Anti-Muslim ads could be on the way to Washington
When the American Freedom Defense Initiative attempted to purchase ad-space earlier this year to propagate its mission of defeating the spread of so-called “Islamorealism,”officials in both New York, NY and Washington, DC rushed to put a halt on their plans. The signage, subways ads that read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man: Support Israel/Defeat Jihad,” were quick to be condemned by Muslim-Americans who viewed the work as hateful to Muslims.
The group’s plea to put signs up in subways across New York ended up with a fight in District Court, where a Manhattan federal judge eventually sided with the AFDI and the organization’s founder, Pamela Geller, opining that the First Amendment protection of speech allowed for her group to go ahead with their plans there. Now the case will be discussed in a courtroom in DC, where Geller intends on also having the adverts on display.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had originally agreed to cut a deal with the AFDI, but a wave of anti-American sentiment that swept the Muslim World last month, especially the September 11, 2012 incident in Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, had them rethinking their contract. The WMATA temporarily pulled the plug on the planned launch date of September 24, insisting that the agency would be required to “re-evaluate” the signage as they feared the anti-Islamic rhetoric would “expose passengers to terrorism and threaten their safety,” court documents obtained by POLITICO reveal.
The AFDI and Geller are arguing that injunction, and say attempts to censor the advertisement campaign “challenges the WMATA’s unconstitutional restriction.”
“My ads can run anytime,” Geller tells POLITICO in an email this week. “Their argument was absurd to begin with, as well as dangerous — it sets the precedent that anyone who doesn’t like some speech can be violent about it and thereby shut it up.”
The WMATA, however, might actually have a reason to hold up Geller’s plans. According to those court documents, WMATA Police Chief Michael Taborn claims both the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have warned him of a “potential threat” to transit providers believed link to the film.
“In my opinion, airing the AFDI Ad in the Metrorail system, while many Muslims are agitated as a result of the video, presents a danger to WMATA’s patrons and its employees,” Taborn writes in the documents. “In my opinion, a delay in posting through October 31, 2012, presents a reasonable amount of time for volatile sentiments associated with the video to die down.”
A district judge will weigh in on Thursday and decide if the injunction should stand.
Last month, the Defeat Jihad campaign was unleashed in New York by way of ten subway station adverts across the city. Mona Eltahawy, a 45-year-old Egyptian-American activist, was arrested shortly after the signs went up for defacing them with graffiti.