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October 16, 2014


Contact: Ali Rasoulinejad, Office: (212) 788-7084 Cell: (646) 300-3153, 



Elected Officials Call on MTA to Remove Anti-Islamic Advertisements

Yesterday,  thirty-four elected officials including Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member I. Daneek Miller, the lone Muslim member of the City Council, and thirty two other council members sent a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Tom Prendergast (attached) calling for the removal of anti-Islamic advertisements which were recently placed and are currently displayed on MTA property. The three ads, which have been approved and paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, features headlines touting “Islamic Jew-Hatred”, slogans which seek to equate Muslim-American organizations to foreign terrorists and, previously, a caption reading “Yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline” while juxtaposing images of a young Muslim musician and an ISIS executioner standing over James Foley.


The elected officials, including every member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus and their co-Chairs (Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards), the Chair of the Council’s Jewish Caucus (Mark Levine), and the co-chairs of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (Rosie Mendez and Andy King), note in the letter that the “ads sow hate, create discord, and promote violence against Muslims and those who appear to be Muslim”. Citing the MTA’s viewpoint-neutral advertisement policies, the officials claim that “the MTA is well within its legal authority to remove the ads in part, and reject additional advertisements”. They also note that transit systems and courts in other states have rejected similar advertisements such as these, which the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) sought to have placed in public spaces.


With hate crimes up throughout the City, particularly against Muslim and Jewish communities due to overseas turmoil, the officials write that “[b]y approving these ads, the MTA is complicit in allowing the defamation and victimization of the Muslim community” and that “It is [the MTA’s] responsibility to provide a safe environment for all riders and workers”.


Following the letter’s release, the officials submitted the following statements:


“These ads are patently offensive and have no place in our city. They teach hatred, prejudice and bigotry while doing nothing to foster dialogue and respect. At a time when hate crimes – particularly against Muslim, Sikh and Jewish New Yorkers – are on the rise, we cannot condone the MTA permitting such advertisements. I strongly encourage the MTA to reconsider its policies and reject advertisements from groups that preach hate,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.


“We as a City Council, while we recognizing first amendment rights, absolutely demand zero tolerance when it comes to these provocative advertisements. It is appalling that these messages have been allowed and continue to remain posted.” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “As the lone Muslim member of the Council, I find the ads particularly offensive and not a true representation of the Muslim community, which continues to be a great contributor to our City. We hope that the MTA will meet this challenge and remove these ads, which only seek to incite and provoke, and are not in the best interests of our great City.”


“A platform as visible as the MTA is no place to propel hate speech. The Progressive Caucus condemns AFDI's islamophobic ads that perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and threaten New Yorkers,” said Progressive CaucusCo-Chairs Donovan Richardsand Antonio Reynoso. “Residents, commuters and tourists should experience a positive and inclusive environment, not the hostile one that these ads provoke.”  

"Hiding behind the veil of the first amendment to spew hate is pure cowardice,” remarked Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Jewish Caucus. “It's shocking and upsetting that the MTA's policies force them to allow for such an incendiary anti-Muslim ad on our busses and in our subway stations. These types of propaganda only divide us and ratchet up already increasing animosity. The ads must come down."


“As one of the most diverse cities in the country and the world, it is incredibly important that we do not spread or promote hatred in any form. The slanderous and bigoted ads that have been plastered on subway stations and on buses have no place in our city,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “I will continue to speak out against racism and religious discrimination in all its forms.”

"AFDI's hateful rhetoric threatens to incite acts of violence that would harm the peace and safety of my district's South Asian and Muslim residents,” said Council Member Ruben Wills. “It is not welcome anywhere in our state, especially Southeast Queens. I join my colleagues in calling on the MTA to remove these vulgar ads, and prohibit them from being displayed in the future."

“The American Freedom Defense Initiative’s advertisements are inflammatory and promote an anti-Islamic message,” noted Council Member Andrew Cohen. “While I believe wholeheartedly in the freedom of speech, I do not believe that hate messages should be transported – quite literally – through the public transit system. New York City's subway system serves to connect our many ethnically diverse neighborhoods across the city. It is no place for prejudice and we cannot allow advertisements promoting prejudice on the subways.”

“No amount of revenue is worth the ill feelings that these advertisements will engender. We should be able to live in a City that is free of discrimination and an enforcement of stereotypes that communities are affected by on a daily basis,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez.

“The displaying of offensive ads, which target the Muslim community, should not be tolerated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA),” added Council Member Inez D. Barron.  “As elected officials we have a responsibility to promote peace and condemn violence in all forms.” 

“New York City is a reflection of the rich cultural diversity that exists globally. The United States of America was founded on several core principles, ranging from freedom of speech to freedom of religious belief. While both are sacred treasures of what we hold dear as Americans, we are also mindful of how all of these rights are interconnected. One’s freedom of speech should not impede on one’s right of religion. Since September 11th, rhetoric against members of the Muslim faith has heightened. We can never allow the heinous actions of a few to cast a shadow on the larger demographic of law-abiding Muslim-Americans. The recent decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to publish anti-Islamic advertisements, which can incite additional hate crimes in a city known for its rich diversity and tolerance, is a step in the wrong direction.  We can never allow public space or encourage the use of private space to be used to defame members of our society,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.