by CHRYSTAL STASICKY Staff Writer
Two groups, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Stop the Islamization of America, purchased space for Anti-Muslim advertisements to appear for the second time in New York City’s subways in January.
Last autumn, when the advertisements were put up, they caused controversy. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) rejected the advertisements because the subway policies prohibited their demeaning language.
The advertisements said, “In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Pamela Geller, co-founder and executive director of AFDI, sued the MTA and a federal judge ruled that the advertisements were protected under the First Amendment.
Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch University, said, “I understand free speech, but on a visceral level you feel like you have a bull’s eye on your back.”
Soon after the advertisements appeared in the subways, Christian and Jewish groups hung Pro-Muslim posters next to the advertisements. The United Methodist Women Church hung posters that read, “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”
The church believes that any kind of hate speech is uncivilized. Hate speech that is written and can be seen by the public is especially barbaric.
“We needed to be present with a counter voice, we need to stand for the work of peace, and to say that free speech should not be used recklessly or in an inflammatory way,” stated Harriet J. Olson, United Methodist Women General Secretary.
The Christian and Jewish groups thought they would never see the Anti-Muslim advertisements again after their retaliation, but the AFDI recently put up a new advertisement in January. It is a photo of the World Trade Center lit in flames with the quote, “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”
Because Geller has the First Amendment on her side, the new advertisements were run for a month. However, there was a disclaimer, declaring that the advertisements were not endorsed by the MTA.
When the first advertisements appeared, they brought fear and hatred to New Yorkers and Muslims. They were frightened that it would cause violence to break out among Muslims and the AFDI.
An Egyptian-American activist and journalist spray painted one of the advertisements, who were then arrested for public vandalism.
Since the AFDI was labeled as a hate group, people believed that publications of these advertisements would not happen, especially since they could cause rallies within New York City.
On Tuesday, September 25, the Interfaith Center of New York gathered at City Hall to protest the advertisements.
Valarie Kaur, director of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, stated, “These ads fuel anti-Muslim sentiment that aims to divide us, but we will always come together, louder and stronger, for respect and dignity.”
These advertisements should not be tolerated. That is why the Christian and Jewish groups got involved to begin with.
The First Amendment only gives freedom of speech until it causes violence. In this case, the advertisements should have never been publicized. They could have caused Muslims to attack members of the AFDI. Jewish and Christian citizens could have also assaulted the group.
Even though the First Amendment protected the advertisements, it is believed that the amendment should not only protect the AFDI, but the people as well. Once the people’s safety was put at risk, especially Muslims, the judge should not have allowed such advertisements to be shown.