127-Member Coalition Asks DC Transit to Support Anti-Hate Efforts in Wake of ‘Savage’ Ads

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Washington, DC | www.adc.org | October 9, 2012 – A broad-based coalition of 127 organizations, led by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Jewish Voices for Peace – DC Metro (JVP) and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP), today sent a letter to the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) expressing concern over advertisements now on display in DC-area metro stations sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a designated hate-group led by Pamela Geller.

SEE: Coalition Letter to WMATA Board Chair Catherine Hudgins

SEE: Coalition Letter to DC Metro Executives 

In its letter, the coalition requests that:

  • WMATA work closely with organizations representing impacted Muslim and Arab communities during all phases of the response and follow up to the ads.
  • WMATA take a similar approach to that of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in response to these ads by placing disclaimers that show that the hate speech promulgated by such ads is not representative of the view of WMATA.
  • WMATA provide free space for counter ads, focused on promoting understanding and tolerance regarding the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan area’s various Muslim and Arab communities, and awareness of the harm caused by Islamophobia and anti-Arab hatred and discrimination.

In the letter, the coalition also states:

“With respect to your response in this matter, it is not our desire that WMATA disallow advertisements that contain any political speech as this would curtail the use of an important forum where ideas are frequently exchanged. We respect the protections afforded to political speech, and do not wish that our position be misinterpreted as advocating for the curtailment of such speech. This being said, we do believe there are measures WMATA can take to mitigate the effect hate speech has on the community and encourage you to take the above listed steps in crafting a principled and effective response.”

In an example of respecting free speech while choosing to promote tolerance, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency issued a statement noting that Geller’s piece“ has no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice” and donated the ad proceeds to the San Francisco Human Rights commission.

The ads strongly suggest that Arab or Muslim opponents of Israel's policies are “savages.” Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer, who ruled last Friday that the ads could be placed in DC-area metro stations, called the advertisement “hate speech.” The ads were previously displayed in San Francisco and New York.

Pamela Geller is recognized as being at the core of a group promoting intolerance of Muslims and Arabs in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors the hate movement in the United States, calls her “the anti-Islam movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.” 

Pamela Geller Islamophobe Profile

[NOTE: The coalition is urging people of conscience to contact Washington, D.C., transit officials to ask that they help mitigate the negative impact of anti-Muslim advertisements]

SEE: Statement from Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement 

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CONTACT: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Legal Director Abed Ayoub, 202-244-2990, aayoub@adc.org; Council on American-Islamic Relations National Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, csaylor@cair.com; Jewish Voice for Peace - DC Metro Chapter Coordinator Shelley Fudge, (301) 580-9224, scfudge@gmail.com; Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace Co-founder Philip Farah, (703) 593-7982, farahp@yahoo.com