New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Aug. 9 approved a bus advertisement protesting the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (which, as we have pointed out, is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque). AP writes that the ads depict “a plane flying toward the World Trade Center’s towers as they burn along with a rendering of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero.” But we question whether the ad’s depiction of the “proposed mosque” (sic) is accurate. An image of the ad at MSNBC shows a tall building inlaid with a giant star-and-crescent, whereas a rendering of the proposed Cordoba House (actually an ecumenical community center, now dubbed Park51 for its address on Park Place) on the progressive Jewish website Tikkun Olam shows it without the star and crescent. Poking around on the site of the Cordoba Initiative, the group behind the project, we were unable to find a depiction. The ad’s caption reads “WTC Mega Mosque—Why There?” The ad was produced by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, whose website banner (in vivid contrast to pacifistic imagery at the Cordoba Initiative site) features an image of a charging soldier with an assault rifle below an American flag.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative sued the MTA in Manhattan federal court to demand it accept the ad. An MTA spokesman said: “While the MTA does not endorse the views expressed in this or other ads that appear on the transit system, the advertisement…was accepted today after its review under MTA’s advertising guidelines and governing legal standards.” American Freedom Defense Initiative lawyer David Yerushalmi gleefuly told the NY Post that the decision is “a victory not just for free speech but against political correctness and Mayor Bloomberg’s bullying.” Bloomberg has taken a principled stance in favor of freedom of religion on the issue, saying the opponents “ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League compared the idea of a “mosque” near Ground Zero to the Roman Catholic Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, ordered moved by Pope John Paul II in 1993 in response to Jewish protests. “We’re saying if your purpose is to heal differences, it’s the wrong place,” Foxman said. “Don’t do it. The symbolism is wrong.”
The liberal Jewish lobby group J Street is supporting the Park51 project, saying that “in the battle against violent extremism, core democratic values like respect for minorities and freedom of religion can be potent weapons in ensuring security and advancing tolerance and understanding. Now is the time to stand in support of those core values.”
However, self-congratulation on our tolerant values is missing a greater point: A brief look at the Cordoba Initiative website indicates that they are thoroughly opposed to radical Islamism. Their kicker is “Improving Muslim-West relations,” and there is much verbiage about promoting “interfaith tolerance and respect.” Having an Islamic institution that favors co-existence with the West (and whose name consciously invokes the most open and enlightened period in classical Islamic history, the Caliphate of Córdoba) 600 feet from Ground Zero will be viewed as an insult, not as vindication, by the real jihadis. It will represent a victory of precisely the values they so violently reject. There’s a case to be made that we shouldn’t merely tolerate Park51 despite its proximity to Ground Zero, but should actually welcome it precisely because of its proximity to Ground Zero.
Don’t expect the American Freedom Defense Initiative, also known as Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), to grasp such distinctions, however. The national Arab-American newspaper Watan reports that their leading light Pamela Geller claims on her blog (dubbed Atlas Shrugs, in homage to right-wing pseudo-intellectual guru Ayn Rand) that “Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Islam.” There are also references to the Prophet Muhammad captioned “Piss Be Upon Him.” She has also referred to President Obama as a “ball sucker” and posted a photo-shopped image of him urinating on an American flag. High intellectual content, eh?
Geller also wrote of Obama: “[O]ne thing is for sure: Hussein is a muhammadan [sic].” Geller also wrote: “[I]t is well known that Obama allegedly was involved with a crack whore in his youth.”
The US Patent & Trademark Office evidently refused to grant SOIA a trademark, finding: “The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease.”
AFDI/SIOA has already got a vigorous campaign of transit system ads in cities around the country. The Christian Science Monitor reported July 28 on ads the group has placed on buses in New York, the San Francisco Bay Area and Miami that read: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!” (Although this blogger, who lives in New York, has not seen them.) They were reportedly placed in response to bus ads from a Muslim group that read, “The way of life of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam. Got questions? Get answers.” These were apparently placed by the group Gain Peace Through Islam, whose online rhetoric and imagery is also very tame and inoffensive (in vivid contrast to their antagonists).
Most ironically, the CSM report implies that the SIOA ads in New York were also intended to counter ads placed by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community reading: “Muslims for Peace. Love for All—Hatred for None.” (Gee, what a subversive message.) Conflating the Ahmadiyya with the jihadis is a stunning combination of arrogance and ignorance: as we have noted, the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt have been singled out for persecution and terror attacks as “apostates” by the real jihadis.
The SOIA ads use photos of girls and women murdered in honor killings to promote its Leave Islam Safely website. Now, the issue of honor killings in the name of Islam is an absolutely legitimate one, but it is clear that SOIA is just cynically exploiting it. The top post at Leave Islam Safely (also dubbed RefugeFromIslam.com) reads:
If you long to be free…
If you are thinking of leaving Islam, be wary, be careful. Do not tell your Muslim friends or family. The Qur’an commands your death for leaving Islam (4:89 calls for the murder of renegades from the faith), and Muhammad is explicit in a hadith: “If anyone changes his religion, kill him” (Bukhari). Many, many ‘honor killings’ have been committed for “crimes” that are in Islamic law considered far less serious than leaving Islam.
Think you’re safe in America? Rifqa Bary has been threatened numerous times for leaving Islam… If you doubt that you’re in danger in America, be aware that apostates have been threatened or murdered in recent years in Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. It doesn’t matter how free or open your country’s society is: the law of Islam recognizes no national borders.
If you fear for your life, contact email@example.com. If you are unsure of how your family or community will respond to your admitting that you’re leaving, don’t take chances. Write to Pamela Geller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Robert Spencer at email@example.com. If you need immediate protection from a threat, call the police immediately.
At the very bottom of the page, there are addresses of some women’s shelters in Miami. The astute blog Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion notes:
That’s it. No links to any serious resources on either honour crimes or protection for women—instead, there’s a motley collection of websites critical of Islam, some of which are primarily concerned with gaining converts to Christianity. What little practical advice is given is contradictory…” [Contact Geller versus “call the police”…]
Aside from “call the police immediately”, the rest of this is useless: “avoicefortheperscuted.com” is the website of a Christian writer named Nikki Arana, who lives in Idaho. Arana is the co-author of Through the Eyes of Christ, which presents strategies for persuading Muslims of the truth of Christianity; she doesn’t even claim to have any useful practical advice for ex-Muslims fearful of honour killings. And what exactly do Geller and Spencer [of JihadWatch] know about running a “safe house”? Again, if a “safe house” is needed, that should be a matter for the proper authorities—and not for a pair of publicity hounds more interested in using ex-Muslims as trophies than in offering discrete assistance.
As for Rifqa Bary, she was a 17-year-old Christian convert from Islam (born to Sri Lankan immigrants in Ohio) who was given shelter by one Pastor Blake Lorenz of the apocalyptic Florida-based Global Revolution Church last year. When even the ongepotchket Global Revolutionists expelled Lorenz for his unseemly propaganda exploitation of the young woman, he retaliated by accusing the church board members of “demonic possession,” Bartholomew reports. If AFDI/SIOA wishes to maintain any mainstream credibility, they might want to consider steering clear of this case.