center site, which she called the “ground zero mosque.” Geller was one of several prominent anti-Muslim activists cited by the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in the manifesto he posted online hours before killing 77 of his countrymen, mostly teenagers, at a left-wing youth camp in August 2011, according to a profile
on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.
Geller also claims that President Obama is the "love child" of Malcolm X, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
Asked why she was running the ads: "I'm running them because I can," Geller told CNN, according to AFP
A victory for the First Amendment
At first, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had refused to run the advertisement in September 2011 because it claimed that it violated the MTA’s policy against displaying “images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation,” a company press release
As a result of the MTA’s refusal to run the advertisement,
the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national non-profit Judeo-Christian law firm, filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of FDI, Geller, and Spencer, challenging the speech restriction.
On July 20, 2012, Federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer issued a preliminary injunction, ruling that the MTA’s speech restriction violated the First Amendment. However, the court granted the MTA thirty days to attempt to cure the violation by amending its “no-demeaning” regulation.
On August 29, 2012, Judge Engelmayer issued a final ruling striking down the MTA’s “no-demeaning speech” restriction and ordering the MTA to display the bus advertisement.
The order converted the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction, and it declared that the MTA speech regulation violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The judge also awarded FDI nominal damages.
"The court found the MTA's regulations on noncommercial ads violated the First Amendment. The MTA board may consider revising those regulations at its meeting next week in executive session," MTA added in a statement issued on September 18., says RFE/RL
Geller, who paid the MTA more than six thousand dollars to launch the ad campaign, called Engelmayer's order allowing the ads "a victory for the First Amendment.
“Political speech is the most protected speech,” Geller said, according to CBS
The 'Defeat Jihad' ad comes in the wake of recent protests in Arab countries and in Arab communities around the world over the anti-Muslim video "Innocence of Muslims." Violence linked to the movie has left at least 30 people in seven countries dead, including the American ambassador to Libya, The AP reported.
But Geller said she wasn't concerned that the ad could spark protests like the ones in the Middle East.
"If it's not a film it's a cartoon, if it's not a cartoon it's a teddy bear," she told NYC's WPIX-TV
. "What are you going to do? Are you going to reward Islamic extremism? I will not sacrifice my freedom so as not to offend savages."
Freedom to be a bigot and a racist
Opponents of the ad such as Muneer Awad, the executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations of New York, say it promotes an anti-Muslim message and seeks to imply that Muslims are savages.
Awad accuses Geller of not so subtly associating the historically loaded – and derogatory – term, “savage” with ordinary Muslims, WPIX-TV reports.
“In understanding how the term savage was used to demonize and de-humanize, not only minority communities ...but indigent people. They should realize – red flags should go up when they see these advertisements”, said Awad.
“We encourage, we promote the freedom of speech. And we believe in her freedom to be a bigot and to be a racist. But we also believe in the responsibility of us as New Yorkers to denounce that bigotry," he added.
Geller said the ad isn’t anti-Muslim, but a response to an anti-Israeli ad the MTA ran last year.
“They’re accusing me of what’s in my mind. They’re accusing me of thought crime. My ad is very clear. There is no ambiguity in my ad. People are searching, and trying to broad stroke all Muslims as supporters of jihad, and supporters of Islamic-Jew hatred. I don’t’ believe that”, said Geller.
You shouldn’t put this up
Abdul Yasar, a New York subway rider who considers himself an observant Muslim, told Al Arabiya
news agency that Geller’s ad was insensitive in an unsettling climate for Muslims.
“If you don’t want to see what happened in Libya and Egypt after the video — maybe not so strong here in America — you shouldn’t put this up,” Yasar said. But “if this is a free country, they have the right to do this,” he said. “And then Muslims have the right to put up their own ad.’
In the meantime, the ads will be seen on subway platforms beginning on Monday. The ads will be seen in 10 Manhattan subways stations and will run for a month.
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