CAIR-Philadelphia supports free speech ruling on SEPTA ads, but condemns their Islamophobic content
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(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)

See: Court Orders SEPTA to Run Anti-Islamic Bus Ads

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.”

CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Jacob Bender said:

“The court did what it had to do under the Constitution. Now it is on all of us, Philadelphians of all faiths, to find a way to respond to these ads in a way that promotes truth and dialogue over ignorance and division.

“Islamophobic groups like the one that sponsored this ad are stunningly well-funded. Collectively, they receive millions of dollars every year to spend on hate speech that distorts Islam and smears American Muslims. These ads are stark evidence of the need to organize and finance efforts to counter this hate and to build bridges among America’s faith communities.”

Muslims understand the Quran to teach respect for people of other faiths. The Quran says: “If Allah had wanted to make humanity one religion, he would have done so. But he made us different so that we might compete with one another in good works.” (Quran 5:48).

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Jacob Bender (267) 515-6711, jbender@cair.com; CAIR Staff Attorney Ryan Tack-Hooper, (267) 515-6712, rtack-hooper@cair.com.

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