Anti-Islamic Ads Bring More Metro-North Controversy

Many call it hate speech, but the anti-Islamic ads are protected by the First Amendment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Riders on Metro-North's Harlem line are reacting to a new controversial greeting on train platforms throughout Westchester. Jonathan Vigliotti has more.

    Riders on Metro-North's Harlem line are reacting to a new controversial greeting on train platforms throughout Westchester.

    'It just seems out of place," said one commuter while while viewing the startling ads. "I think it's hateful."

    The billboards, which read “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01 and counting. Not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism,” are the latest shot from the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

    The controversial group  first made headlines in New York for its fight against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque project.
     
    The Metro North line has become the group’s new battleground because anti-Israel ads were recently posted at stations, ads claiming Israel turned Palestinians into refugees.

    The latest ads, according to the woman who bought them, are a blunt response.

    "The ad is just stating a fact --  that there have been over 19,000 jihad attacks since 9/11," said Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. "How is it 'Islamophobic' to point that out?"

    While many riders say the poster is hate speech, U.S .courts  consider it political speech, which is protected under the first amendment. Now local officials want the MTA to deliver a speech of their own.

    "The MTA should denounce the ads. Another option is for them to give the money from these ads to organizations that fight hate crimes, like the anti defamation league," said Greenburg town supervisor Paul Feiner.

    He emailed the MTA, but hasn't heard back. The MTA, in a statement to NBC 4 New York, said the agency does not reject ads based on controversy, but went on to say: 'The MTA does not endorse the viewpoint expressed in this ad or any of the ads that MTA accepts for display on its facilities.”

    In a statement, the Anti Defamation League said: “We believe these ads are highly offensive and inflammatory. Pro-Israel doesn’t mean anti-Muslim. It is possible to support Israel without engaging in bigoted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes.”