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Controversial Ad Disappears From Larchmont Train Station

An ad from the Stop Islamization of America group posted at the Larchmont Train Station is MIA.

 

Although many may have walked by an advertisement on the CT-bound side of the that said, “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01…It’s not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism,” without a thought, some local residents resent a message that they say is hateful innuendo.

However, for now, the ad at the Larchmont station that is part of a national campaign—paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an umbrella organization of the Stop Islamization of America (SION) group, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center—remains at large.  According to Metro North Spokesperson Aaron Donovan, the MTA did not take it down.  So where did it go?

According to Pamela Geller, co-founder of SION, “There have been numerous reports of defacement and removal [of the ads]—Hasting-on-Hudson, Larchmont, White Plains and many on the Connecticut line, etc…This has been happening from the onset of the campaign.”

Geller—no stranger to controversy—has stoked the fires of anti-Muslim rhetoric as an outspoken critic of Islam who has opposed the erection of a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan as well as a non-religious Arab-English school in Brooklyn and denied that the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims ever happened, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

However, she argues that the message behind the current ads is not necessarily critical of Islam.

“The message is that it is not ‘hate’ or ‘Islamophobia’ to discuss the tens of thousands of jihad attacks that the attackers justify by referring to Islamic texts and teachings. We hope to raise awareness of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat,” she said in an e-mail.

Further, she said, there is little to link the message on the ads to future attacks on peaceful members of the Muslim community.

“The idea that there have been any significant number of incidents of violence against peaceful members of the Muslim community is wildly exaggerated,” said Geller, “I would expect peaceful members of the Muslim community would support these efforts. Clearly, they do not support or sanction the global jihad or the slaughter of non-Muslims and secular Muslims under the sharia.”

As the NY Times reported in July, a Manhattan judge ruled in favor of the AFDI after the MTA refused to run an ad that said, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” on city buses.

The MTA's stance is as follows: “The MTA sells advertising space to raise revenue to support mass transit operations. The MTA’s existing policy for ads carried on subways, buses and trains permits both commercial and non-commercial paid advertisements. The MTA does not decide whether to allow a proposed advertisement based upon its viewpoint and the MTA does not endorse the viewpoint in this or any other paid advertisement. The MTA is currently reviewing its policy of accepting non-commercial viewpoint advertisements.”

One Larchmont resident who opposes the message being put out by the AFDI is Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a Muslim mother of two and associate professor of International Education and Educational Sociology at NYU, whose research focuses on contemporary right wing extremism.

“I am horrified and disturbed by this advertisement. Hate and intolerance have no place in our community, and coming just weeks after a right-wing extremist opened fire on a Sikh temple (thinking they were Muslims), this advertisement is particularly shocking,” she said.

Further, she opposes the idea that a public corporation—the MTA—could profit from the sale of advertisements to a “hate group.”

“I think we’re beyond that as a society.  We don’t allow that in a public space.”

Others have joined the fight to remove the sign and publicly denounce its message.

A Bronxville resident and Metro North rider, Donna Honarpisheh, started a petition to remove the sign on Change.org that, at the moment, has nearly 15,000 signatures.

A grassroots organization that opposes Jewish, Muslim and Arab bigotry, Jewish Voice for Peace has released an open letter in response to the ads that can be viewed by clicking to the right of this article.

Miller-Idriss said that despite the horror of seeing the ad in her own community, that her friends in the area have been supportive.

"There's been a really good response to us," she said. 

Betsy Aldredge, a PR Manager at the Museum of Jewish History and a Larchmont resident, said that she felt like the ads were targeting communities that were very hard hit by the attacks of 9/11.

“I’ve heard some friends and family members very upset and taken aback by the signs,” she said, continuing, “They’re clearly trying to instill fear to dehumanize and otherize a group of people based on religion.”

Aldredge, who studies the danger of propaganda in history, said that in pre-war Germany, for example, anti-Jewish propaganda was utilized in order to instill ideas of a superior race via science books, radio and school curriculums.

“My hope is that people will see it and question and do their own research and see they’re trying to create conflict and create an environment of fear and intolerance,” she said.

But, for now, CBS Outdoor will work on replacing any ads that are vandalized or removed from their locations across Westchester County.

“The vandalism and destruction of private property should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The attack is not just against my posters, but free speech. No one has the right to destroy property,” said Geller.

What do you think about the ad?  Tell us in the comments section below or vote in our poll.

A statement from the organization Jewish Voice for Peace has been added to this article.

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Sacks August 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Evan the Neo-Nazis have a right to free speech, we hold this as one of our most important rights. Sometimes that right is distorted and intolerant, but failure to protect that will lead to censorship and suppression. Hopefully the takeaway for the educated is an increased awareness of hate. Hate that does lead to attacks on innocents. Hate that is an undercurrent that must be addressed not ignored or seen as no-existent. Ms. Miller-Idriss has it right in being taken aback, but she should not be surprised. Hate and Xenophobia exists all around us. Intolerance is the reason for extremist acts. The answer is inclusion, understanding and respect. This only comes from the actions of reaching out and building bridges. Tolerance is a learned behavior. Although I don’t support the message, I would hope that these ads as distasteful as they may be can become a learning/teaching experience, an opportunity to increase the dialog within a civilized society.
BG7 August 29, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Permitting only things that do not offend you is not "freedom of speech". It is "regulated speech", and it is available in every other country in the world. You only have freedom of speech when you permit things that offend you or that you do not agree with. Whether Larchmont train station is the location to make this point is the best place, no comment
Buddy August 29, 2012 at 01:22 PM
For the time being, even "hate speech" is protected under the US constitution. Dispicable yes. Illegal no. The question is whether or not the law should be changed to bar such hate speech...
Frank August 29, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Fact is, CBS Advertising gives you three posters as part of your initial fee, then you have to pay more for each replacement poster. If these posters are being "vandalized" in three different train stations, then I doubt their removals will stop anytime soon. This will cost this organization more and more money, and who knows? Maybe it will get them to stop. Or maybe they've got very deep coffers. I doubt it. Hate orgs. usually don't.
Frank August 29, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Are we really going to hide behind the 1st Amendment? Every time one of these 1st Am. issues comes up, there's the ping-pong discussion: "this is an outrage!" "Yes, but we can't do anything about it! Remember, we have a 1st Amendment!" The First Amendment does not apply to commercial entities, my friends. Con Law 101, Black-letter law. SO: I note with satisfaction the line, buried deep in the article, that "Metro North is reviewing its policies about its advertising." The MTA may not be able to stop anyone from saying what they want, but they sure don't have to assist them in doing so. They'll call it a "new policy," and the signs will disappear. That's the power of "commercial non-free speech," fellas. It's why you normally don't see signs like this all over the place. There's plenty wrong with corporate America, but even they get that their reputations are on the line when they allow stuff like this to be associated with their names.
BG7 August 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Frank, the way I underatdn it, its not that straightforward. The MTA is a public benefit corporation, and its advertising space has previously been found by federal courts to be a "public forum" with associated issues. Its not so black and white as a straight for-profit corporation.
BG7 August 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Actually - see this NYTimes story about the 1st amendment and subway ads: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/nyregion/mta-violated-rights-of-pro-israel-group-judge-says.html
Stefani Kim August 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Hi BG7, I actually linked to that article above when I refer to the ruling by a federal judge in Manhattan. Best, Stefani
BG7 August 29, 2012 at 06:59 PM
You did Stefani, I apologize for not reading more closely.
Jonathan Sacks August 29, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I'm not sure were you are coming from on this, if you read the NY Times article posted in the piece here, as late as July of this year the 1st amendment issue was confirmed by the NY supreme court (not appellate yet) with the MTA. The judge has stated that the policy set by the MTA does in fact violate the 1st amendment. The MTA it seems is reviewing to see if they can come up with a policy that does not violate the free (protected) speech rights. I do not see how the concept of "commercial non-free speech" applies. The advertiser is not a commercial entity they are a not for profit. This is not the MTA's words. If I'm missing something, bring me up to speed.
Frank August 30, 2012 at 12:53 AM
OK. Fair enough. But I'll still wait for the 2nd Circuit or the SCOTUS to decide on the case. BTW - when I referred to commercial free speech, I meant the MTA, not the nutcakes who are advertising. Clearly, they are not commercial. I meant the right of the MTA to speak ( or not). But if they are semi-public, then that changes things. No, I had not followed this in the Times. Still, i' ll fall back on the conclusion I drew earlier: these posters will get vandalized consistently, I'd bet, until these nutcakes move on. Problem not solved, perhaps, but definitely out of sight.
T Hall August 30, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Put them up in Skank Tunnel where they belong. Sometimes common sense overrides.
Luis Quiros August 31, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The discussion of the First Amendment and Hate Speech needs more in order to create a better world. The burning of the flag is protected by the First Amendment. Let’s now deal with the message on the sign. This is an opportunity to improve our knowledge on Islam, Muslims and the Middle East. Pope Benedict XVI quoted a 14th Century description of Islam as evil and inhuman in 2006. As Popes often do, he apologized five days later, stopping short of words demanded by Muslim leaders. It was not until 2008, that the Pope asked Muslims and Christians to overcome their differences: “Let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements...Let us resolve past prejudices to correct the often distorted images of the other.” Months before 9/11, the Vatican promoted fear of each other: “A new Vatican dictum declares that individuals can attain full salvation from earthly sin only through the spiritual grace of the Catholic Church and that other faiths—including Protestant Christian ones—have defects that place their followers in a ‘gravely deficient situation’ in seeking salvation...[We are] to combat the ‘so-called theology of religious pluralism,’ which suggests that Catholics are on a par in God’s eyes with Jews, Muslims, or Hindus.” We still need to learn to talk about race beyond racism or the First Amendment beyond hate. Our moral core is what requires careful examination for human dignity and respect.
BG7 August 31, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Luis, please don't conflate, as you have done, religious beliefs, or any other voluntary belief system, with race, which is not "voluntary". While one should respect other's rights to their beliefs, one is under no obligation to respect the beliefs themselves. You might believe its ok to eat animals, but if I'm a vegan, while I can respect your right to believe that, but I don't respect the belief.

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