US News and World Report on Washington DC Transit Ban


The nation’s capital banned free speech for fear of offending the very savages we are fighting here and across the world.

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“Muhammad Cartoon Ad Blocked From D.C. Buses and Train Stations,” US News, May 28, 2015

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Transit board eliminates issue ads entirely, avoiding display of cartoon seen as offensive to Muslims.

The mass transit authority that oversees commuter buses and trains in the nation’s capital is banning issue-oriented ads for the remainder of the year after receiving an ad proposal featuring a cartoon of Muhammad, Islam’s central figure.

The cartoon is a sketch by artist Bosch Fawstin of a turban-wearing, sword-wielding man saying “You can’t draw me!” It won a “draw Muhammad” contest in Garland, Texas, that was unsuccessfully attacked by Muslim-American roommates earlier this month.

The ads would have sported a banner saying “Support Free Speech.”

Pamela Geller, the activist who made the advertising request and hosted the Garland event through her group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, says the decision is “an end run around the First Amendment.”

“These cowards may claim they are making people safer, but I submit to you the opposite,” she says. “They are making it far more dangerous for Americans everywhere. Rewarding terror with submission is defeat. Absolute and complete defeat.”

The board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority made the decision Thursday afternoon and plans to enforce the ban until completion of a review of its policies.

Metro spokesman Mike Tolbert says the board’s vote was unanimous and that members did not specifically discuss any ad. The transit authority will consider the legal and safety issues involved in running political ads during its review, he says. It’s not immediately clear what will happen to existing ads that may be considered issue-oriented.

Without the broad ban, Washington-area officials likely would have been forced to publish the Muhammad cartoon.

Courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of Geller in her bids to display controversial ads.

In April, she won a federal court ruling that New York City’s subway system must carry anti-Hamas ads that attribute the quote ““Killing Jews is worship” to the Palestinian group. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl found no evidence the ads “would be likely to incite imminent violence.” In March, a federal judge forced Philadelphia’s mass transit system to allow ads that say “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran.”

In New York, transit authorities recently banned all political advertising to ward off future controversies.

It’s unclear if opponents of such a viewpoint-neutral ban could prevail in court or if Geller will sue.

Former D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who served 12 years as a member of the Metro system’s board of directors and twice as its chairman, says he can’t recall a similar advertising suspension.

“It’s obviously a way for them to avoid this very challenging issue,” Graham says. “By stopping all ads they’re able to say they’re doing it in a way that doesn’t [target] this one ad.”

Graham says he instinctively supports people’s freedom to advertise controversial messages, recalling his fight to place HIV awareness ads in the D.C. system in the early days of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s.

But he says current board members are “obviously in a bind because we know what happens when you criticize Muhammad, we know how some people react to that. I don’t think we ever had a situation [in the past] where someone threatened to blow up a bus.”

Graham says he’s not aware of any credible threat in response to the ad, but that, “We know worldwide what has happened to others who have gone down this path.”

Many Muslims consider any visual depiction of Muhammad offensive. Artists and publishers who violate the taboo put themselves at risk of violence.

Jihadi brothers in January murdered 12 people at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication that on several occasions featured cartoons of Muhammad on its cover. Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose cartoons launched global protests by Muslims a decade ago, survived an ax attack in 2010. Earlier this year, Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew Muhammad’s face on the body of a dog, avoided an assassination attempt that killed an audience member at a cafe where Vilks was delivering remarks about his work.Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the nation’s largest Muslim organizations, and a strident critic of Geller, says he personally is outraged by the ads she proposed for Washington’s transit system.

“It’s no different than neo-Nazis putting up ads with the ‘n’ word spelled out,” he says of the now-blocked ads. “You have to wonder how she looks herself in the mirror in the morning.”

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