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Citing Free Speech, Judge Paves Way For Anti-Muslim Ad on New York Subway

Ruling has precedence; New Yorkers ‘tolerant,’ says judge

Sara Ivry
April 22, 2015

Assuming they can tear themselves away from their smart phones, New York City subway and bus riders could soon see the same controversial anti-Jihad advertisement that has run in other American cities, now that a federal judge has ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to run an ad it sought to bar.

The MTA had argued that the ad could incite terrorism, but a federal judge rejected that claim yesterday, ruling that it was protected by the first amendment, Reuters reported.

The ad shows a man with a kefiyah wrapped around his head and reads: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah”—citing “Hamas MTV”—and then, “That’s His Jihad. What’s Yours?”

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl reasoned that MTA’s leadership “underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements.”

“It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco,” Koeltl said.

The advertisement is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization co-founded by Pamela Geller, which paid for a previous batch of xenophobic ads in New York and other metropolitan areas in 2012.

Included on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of active anti-Muslim groups, the AFDI describes itself as acting “against the treason being committed by national, state, and local government officials, the mainstream media, and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, the ever-encroaching and unconstitutional power of the federal government, and the rapidly moving attempts to impose socialism and Marxism upon the American people.”

“There is no question that transit authorities have the right and duty to protect their riders from violence,” AFDI attorney David Yerushalmi told Reuters. “They do not have the right to give terrorists or potential terrorists a ‘heckler’s veto.’”

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.