By Richard Yeung and Choudhury Rahman
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently approved the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s second bid, after a previous one month run in January 2013, to allow anti-Islamic ads in New York City subway stations and buses. These advertisements associate Islam with controversial individuals like Adolf Hitler, and terrorist groups Islamic State (IS) and Hamas. They were put into effect on Monday, September 29th, 2014 and were said to continue for the next four weeks.
Pamela Geller, an ardent anti-Islamic blogger, co-founded The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). According to Right Side News, her intention is to bring awareness to the supposed “Islamization” of Western nations, especially in America. On her blog, she contends that she opposes both political and radical forms of Islam, because its “barbaric” and “expansionist” nature is a major threat to Western freedom.
Hassan Eldib ’16 says that the ads have no place in our current society. “I understand that people have a right to express their beliefs but when such views are publicly displayed for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to see, many people will get the wrong idea about Islam and its followers.”
Geller maintains that her actions are justifiable. The Christian Science Monitor reports that she told a local station back in September: “I don’t think the truth is controversial. I think we’re entering a very dangerous period, and I don’t think the American people should be disarmed in the information battle space.”
The ads, which cost Geller $100,000, were placed on the back of 100 city buses and near the entrances of the E. 59 St. and Columbus Circle subway stations. As of now, the MTA is legally required to implement the ads. The AFDI is protected under the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment. However, a disclaimer that reads MTA’s disendorsement is featured on the ads.
Kevin Chiu ’16 admits that placing the ads in public areas is protected under the First Amendment, but finds it unfortunate that the MTA is required to run these ads. “I feel that this whole scheme is morally wrong, and makes Muslims feel segregated in a free and righteous country.”
Geller’s ads include references to the Quran and emotionally charged statements regarding Islamic Jihad. One of her ads stating, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah – that’s his Jihad. What’s yours?” was taken down. The MTA defended its actions by stating that the ad infringed upon its neutral stance and could provoke violence in the city, especially in the subway.
The AFDI is hoping to install more anti-Muslim posters within the New York City subway system. According to the Huffington Post, this new campaign will be named, “This Is Islamic Apartheid” and will also contain disturbing graphical images.
Meanwhile, Geller hopes that this four week campaign will be a success. Her ultimate goal, Newsweek reports, is to “put an end to the denial and willful ignorance about the threat of jihad in America so that we can adopt effective counterterror measures.”
Eldib ’16 says that the whole plan is ridiculous. “If you want to express your opinion, go ahead. But don’t try and publicly endorse it to millions of people. What you view as the ‘truth’ may not seem so to someone else and in such a diverse city as New York, everyone’s opinion counts.”