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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid