Pamela Geller is an anti-Muslim activist with a history of paying for hateful ads on New York’s public transit system. (Remember those “savages” posters from 2012? That was her.) On Friday, the New York Daily News reported that Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, was launching a $100,000 campaign mocking the Council on American-Islamic Relations’s “My Jihad” initiative, which portrays jihad as a personal, nonviolent religious concept. (The CAIR’s “My Jihad” ads ran in several major American cities, but not in New York.)
Geller’s five offensive ads include statements such as, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran” and an image of James Foley’s execution paired with the line, “Yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline.” They’re set to visually, emotionally, and mentally assault commuters on at least 100 buses and at the entrances of several subway stations. The MTA, which has tangled with Geller before, said that First Amendment rulings required it to run her work. However, the agency also announced that it had killed one of Geller’s proposed ads: a photo of a man in a keyif alongside the lines, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah — that’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”
In a statement, the MTA explained that the rejected ad violated its “viewpoint-neutral” standards: “The MTA concluded it was reasonably foreseeable that displaying the advertisement would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transportation operations. Under the MTA’s viewpoint-neutral advertising standards, the agency can prohibit advertisements that violate that standard.”
“The … likely interpretation of A.F.D.I.’s ‘Killing Jews’ ad by most people would be that it urges Muslims to kill or attack Jews as a religious obligation,” wrote MTA official Raymond Diaz. Unsurprisingly, Geller says she’s going to sue to force the agency to put the ad up. “They’re wrong. And when they’re wrong, they make it easy,” she told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio weighed in on the issue, telling the Daily News, “These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city. While those behind these ads only display their irresponsible intolerance, the rest of us who may be forced to view them can take comfort in the knowledge that we share a better, loftier and nobler view of humanity.” Geller’s response? “Doesn’t Mayor de Blasio have bigger fish to fry?” Charming.