Note to easily offended New York City commuters: You might want to avoid subways and buses for the next few months.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority said on Tuesday that it must allow a pro-Israel activist group to run a series of potentially inflammatory subway ads that criticize the Islamic world.
Touting the tagline, “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” the ads feature two Star of Davids under the phrase, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.”
The ads were paid for by American Freedom Defense Initiative, an activist group run by Pamela Geller, the author of the Atlas Shrugs blog who is known as an outspoken critic of Islam. Initially, the MTA refused to run the ads, but in July a Manhattan federal court judge ruled that decision a violation of the First Amendment.
Some transit officials are concerned that the ads will further exacerbate the turmoil that unfolded in the Middle East last week in response to an anti-Muslim video that was posted on YouTube. Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman, told The New York Times, “Our hands are tied,” when he was asked about the timing of the ads.
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Update: In response to the question of timing, Geller provided IBTimes with this statement:
"I will never cower before violent intimidation, and stop telling the truth because doing so is dangerous. If someone commits violence, it is his responsibility and no one else's. If I hit you because of your biased coverage, that doesn't make your coverage worse than it was already. The responsibility for one's actions lies with those who act and no one else. Islamic supremacists and their allies in the mainstream media are trying to get us to accept the idea that we are responsible if Muslims riot and kill and blame what we say."
According to the AP, New York's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the ads, calling them an attempt to define Islam through “hate speech.”
The council has been putting in overtime combating anti-Islamic ads in recent weeks. In August, several anti-Islamic ads were placed at Metro-North Railroad stations in Westchester County. Those ads, also paid for by Geller’s group, claimed that the number of deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11 is approaching 20,000.
“It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism,” the ads read.
According to CAIR, most of the Metro-North ads have already been taken down, while the remainder are set to come down soon. The MTA told the organization that the ads had simply “run their course.”
The recent run of anti-Islamic ads follows a controversial pro-Palestinian ad campaign that began earlier this summer. The campaign was titled “Palestinian Loss of Land -- 1946 to 2010,” and it was sponsored by the nonprofit Committee For Peace In Israel and Palestine. The ads appeared at Metro-North stations in Westchester and other counties, showing maps of Israel in various years with Palestinian land marked in color. At the time, local officials urged the MTA to remove the ads.
In a July statement, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, “The MTA does not decide whether to allow a proposed advertisement based upon its viewpoint, and the MTA does not endorse the viewpoint in this or any other paid advertisement.”
However he added that the authority is “currently reviewing its policy of accepting non-commercial viewpoint advertisements.”
The new pro-Israel subway ads -- 10 in all -- are set to roll out sometime next week.