"Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah."
This and other hateful messages may soon be coming to buses and subways in America's largest city.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ruled that the ads were covered under the First Amendment. The city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority had argued the messages could incite anti-Semitic violence against New York's large Jewish population. Judge Koeltl, however, found the MTA's reasoning unfounded.
The signs are the creation of Pamela Geller and her pro-Israel organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
"I was gratified that the judge upheld the freedom of speech. In an age when the First Amendment is under constant assault, that is extremely important, as the freedom of speech is our foremost protection against tyranny," Geller wrote in an email to Mic.
"We are unafraid to tell truths," Geller continued, adding far from inciting anti-Semitic violence, her intention had been to raise awareness about the terrorist group Hamas.
It's not the first time the AFDI and its flamboyant leader have made provocative statements. The group succeeded in bringing similar signs onto New York buses in 2014. This time around, Geller, as she did then, dismissed her critics in the mainstream media, telling Mic she was being "inundated" with grateful emails from supporters.
The real issue. The story, however, is considerably more complicated than the typical "us vs. them" narrative Geller would have people understand. While the AFDI bills itself as an advocacy group committed to defending "basic freedoms and values," the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded them a hate group. On her blog, Geller lists instances showing the Quran's inherent anti-Semitism; in reality, she has cherry-picked phrases and deliberately obscured the larger contexts.
For professionals who fight against Muslim hate-mongering, Geller is an old story.
"[She's] the Terry Jones of the ad world," Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told Mic. Jones, a Texas pastor, seized a notorious 15 minutes of fame in 2011 after his much-publicized burning of a Quran. "It's the same thing wherever she goes," Hooper added.
Today though, CAIR had more or less resolved to not waste resources fighting against her. "We decided we're not going to chase Pamela Geller around the country" he told Mic, and indicated his organization would take the high road. "We don't support people being banned for their views," Hooper said. "Even if they are bigoted and hate-filled like Pamela Geller's."
The bigger picture. Contrary to her stated purpose of helping Israel, Geller's actions take a needlessly provocative approach to the matter. However, the First Amendment is not going anywhere, and nether is she.
It's been said the First Amendment exists to protect unpopular speech, as popular speech needs no protection. Allowing bigots like Geller the right to spread their hate speech is a constitutional right, and it's something that ultimately makes us stronger. In the past, New Yorkers have seen and survived KKK marches, Nazi rallies and Fred Phelps; they'll probably survive Geller too.