Leaders of Colorado’s Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities gathered on Christmas Eve in a Denver mosque to unveil their “Love Thy Neighbor” promotion. Their campaign is meant to counter ugly anti-Muslim ads that are currently appearing on Denver’s RTD buses. They chose this time to unveil it as it is a time devoted to love, understanding and peace.
The Islamaphobic ads are produced by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (using a very selective definition of freedom) and have appeared in New York City in subway and Washington D.C. Metro stations. One banner ad depicts the WTC towers and two passages from the Quran which are, naturally, taken out of context. Geller claims that the ads are a direct response to the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) and their ads depicting a young woman wearing a hijab with the words:
“Show forgiveness, speak for justice, ignore the ignorant.”
Geller’s Denver ads proclaim:
“9,757 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01. It’s Not Islamophobia. It’s Islamorealism.”
The Colorado faith leaders have purchased ads that will appear on 10 of Denver’s buses by the end of the week and remain there for a month. The message of the banner conveys a shared concept of the three major Abrahamic faiths. Colorado Muslim Society Imam Karim Abuzaid said:
“In Islam, we are commanded to love our neighbor, or at least act in love.”
He also says that when his congregants saw those hateful ads, they were hurt.
The Director of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Jeremy Shaver, joined the imam to question the decision of RTD to place the anti-Islamic ads on their buses. As a quasi-governmental organization, their decision-making process is open to public scrutiny. The Anti-Defamation League has challenged them, too, but RTD’s legal department says that it reviewed the ads and found no basis for rejecting them. Other bus systems in New York and Boston have challenged the ads in court but lost.
Colorado religious leaders have a history of standing together against hate. They held a joint event for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in September.
“When we see hate speech,” Shaver said, “it is incumbent on us who are in the majority to call it out.”