These Horrifically Offensive Ads Are Coming to New York City Buses
If you needed proof that anti-Muslim bigotry still exists, look no further than New York City public transportation.
Beginning on Sept. 29, 100 of the city's public buses and two subway stations will run ads with anti-Muslim slogans like "It's not Islamophobia, it's Islamorealism" and "Islamic Jew-hatred: It's in the Quran."
The ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) — characterized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active anti-Muslim hate group — and cost a reported $100,00.
One ad shows a picture of American journalist James Foley right before his beheading in August by a member of Islamic State, emblazoned with the line "Yesterday's moderate is today's headline" — a reference to the man purported to be responsible for Foley's beheading.
AFDI bills itself as a human rights advocacy group (for whom exactly it advocates is still unclear) and claims that its newest campaign "boldly tells truths that the U.S. government and the mainstream media seem determined to obfuscate."
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has control over which ads run in subway stations and on buses around the city, said AFDI is within its rights.
"We review every viewpoint ad under the standards, but a series of court rulings have made clear that our hands are largely tied," Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, told Al-Jazeera America.
AFDI is back at it. The court rulings Ortiz referenced were the result of a 2012 campaign by AFDI after the MTA rejected a series of the group's ads for their "demeaning" language. A federal court ruled that the group's awful advertisements were protected by the First Amendment. The ads drew a firestorm of criticism last time, and the reaction to the latest round has been just as strong.
"These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the New York Daily News.
In response, AFDI's chief hate-monger Pamela Geller quipped, "Doesn't Mayor de Blasio have bigger fish to fry?"
These ads are disgusting and inflammatory. It should go without saying that ads like these are deeply offensive and ridiculous. Yet AFDI still manages to weasel their way into our lives with them, claiming that they're entitled to free speech.
Millions of New Yorkers — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — will now face this vitriol on their daily commutes. It might seem easy to brush Geller and her army of freedom chasers off as "crackpots," as one board member on the Council on American-Islamic Relations did, but it doesn't negate the hugely detrimental effect that ads like this can have.
They'll be around for four weeks, but here's hoping they end up the same way they did in 2012: in the garbage.