Controversial anti-jihad ads line subway walls

Emily Bell

Advertisements from the American Freedom Defense Initiative were posted in ten New York City subway stops on Monday, Sept. 24.

The ads, which will be posted for four weeks, display the sentences: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

Pamela Geller, the executive director for the AFDI, said the intiative made the ads as a counter-argument to the anti-Israel ad messages.

“[Our purpose is] to tell the truth about the savage jihad war against innocent civilians,” Geller said. “[We hope to increase] public awareness of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority originally rejected the ad because it violated their previous advertising guideline, which prevented ads that degrade groups of people. After the AFDI won a lawsuit against the MTA, the MTA changed their guidelines in compliance with the court decision regarding the First Amendment.

“The MTA does not endorse this ad campaign nor any of the ads that appear in the system,” said MTA media liaison Aaron Donovan.

According to Donovan, a discussion may occur regarding a change to the MTA guidelines at the monthly MTA board meeting on Sept. 27. This potential change might be a blanket prohibition that would ban noncommercial advertisement.

Some of the controversial ads have been vandalized already, and the New York Post reported that the New York Police Department has heightened security in the stations with the posters. Journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested Wednesday, Sept. 26 for spray-painting over one of the posters.

Geller said there is nothing hateful or false about the campaign, and the media has portrayed it as controversial.

“What is truly hateful is the attempt to whitewash the horrific reality of the Palestinian jihad against Israeli civilians,” Geller said. “And it’s not just Israel.”

However, LSP sophomore Aimin Mitwally, who is Muslim, said the ads are sad, hurtful and unclear, as religion is being compared to Israel. “Who is the savage?” Mitwally said.  “It’s not right to call anyone savages. We live in the 21st century — we know that all men are equal.”

He said the ads are faulty because they do not use the term jihad correctly, and are wrongly comparing religion to Israel.

“We live in such a metropolitan place that people aren’t going to change their opinions based on subway ads,” Mitwally said. “It just hurts. It hurts that people have no consideration for their neighbors in their community.”

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 27 print edition. Emily Bell is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected].