A series of anti-Islam ads appeared on public transit in New York and San Francisco last month, and continue to draw criticism for stoking Islamaphobia. On Thursday, a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and community activists protested in White Plains, New York, calling for Metro-North to denounce the ads and donate the revenue to human rights groups.
Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is behind the ads. In August, San Francisco’s Muni system agreed to donate ad revenue to the Human Rights Commission. The N.Y. protesters called on Metro-North in Westchester Country to do the same.
Some of the Westchester ads have come down, though only because they “ran their course.” These ads read, “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.” Another of Geller’s ads is based on an Ayn Rand quote meant to imply that Muslims are “savages.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, of which Metro-North is incorporated, has actually already denounced the ads. The MTA had previously rejected them, claiming they, as the New York Times reported, “violated its prohibition on ads that demeaned individuals or groups on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and five other specific categories.” However, a federal judge ruled that MTA’s decision violated AFDI’s first amendment rights.
Rev. Dr. Gawain de Leeuw, a religious leader who has denounced the ads, said, “I know that they are opportunists who seek to preying on the fears and worries of hard-working Americans.” During Ramadan last month, American Muslims faced a string of attacks at schools, homes, and mosques.