That didn’t take long.
Advertisements that equate Islamic jihad with so-called “savagery” were posted Monday in ten New York City subway stations. But hours after the ads went up a street artist tagged them with “racist” and “hate speech” labels.
“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ad reads. “Support Israel/Defeat Jihad.”
The ads were initially rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York’s transportation systems, because the advertisement failed to meet its standards —which prohibit demeaning language of any group. But a federal court forced the MTA to run the ads, saying they were protected speech under the First Amendment.
Pamela Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has claimed responsibility for the ads.
“We don’t think it’s controversial,” Geller said in an interview with CNN. “It’s truth. The MTA has run anti-Israel ads before and no one had an issue about it. ‘Any war on innocent civilians is savagery’: What’s controversial here?”
Geller also told CNN she had no qualms about releasing the ad amid ongoing protests against an anti-Islam film clip that left dozens in seven countries dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. “If it’s not a film, it’s a cartoon, it’s always some event,” Geller said. “I will not sacrifice my freedom.”
“We recognize the freedom of speech and Geller’s right to be a racist and bigot. But we also recognize the responsibility of New Yorkers to denounce that bigotry,” said Muneer Awad, director of Council of American-Islamic Relations.
“We must stop dismissing this as simple hysteria, and realize that the same racism inherent in this hate group’s message, underlies the government policies of the elected officials associated with them,” Awad went on to say in an email to Colorlines.com. “We will continue to expose these hate groups until our elected officials clearly denounce them and stop supporting discriminatory policies targeting American Muslims and all other minority communities.”
The Interfaith Center of New York, joined by other groups including the Cordoba Initiative and Jews Against Islamophobia, have also denounced the ads, calling them “dangerous” and “hate speech.”
Philip Weiss, on Mondoweiss.com, reports the savage ads have been altered with “racist” or “hate speech” labels in at least seven New York subway stations so far. He’s published a collection of images showing the altered ads on his site.
The same ads also appeared on San Francisco buses last month. There, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency put up their own counter ads and donated any proceeds from the ads to human rights organizations.
“SFMTA policy prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics and condemns statements that describe any group as ‘savages,’ read the ads put up by the county agency. (Photo by WarzauWynn)
The ads in NYC subways are expected to remain posted for a month, MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders told Reuters. Geller told the AP the subway ads cost about $6,000.