News / USA

Conservative Group's Ad in New York Subways Arouses Sharp Debate

Cyrus McGoldrick, a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, talks to commuters as they walk by an advertisement that reads "Support Israel/Defeat Jihad" in the Times Square subway station in New York, September 24, 2012.
Cyrus McGoldrick, a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, talks to commuters as they walk by an advertisement that reads "Support Israel/Defeat Jihad" in the Times Square subway station in New York, September 24, 2012.
Carolyn Weaver
Political ads posted in 10 New York City subway stations that equate criticism of Israel with Islamic terrorism have aroused little response from busy commuters, but a war of words between the group that paid for the ads and activist Muslim and other faith groups.

Depending on your point of view, the message is either provocative or inflammatory. It says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, defeat Jihad.”

The signs were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that decries what it views as the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalism. The group’s head, Pamela Geller, said the ads are a response to what she called anti-Jewish political signs that appeared in New York transit stations last year and last month.

 “One of the ads called for the end of U.S. aid to Israel, implying that U.S. aid to Israel was an impediment to peace, when in fact, U.S. aid to Israel is an impediment to the annihilation of Israel,” Geller said. “Another anti-Israel campaign, 100 kiosks on New York City metro transit, was this fake, false map of this aggressive Israel quote unquote, ‘eating up’ all of Palestinian land.”

Geller said her ads are not anti-Islamic, and she insists the word “jihad” means to wage war for Islam, even though many modern Muslims use it to refer to an internal struggle for spiritual growth. “The fact of the matter is that close to 20,000 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11 have all called it jihad, have all called it holy war, have all cited Quranic chapter and verse, and jihadic doctrine. And we have to be able to talk about this,” Geller said.

But to Muslims and members of other established religions, including prominent Jewish groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the ads are hate speech, even if constitutionally protected.

“We are civil rights advocates, so we absolutely defend Pamela Geller’s right to be a racist and a bigot,” said Cyrus McGoldrick, an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I think, though, that it’s our American duty to repudiate such disgusting language, such racist language as this opposition between the civilized and the savage.”

Subway travelers who saw the signs had varying reactions, both principled and pragmatic. “I think it’s terrible to use such horrible offensive language to tell lies about other people,” said one woman.

A male commuter was concerned the signs would provoke violence. “I think just sensitivities around the subways, considering that was one of the targets considered by other terror groups in the past here, in the city it’s probably a bad idea,” he said. But another commuter disagreed, saying, “I don’t think it’s hurtful. It’s just a matter of opinion and it is freedom of speech. If they want to take [offense], then they can start a riot, for no reason at all,” she said.

McGoldrick said that most subway travelers he observed did not even notice the signs, and that troubling as they are to him, the issue ranks low among the other serious concerns of American Muslims.

 “However, we need to be conscious that this is propaganda,” he said, “and that this propaganda feeds war, that war depends on Islamophobia.  When it’s so easy to demonize Muslims here, to dehumanize Muslims here, it’s much easier to justify wars abroad.”

For her part, Pamela Geller says the ads have succeeded in increasing awareness and opening up a dialogue about an anti-Israeli bias that she feels is suppressed in most news reports. She is pressing a court case now to force the Washington, D.C. transit system to run the same ads.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid