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March 12, 2015
Ads linking Islam to Hitler may soon be seen on city buses around Philadelphia following a federal judge’s ruling that the group behind the ad campaign is protected by free speech.
Ryan Tack-Hooper, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Pennsylvania, said though he thinks the ads are false and hateful, SEPTA can’t argue with the Constitution.
“SEPTA’s in a tough spot because people want to see them fight this, but at the same time, we don’t want to have SEPTA damaging the First Amendment,” Tack-Hooper said. “This is not about SEPTA giving in. I think they’ve already gone above the call of duty by fighting this in the district court.”
Tack-Hooper said it’s not unlike allowing Nazi groups to march, or letting the Klu Klux Klan organize a public speech.
“One of the virtues of free speech is that bad ideas get expressed, and when we counter those bad ideas with knowledge and education, the people who previously might have harbored those ideas have the opportunity to reconsider,” Tack-Hooper said.
by Jeremy Roebuck and Michael Matza
March 12, 2015
SEPTA’s efforts to block city bus ads proclaiming “Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran” violate free-speech protections and should be halted, a federal judge has found.
“These ads are despicable and false, but fall under First Amendment protections,” Jacob Bender, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Thursday. “We have no problem with the judge’s ruling, but have a great amount of antipathy for AFDI pushing a clearly hate-inspired, anti-Muslim message on the citizens of our fair city. One can only imagine the revulsion that tens of thousands of Muslim citizens will feel getting onto SEPTA buses and trolleys” bearing the ad.
“The First Amendment protects everyone, the hateful and the loving alike,” added CAIR staff attorney Ryan Tack-Hooper. “Instead of suppressing dishonest and offensive speech, the American tradition is to respond with speech of our own. You can be sure we will.”
(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 3/12/15) – The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia) today affirmed its support for free speech while denouncing as “dishonest” an anti-Muslim ad set to run on SEPTA buses this spring.
The anti-Muslim ad, which is sponsored by the hate group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), led by Pamela Geller, falsely claims that the Quran tells Muslims to hate Jews. When AFDI first applied to run the ad last fall, SEPTA refused because of the content. Yesterday, a federal court judge in Philadelphia ruled that local buses will have to allow the anti-Muslim ads.
See: CAIR Islamophobia Profile: American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)
CAIR-Philadelphia is part of an interfaith coalition in Philadelphia that formed in response to the proposed ads and is working to counter their misinformation. More information about the coalition and relevant educational resources are available at InterfaithCenterPA.org
“SEPTA’s refusal to air the ads was no doubt motivated by their disgust with the ads—a disgust we share,” said Ryan Tack-Hooper, staff attorney for CAIR-Philadelphia. “The First Amendment protects everyone, the hateful and the loving alike. Instead of suppressing dishonest and offensive speech, the American tradition is to respond with speech of our own. You can be sure we will do so.”