SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A controversy has been re-ignited this week as ten new ads go up on San Francisco Muni buses containing quotes used by terrorists.
“Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah,” reads one of the ads, which has people debating the line between free speech and hate speech.
“The purpose of our campaign is to show the reality of Jihad, the root causes of terrorism. Using the exact quotes and text that they use,” said Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Institute.
Several San Francisco city leaders, including District Attorney George Gascon, have condemned the campaign.
“San Francisco won’t tolerate Islamophobic bigotry,” said Gascon. “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to look the other way and do nothing.”
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said the American Freedom Defense Initiative is made of “well-known hate extremists” and said he is introducing a resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting to denounce the ads.
Geller said the ads were a response to another bus ad campaign earlier this year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
That campaign sought to disassociate the word “jihad” with violence and reclaim its meaning as “the struggle,” which is a central tenet of Islam.
“When someone attacks our religion it’s like they are attacking us,” said Oakland Imam Salah el Seeiadi in response to the new ads.
Similar ads have already appeared in Washington D.C. and Chicago.
Geller, whose group also ran an ad campaign last year on Muni buses that referred to Muslims as “savages,” criticized the San Francisco city officials for holding today’s event against her campaign.
“They’re holding a press conference to denounce … my pointing out the truth,” she said. “The purpose of our ads is to show the purpose of jihad.”
“I am merely using high-profile Muslims and their own words. How does that paint every Muslim with the same brush? I don’t understand that,” Geller said.
Muni and its ad subcontractor decided the signs were well within first amendment guidelines. However, the transit system decided not to make any money over the controversy, and is instead donating the proceeds – about $5,000 – to the Human Rights Commission.
In response to the ads, Muni is also launching its own ad campaign this week that will promote peace and acceptance of all people, Chiu said.
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