Grassroots Campaign Seeks To Counter Anti-Muslim Subway Ads

A new campaign is seeking to raise money through the internet to push a message of tolerance to counter the slew of anti-Muslim ads that have been posted in public transit systems throughout the U.S.

The campaign, called Talk Back to Hate, is seeking to raise enough money to place advertisements in ten subway stations throughout the New York transit system — at a cost of $7,500. That sum would go towards booking the space, paying a graphic designer a small fee to produce a poster, and printing of the actual advertisement. Ideally, according to their fundraising page, they’ll be able to place ads in an additional ten locations with every $6,500 raised.

Masterminding the project is Akiva Freidlin, a New York City resident, who’s lifting the load of the project on his own. While he’s gotten some input from friends who work in online media, the concept, social media presence, and shooting and editing of the video promoting the initiative were completed by Freidlin.

“I started the project because, like many people I’ve spoken to, these ads feel like an attack on our most basic communal values,” Freidlin said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “They’re doubly offensive, for both attempting to demonize and intimidate individual members of a particular religious group, and trying to exploit the city’s grief and anger. After seeing the incredible strength and generosity that many New Yorkers displayed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — the simple decency of people working tirelessly with Occupy Sandy and countless nonprofit and community groups — it seemed especially important to respond with a message that accurately represents the way we try to live our lives here.”

Watch the video Friedlin produced for the campaign here:

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The timing of the campaign comes right as a new wave of Islamophobic advertisements are descending upon New York’s subways. Funded by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, the posters feature a picture of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, with a quote attributed to the Quran saying “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” A similar design ran in the Washington, DC Metro system in October.


Last month, a woman, Erika Menendez, pushed a man onto a subway track who was then crushed by an oncoming train. “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Menendez said. She is being charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.

Thousands of New Yorkers will view these ads everyday for a month at the 39 stations where space was purchased. This round of ads mark an escalation from the previous set posted last year that referred to Muslims as “savages.” Those posters — along with their counterparts in Washington, DC — were quickly matched by religious and other groups promoting the peaceful nature of Islam.