Anti-Islamic, Right-Wing Group Wins Right To Plaster Hate Ads On Philly’s Buses

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ordered Philadelphia’s transportation system to accept anti-Islamic hate ads on its buses. The ads feature a 1941 photo of Hitler meeting with an Arab leader and read: “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quaran.”

The group behind the ads is the American Freedom Defense Initiative, also known by its website’s name, Stop Islamization of America. It was started in 2010 by Islamophobe Pamela Geller. Great Britain decided Geller’s organizations are hate groups and barred her entry into the UK in 2013.

In 2011, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refused to grant trademark status to Stop Islamization of America on the grounds that the name could be disparaging to American Muslims. The USPTO’s decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit just last May after a review of the content of the website.

Judge Goldberg, however, seems to hold a more benevolent view of Geller and her activities.

The ad was submitted to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in May and was denied. The agency prohibits ads that disparage people or groups “on the basis of race, religious belief, age, sex, alienage, national origin, sickness or disability.” In testimony, SEPTA’s general counsel, Gino J Benedetti, expressed the opinion that the ad “put every single Muslim in the same category (of) being a Jew hater.”

In his ruling, Goldberg wrote:

“It is clear that the anti-disparagement standard promulgated by SEPTA was a principled attempt to limit hurtful, disparaging advertisements. While certainly laudable, such aspirations do not, unfortunately, cure First Amendment violations.”

He countered that the transit authority has allowed other opinion ads to run on issues such as fracking, birth control, and animal cruelty. It’s hard to see the reasoning that would compare opinions on such issues to smearing an entire people.

The goal of the ad seems to be to convince the United States to stop sending aid to Islamic nations. In smaller print, it says “Two-thirds of all U.S. aid goes to Islamic countries” and “End all aid to Islamic countries.”

Geller and her supporters seem to have conveniently forgotten or distorted some key facts. First of all, Israel is, far and away, the main recipient of U.S. foreign aid, taking up a third of the aid budget. Secondly, many of the Islamic countries that receive aid, like Egypt, are key contributers to Israel’s security. Without Egypt’s help in controlling the borders of Israeli-occupied Gaza, the Israelis wouldn’t be so successful at their absolute — and shameful — control of the Palestinian people.

SEPTA’s position has the support of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, a coalition of religious groups. SEPTA has a month to decide whether to appeal the decision, during which time, the coalition is waiting to see what happens. If the ad runs, however, the executive director of the Interfaith Center, Abby Stamelman Hocky, said:

We are going to be sure that this is a moment where Philadelphians know that this is not what we in Philadelphia are about.”

The attorney for the local Council on American Islamic Relations, Ryan Tack-Hooper, had his own come-back:

“The First Amendment protects everyone, the hateful and the loving alike. Instead of suppressing dishonest and offensive speech, the American tradition is to respond with speech of our own. You can be sure we will.”

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is taking its hate campaign to cities across the country and going to court when their ads aren’t accepted. The organization has already won court cases in New York, Seattle, and Boston. As their lies spread, the time is right to deliver a swift, strong dose of the truth to Pamela Geller and gang.

Feature photo is from the Stop Islamization of America Facebook page.