SEPTA is being asked to run an anti-Muslim advertisement. The transit agency is fighting the effort but might not have a choice.
The ad features pictures of a now dead Muslim leader and Hitler under the banner “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran.”
A federal judge has already ruled similar anti-Islam ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative must be posted in New York and Washington transit systems, but SEPTA is refusing to run them here.
AFDI sued the transit agency in federal court complaining violation of free speech rights. Pamela Gellar is the blogger behind the ads. She told the Associated Press she won’t change the ads to make them less offensive.
“I will not sacrifice my freedom so as not to offend savages,” Gellar said.
Attorney Ryan Tack-Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Philadelphia says running the ad will only highlight the ignorance of hate speech.
“I think for most Philadelphians, including the hundreds of thousands of Muslims and people who have Muslim neighbors and friends, the ads are nothing more than this type of open bigotry exists,” Tack-Hooper said. “For people who aren’t familiar with Islam if they run this is an opportunity to educate them.”
Mary Catherine Roper of the American Civil Liberties Union says SEPTA will have a hard time fighting the American Freedom Defense Initiative free speech argument.
“The federal courts have already ruled that SEPTA as a government agency can’t pick and choose which ads to run based on whether it agrees with them,” Roper said. “That’s a really important rule that we support that government doesn’t get to decide what speech goes up in public. That said there’s nothing to stop SEPTA or anyone else who disagrees with the speech from saying so.”
SEPTA officials will not comment on the issue because it is pending litigation.