Sep 20, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(CBS NEW YORK) — A legal fight over freedom of speech is spilling into New York’s subway tunnels. A sign about “Jihad” is set to debut next week. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it crosses the line, but a judge disagrees. On the region’s subways and buses, most ads we see don’t get much attention. But that may change with a pro-Israel ad that will soon grace MTA property which reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”
The ad is a clear swipe against radical Muslims.
“It’s going to create problems for no reason, you know?” Maguid El Ghazzawi of Astoria told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey on Wednesday night.
At a Manhattan Mosque, not all were pleased with the fact the ad will soon go public.
“It is negative, not positive,” Harlem’s Abdus Khan said.
“I think it is something stupid. For somebody they are very ignorant,” El Ghazzawi said.
For almost a year, the MTA fought the running of the ad, saying the words “savage” and “jihad” demean a group, but in the lawsuit a federal judge ruled that barring the ad violated the First Amendment and the “….fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas…”
“What the court said, ‘no demeaning’ is too general a phrase,” said Leon Friedman, a constitutional law expert at Hofstra University. “Government just can’t say ‘I like this ad, I don’t like that ad.’ They just can’t do that.”
While the MTA said its hands are tied, the ad’s sponsor celebrated the victory.
“Political speech is the most protected speech,” said Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Geller said the ad isn’t anti-Muslim, but a response to an anti-Israeli ad the MTA ran last year.
“Honestly anyone that disagrees with me, I would take a bullet for their right to disagree with me. This is the beauty of America, the free exchange of ideas,” Geller said.
On the subways, some said they understand the court’s wisdom.
“I don’t necessarily agree with what the ad says, but you shouldn’t be suppressing free speech,” said Doug Quayle of Darien, Conn.
While others said the ad should be derailed.
“I feel like it’s disrespectful to other cultures,” said Ayana Sanchez of Union City, N.J.
The MTA said it may revise its advertising standards. In the meantime, the ads will be seen on subway platforms beginning next week. The ads will be seen in 10 Manhattan subways stations and will run for a month.