A series of humorous ads about American Muslims went up in 144 subway stations around New York City Monday, nearly a year after they were banned by the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority because officials deemed them “political in nature.”
The ads were initially submitted to the MTA in November 2014 to promote “The Muslims Are Coming!,” a documentary that follows a group of Muslim-American comedians traveling around the country to combat anti-Muslim sentiment. The bright posters include tongue-in-cheek text like “The ugly truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes” and “Beware, the Muslims are coming. And they shall strike with hugs so fierce, you’ll end up calling your grandmother and telling her you love her.”
After delaying for four months, the MTA finally agreed to display them in April 2015, only to retract the approval shortly after based on a new policy that prohibited certain types of ads, including ones that are “political in nature.”
Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Vaguely Qualified Productions, the company behind the documentary and the ads, in June 2015. The lawsuit claimed that the ads did not fall under the restricted category and banning them violated the First Amendment. In October 2015, a U.S. district court ruled that the ads were not political in nature and could not be restricted.
— Dean Obeidallah (@Deanofcomedy) March 7, 2016
“After 15 months and one federal lawsuit, we are overjoyed that our comedic posters about Muslims are finally going up in 144 NYC subway stops,” said Dean Obeidallah, one of the comedians behind “The Muslims Are Coming” documentary. “The goal of the posters is simply to show people a different side of Muslims than they see in the media — namely a funny, non-scary one. Hopefully our movie and this poster campaign can help chip away at misconceptions our fellow Americans have about Muslims.”
Negin Farsad, a comedian and founder of Vaguely Qualified Productions, added that while the film has been out for several years now, the posters serve a larger purpose, when anti-Muslim sentiment in the country seems to be at an all-time high.
“These posters are needed now more than ever. Between the ‘Muslim registries’ and the ‘banning all Muslims’ and the ever-present ‘look at that terrorist Muslim on that TV show,’ we're almost at peak Islamophobia,” said Farsad. “We just wanted to be able to show that Muslims can be funny, ridiculous and good lovers to counter all the negativity.”
In its ruling, the U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote that “the text of the messages…is not ‘prominently or predominantly political’ — unless we have reached the unhappy moment in this country where the mere mention of one of the three Abrahamic faiths is ‘prominently or predominantly political’ simply because that faith is Islam.”