Updated 09/19/2012 05:29 PM
Anti-Jihad Ads To Appear In Subway Stations Next Week
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Controversial ads calling enemies of Israel "savages" will begin appearing in 10 subway stations next week, after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to stop preventing the display of the posters.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative won a federal court battle in July to have the ads posted in the subway system, but so far it is not known which stations will feature them.
The poster reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man."
Below that, the line "Support Israel" appears in blue between two Stars of David, and then "Defeat Jihad” is written below in red letters.
Transit officials initially rejected the ads, saying they violate the agency's defamation policy, but they were defeated in court on First Amendment grounds.
"With unrest in the Middle East and destabilizing of governments in that region it creates a lot of fear and anxiety for people and I don't have a problem with their exercising their right to speak about it," said former New York governor and current MTA board member David Paterson.
The woman behind the ads, Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, says they are not bigoted. She says she is a human rights advocate and the ads are being misinterpreted.
"'Islam' is not in my ad, 'Muslim' is not in my ad. You're painting all Muslims with that brush," said Geller. "I'm aiming my message at jihad and I don't believe that moderate and secular Muslims in the West and in America support jihad."
Some transit users in Downtown Brooklyn agreed that the ads should be shown.
"I don't find the ad offensive at all. It's a pro-Israel ad, I think it ought to be up," said one New Yorker.
"I think if they bought space then they should be allowed to put it up," said another.
However, others say in the wake of violence in the Middle East over a film made in California that depicts the prophet Muhammad in a negative light, the ads are too extreme.
"Provocative and overkill," said an opponent of the ads. "'Savage,' I think that's the main issue here, dehumanizing everyone in the world we don't agree with."
The civil rights group Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) says in a statement, "We are grateful that today we can rely on a broad coalition of Americans and New Yorkers who stand with us in opposing the message in these ads. This isn't just about Muslims, this is about standing up for American principles."
In Washington, D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority was presented with the same ads, and told Geller that the ads would be deferred.
WMATA officials say in a statement, "To be clear, we have not rejected the ad, merely asked the advertiser to be sensitive to the timing of the placement out of a concern for public safety, given current world events."
They are not yet sure when they will make a final decision on the ads.
Back in New York, an MTA spokesman said going forward, board members may look to change some rules about how non-commercial advertising is chosen, while still maintaining constitutional rights.