Community Groups and Allies Cautiously Welcome SFMTA Response to anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic Advertisements
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - 08/15/12) Today, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) cautiously welcomed a response issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in response to anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic advertisements running on San Francisco buses. The groups have been working on a community assessment and response to the ads since complaints of them were first received last week.
The ad, sponsored by a group calling itself The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), led by Pamela Geller, states: "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man." It further states, "Support Israel, Defeat Jihad." AFDI has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/summer/the-anti-muslim-inner-circle).
"While the community respects the importance of free expression even for offensive speech, it is clear that these ads were designed specifically to intimidate Muslim, Arab and Palestinian members of the San Francisco community," said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.
SEE: Who's Behind the anti-Muslim Ads on MTA and MUNI?
MUNI Bus Ads Calling Israel's Enemies 'Savages'
In the statement issued yesterday, the Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement acknowledged that although the First Amendment prevented them from removing the advertisements from public buses, they have "no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice." Further, the statement went on to commit to directing all resulting advertising revenue to the SF Human Rights Commission (HRC).
SEE: Statement from Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement
ALC, AMP, CAIR-SFBA and JVP will be concluding a week-long community assessment this Friday, and plan to work with the HRC to develop requests of SFMTA that will properly reflect the level of community concern as well as solutions for remedying the harmful impact of these advertisements.
AMP Chair Dr. Hatem Bazian stated: "since the message of this advertisement foments the hostile climate towards Arabs and Muslims, especially during a two week time period that has seen more than eight attacks on mosques and Islamic institutions, it is important that all responses directly address Islamophobia and not merely diversity generally."