Recall the controversial pro-Israel New York City subway ads launched in October that compared Palestinians to “savages” and urged uncritical support of Israel to “defeat jihad”? The organization which created and bought those ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, co founded by the hateful Pamela Geller, is back with a new series of anti-Islam subway displays.
The new ads show a picture of one of the twin towers exploding from a plane impact, with a quotation from the Quran saying “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.” Coincidentally, it also displays a prominent disclaimer from the MTA stating that “this is a paid advertisement sponsored by the AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”
This might be a personal preference, but I also find it shockingly offensive to display a picture of the twin towers exploding in a subway ad; it’s fear-mongering and craven, a testament to the awful power of the events on 9/11, but misused horribly to inflame the passion of Islamophobes. Clearly the intent of the ads was to provoke a visceral anti-Islam reaction and blame it on the Quran. It also trivializes the actual attacks and attempts to subordinate them to the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s anti-Muslim agenda.
No one reasonable contests that extremism, often Islamic extremism, is a serious worldwide problem which requires international attention — and a response from the authorities. What the Defense Initiative is actually doing, though, is completely ridiculous and offensive. Rather than engage in a reasonable debate about counter-terrorism policy, they’re attempting to insinuate all Muslims share equal responsibility for 9/11, and imply that Muslims with who it disagrees on policy descriptions are dangerous radicals. When they stooped so low as to call Palestinians “savages,” that was bad enough. Now the Defense Initiative has moved on to dangerously simplistic misrepresentations of the Quran and Islam in general.
The Defense Initiative isn’t new to mud-slinging. They took credit for defeating the so-called Ground Zero mosque, (actually a community center supported by conservatives like Orrin Hatch, and the stringently pro-security New York mayor Michael Bloomberg), and link to a blogging ally which says despite “President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, legions of craven politicians and a sharia-compliant jackbooted media intent on getting that cultural obscenity built, it was soundly and roundly defeated. We did that.”
I was always taught that you could judge character by the company that someone keeps, and the company the Defense Initiative keeps is shrill and hateful. That blog, introduced as a key ally in their campaigns, also refers to the project as a “mosquetrocity,” gloats about the defeat of an Arab studies program it mischaracterizes as a “mandatory Arabic lesson program,” accuses Rick Perry (of all people) of being pro-Islam, and ludicrously endorses a conspiracy theory which accuses tax hawk Grover Norquist of being pro-Islam because he has a Muslim wife.
Their website accuses the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of conspiring with Islamists, just the latest part of what the Times called in 2007 a “determined but unsuccessful effort [by a small band of critics] to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah… and have gone so far as calling the group an American front for the two.” The ACLU describes CAIR as a “leading organization that has advocated for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of fear and intolerance,” while the FBI says there is no evidence linking the group to terrorism and that preventing the spread of radical Islam requires engagement with friendly Muslim groups in the U.S.
That engagement is crucial to preventing future tragedies and attacks which the Defense Initiative so heartlessly exploits. It is also crucial to finding resolutions to international wars of opinion like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, however, isn’t interested in having a dialogue, even if you could get them to admit that Muslim allies could an important facet of uncovering new attacks (they wouldn’t). It is interested in stigmatizing and accusing Muslims of participation in the harshest, worst crimes. Shame on them.