San Francisco leaders denounce Muni ads as anti-Muslim

March 11, 2013 6:39:54 PM PDT
The debate over "free speech" versus "hate speech" has taken a new twist in San Francisco. City leaders are denouncing a new round of Muni bus ads they say are anti-Muslim and contain powerful images and inflammatory language.

The ads will run for one month and are placed on 10 out of the Muni system's 800 buses. The sponsor paid $5,000, which Muni says will go to fund a study on the impact of discrimination in the Muslim community.

The ad shows Osama bin Laden and the burning twin towers. The tag line says, "That's his jihad, what's yours?" The campaign is the latest from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which says it is educating America about what it calls the "greatest danger facing this country."

"I don't believe these ads in anyway says that all Muslims support jihad, but there have been over 20,500 deadly Islamic attacks since 9-11; that's a problem and we need to talk about it," Pamela Geller said.

Geller's organization successfully sued a New York City transit agency when it tried to ban similar ads, which is why Muni feels legally obligated to accept them.

"Even though we disagree with the content of the ads, we don't think it's right to use taxpayer money to litigate over AFDI's First Amendment rights," SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said.

Monday, San Francisco leaders and Bay Area Muslim Americans condemned the messages, calling them Islamophobic and offensive.

"We're standing here together; there is no place in San Francisco for bigotry and racism," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.

"It makes them uncomfortable to ride the buses, makes them worry about their safety and how people are looking at them; it undermines the fabric of multi-culturalism," Council On American-Islamic Relations spokesperson Zahra Billoo said.

Earlier this year, CAIR placed its own ads on Muni buses telling riders that holy war is not the only definition of jihad. The result was the parody unveiled Monday.

"Using the actual words, texts, and teachings that sanctions violence," Geller said.

"The truth can always be twisted by those promulgating hate," Billoo said.

Muni is trying to counter the ads with words of peace posted inside the buses.

Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu will introduce a resolution which will put the city on record as opposing the month long ad campaign.


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