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New York Times: AFDI To Sue After MTA Rejects Ad That Refers to Muslims Killing Jews

One of our ads was rejected last month by the New York MTA. I had submitted five, and one was refused. I replaced the rejected ad with two others — the “yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline” and “Hamas is ISIS.” We have six ads running on buses and urban panels.

“They’re wrong,” Ms. Geller said. “And when they’re wrong, they make it easy.”

The MTA’s rejection was based on a flimsy and silly assertion that our ad would exhort Muslims to kill Jews. Actually maybe it’s not so silly, considering how many Muslims have killed Jews.

MyJihadStayFit

The rejected ad mocked the absurd Hamas-CAIR “My Jihad” ad campaign that failed to “rebrand” the word jihad as something fragrant and rosy.

My jihad is getting these bus ads up!

Our ad campaign used real quotes from leading Muslims and/or orgs to show what jihad really was. The MTA said that because CAIR’s “my jihad” campaign didn’t run in NYC that our ad would have no context. The MTA further suggested that while it was not AFDI’s intent, our ad might be perceived as urging Muslims to hate or kill Jews (as if they needed further prompting  from me).

AFDI ad rejection release: 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 advertisement features the quotation “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” attributed to “Hamas MTV.” It depicts a masked figure and includes the phrase, “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?” The advertisement was an apparent parody of “MyJihad” ads sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the group said were intended to show that jihad is a concept of individual and personal struggle, rather than violent conflict or terrorism. Those ads ran on buses in other cities, but not in New York.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative has run many other advertisements promoting its views on jihad, Hamas, Islam and Israel throughout the MTA network. In 2011, the MTA rejected a proposed advertisement from the group on the grounds that it demeaned groups of people on account of their religion, national origin or ancestry. The group sued the MTA, and the next year a federal judge ruled the MTA’s “no demeaning” standard violated the First Amendment. The MTA responded by updating its advertising standards to the current standard.

The MTA does not decide whether to allow or not allow a proposed advertisement based on the viewpoint that it expresses or because that viewpoint might be controversial. MTA Director of Safety and Security Raymond Diaz, a former chief of the New York City Police Department Transit Bureau, concluded the proposed advertisement would lead reasonable observers to interpret it as urging direct, violent attacks on Jews, given turmoil in Gaza, Syria and Iraq and New York City’s heightened security concerns.

If that’s true,  their press release is going to cause violence. They are repeating the same message in our ad, but even more than that, they are suggesting violence (i.e., putting the idea into the minds of the public).

“Group to Sue After M.T.A. Rejects Ad That Refers to Muslims Killing Jews,”  By Ashley Southall, New York Times,
A pro-Israel group behind a public transit advertisement that refers to Muslims killing Jews plans to sue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after the agency rejected the ad. The authority said the ad would be seen as a call to violence against Jews amid turmoil in the Middle East and security concerns in New York.

The group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, proposed an ad that included the quote, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” attributed to “Hamas MTV.” The ad, which pictures a man wearing a kaffiyeh wrapped around his face, also says: “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 10.39.00 AM

In a statement issued on Friday, the authority said that the ad violated its “viewpoint-neutral” advertising standards. The agency said it was “reasonably foreseeable” that displaying the ad on the back of city buses “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.”

The statement said the authority did not decide whether to allow an ad to run based on viewpoint, or whether the viewpoint might be controversial — a change made after the American Freedom Defense Initiative successfully sued the transit agency three years ago when another ad was rejected.

Pamela Geller, the group’s president, said the authority’s decision violated the group’s freedom of speech. The group, which has courted controversy with ads promoting its views on jihad, Hamas, Islam and Israel throughout the transit system, plans to file a lawsuit next week, she said.

“They’re wrong,” Ms. Geller said. “And when they’re wrong, they make it easy.”

Ms. Geller said the ad was part of a five-ad push parodying a “My Jihad” campaign sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The “My Jihad” ads, which portrayed jihad as a concept of nonviolent individual and personal struggle, ran in cities including Chicago and Washington, but not New York.

In an Aug. 19 letter, which Ms. Geller obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the safety and security director of the transportation authority, Raymond Diaz, explained to the agency’s chief executive, Thomas F. Prendergast, that because the council’s ads did not run in New York, “the much more 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.”

The authority said on Friday that Mr. Diaz concluded that the ad “would lead reasonable observers to interpret it as urging direct, violent attacks on Jews, given turmoil in Gaza, Syria and Iraq, and New York City’s heightened security concerns.”

The city’s buses have served as a platform for Middle East policy debates. Two ads submitted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative in place of the rejected one will run with four others at two subway stops and on 100 buses starting on Monday, Ms. Geller said.

The ads, which include an image of James Foley, an American journalist who was beheaded in August by Islamic State militants, have drawn condemnation from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called them outrageous.

The pending lawsuit would be the second legal clash between the transportation authority and the group, which opposed a mosque planned near the World Trade Center.

The authority updated its advertising standards after the group sued in 2011, because the agency rejected an ad on grounds that it contained demeaning language. At the time, the agency prohibited ads that it determined demeaned groups of people on account of their religion, national origin or ancestry. The next year, a judge ruled that the standard violated the First Amendment.

Here is the letter I received under the FOIL:

Security Assessment--AFDI(1) copy Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 10.49.47 AM

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