Anti-Muslim subway ads throughout New York City: Fighting for faith?

AP Cyrus McGoldrick, advocacy director for Council on American-Islamic Relations, makes a photo with his cell phone of an anti-Muslim … Continued


Cyrus McGoldrick, advocacy director for Council on American-Islamic Relations, makes a photo with his cell phone of an anti-Muslim poster on Sept. 24, 2012, in New York’s Times Square subway station.

Early in first grade, one of the nuns advised our class not to associate with children who attended other schools and believed other religions. My teacher, a younger nun, looked uncomfortable and quickly changed the topic. Later that day, I asked my mother about playing with friends who worshiped at other churches.

“Playing with other friends won’t change your beliefs,” my mother said. She was beautiful, devout and confident that her children knew right from wrong at an early age.

I have often wondered if those beliefs could have survived the Catholic Church’s child-abuse scandal, but she died long before the worst reports emerged.

Religions that insist that their adherents cannot read or explore other beliefs, testing their values, are insecure. Religions that try to thrive by insulting other religions are insecure.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) has purchased ads for the New York subway system that read:

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority originally rejected the ads, asking for modifications, but a U.S. District Court intervened.

The Interfaith Center of New York rejected the ads. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York released a statement:

Intolerance, an ugly quest for power and control, relying on fear to motivate – the certainty of some in proving to another that his or her frame of meaning has no value – these all cheapen spirituality. Clamoring is increasingly loud and insistent, overwhelming the power of example, in a shrinking world that cannot escape globalization.

Religious leaders bemoan a loss of faith, driving some to desperate measures. The AFDI Web site claims that it’s “Fighting for Faith,” and most of us prefer faith fighting for peace. Ruthless, mean competition for adherents and power, insults and violence, give reason to Americans to distance themselves from religion and explore spirituality alone or among a diverse and comfortable group of friends.

Susan Froetschel is the author of Fear of Beauty, a novel set in Afghanistan, about a woman’s struggle to learn to read with the help of the Koran.

Related story on On Faith:

Religious groups denounce anti-Muslim subway ads

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  • Kingofkings1

    If you can’t call Jews, Italians, and blacks with their most characteristic adjectives in newspapers and subway ads, and cannot draw those caricatures as well, in the name of free speech, what gives WAP, or any other entity the right to dengrate eskimos or other groups?

  • SouthernLady

    God bless America. We need all we can get.

  • sjag1

    Over the week-end, Muslims attacked Buddhists in Burma, Hindus in Pakistan, Christians in Keya and Nigeria and the Phillipines have been declared as not safe by reason of Muslim attacks. An educated Afgan girl was stabbed 22 times by a member of her family as she worked in an Afgan ministry that needed her education, stabbed either for working or having an education, I’m not sure, but nobody in the ministry came to her help either during or after the attack. This follows the throwing of acid at girls walking to school, the release of poision gas into the school. An Ottawa Muslim immigrant who brought in 2 wifes (claiming one to be a sister) murderd his 1st wife along with his 3 daughters assisted by his son, brother to the 3 girls, leaving them in a submerged car in a canal. His defence was that his honour was the most important thing and the 4 dead people had somehow trangressed that code. This is not cultural it’s dogma and it’s a real threat the world over and cuddling will only incubate more of the same. PUT UP MORE POSTERS!

  • Kingofkings1

    No you can’t.
    Call a black a ni—- and a jew a ki– in writing and draw hateful pictures of these. When you submit them for publication, 100% of the western world will refuse to publish them.
    Call a muslim a bad word and draw a demeaning caricature, and 99.8% of the western world will: this is free speech

  • bullwinkle2

    After 11 years years of rigid stoicism, Muslim outrage was finally in evidence on a 9/11 anniversary… not that the mass murder of
    3,000 innocents in the name of Islam had anything to do with it.

    Apparently, someone made an film offensive about their religion and Muslims worked through their hurt feelings by killing more Americans and raising the al-Qaeda flag over the US embassy.

    The Muslims raped and killed our ambassador and killed 3 other Americans and American Muslims did not say a thing. But over a subway sign Muslims want to play the victim while supporting Muslims abroad that want to kill us .

  • Flicking_Gamer

    Islam seems to be the only religion that can’t take any criticism and can’t defend itself except through irrational violence. Evidently when exposed to another religion a muslim’s faith collapses like a house of cards and they immediately join the other religion. Thus the muslim violence towards all the other faiths that seem to be able to live in tolerance of one another.

  • worth2

    The sign says to defeat “Jihad”, not “Islam.”

  • JeffreyImm

    Susan Froetschel – you miss the real story here which is about extremists whose goal is to undermine religious freedom and dignity. You need to do more investigative reporting on this subject to get at the real basis behind these ads. Using the press release assumption that these ads represent actions of the so-called “American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI),” shows little initiative by the reporter to understand this story. In fact the so-called AFDI umbrella is a convenient cover for Pamela Geller’s Anti-Islam Stop Islamizaion of America (SIOA) organization, created based on support from European groups such as the Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) whose motto is “Islamophobia is highest form of common sense.” Both the SIOA and SIOE organizations have regularly protested outside houses of worship, and have sought to disrupt prayer services, and have sought to deny freedom of religion and worship. This is part of the “rest of the story” that is not being reported. This is not about Israel, it is not about violent jihad, it is not about advertisements. There is no question there are violent extremists whose actions should be challenged, but what your article does not address is that the advertisements are published by an extremist group itself with its own agenda to deny freedom. These are actions by extremists who are dedicated to denying the freedom of religion and conscience which is part of Americans’ constitution rights and all peoples’ universal human rights.

  • sjag1

    Acting upon advice/threats from Imams, Ikea has had to airbrush out/remove depictions of all/any women in their catalogue for distribtion in the Muslim world. It seems the picture showing a woman and her kids in pyjamas brusing their teeth was particulary offensive, so Ikea did so dutifully to avoid riots or censure. Ya can’t make this stuff up folks!

  • enough

    I think you should take a long hard look at Christianity and get back to us.

  • enough

    How about even what the Israelites do to each other. There is growing tension and violence between the ultra-orthodox and remaining population in Israel.

  • moderate american

    i lived in DC for a year and saw plenty of anti-israel ads on the subway. Today’s anti-semitism is veiled as anti-zionism or anti-israel which people think is ok. This ad is merely criticizing extremism. Nothing wrong with that.

  • o0O0o0O0o0O0o

    You cannot call a black person a ni**** in print, but you can write a scathing critique of the corrupting influence of “hip hop culture” on America’s youth.

    You cannot call a Jewish person a k***, but you can write a scathing op-ed claiming that, because of some deep psychological trauma inflicted during WWII, Israel has “turned into modern day Nazis”.

    You cannot call a Muslim a sand-n****r in print, but you can call Jihad “savage.”

    I hope you see the difference now.

  • A W Abdulkany

    Why hate campaign against Muslims. Islam has become the fastest growing religion in the world. Can one hate the entire American people for the mistake of others, like anti-Muslim film?. It is the duty of the i individual Muslim and the Muslim countries to tell the world especially, the American and the European about what Islam and the Muslims stand for. Nowhere in the world it is reported that Muslims have burnt the Bible or any other holy scriptures. It is the bounden duty of the Muslim to teach Islam to all the people in the world. Islam is the revealed religion like Christianity. Muslims respect and dignify Jesus and Mary [may peace be upon both of them. Muslims should make dua for all the humanity to show guidance of Almighty God.

  • dcrswm

    You know Allah is just Arabic for The God, as in the Abrahamic God, as in the very same god as in the bible.

  • dcrswm

    Then why not have it say “Defeat Extremism” rather than “Defeat Jihad” which any rational individual will recognize as a jab as Islam and those that practice it.

  • Andrew Owens

    Many Jews today understand that vilifying all Muslims with the same type of vile propaganda used previously against the Jews is bad for Israel.

  • Andrew Owens

    I’ve read several posts here saying that Islam insults the Son of God. The truth is, it does not recognize a Son of God, like Judaism does not recognize a son of God, like Hinduism doesn’t recognize Jesus as God, like Buddhism doesn’t recognize Jesus as the only God, like atheists don’t recognize God. Get over it.

  • Andrew Owens

    “…and Muslims worked through their hurt feelings by killing more Americans and raising the al-Qaeda flag over the US embassy.”

    Yeah, 1.5 billion Muslims took over the embassy. And 1.5 billion Muslims didn’t apologize. It must be nice to be able to live in a fantasy world where stereotypes stick. Unfortunately, I have to live in the real world inhabited by ignorant people who believe the propaganda you subscribe to.


    If Christians protested every time they were offended, there would be constant violent protest on every street corner in America 24/7 ! Loving God and loving others-call it pro life!


    All the worlds religions are based on doing , doing , doing (works)except for one, Christianity- DONE our savior Jesus did it all for us, the new covenant because of our sin (turn on the news)! BIG difference here folks FYI!

  • PhillyJimi1

    This is like a bunch of 5 year old arguing that their dad can beat up the other kid’s dad. My god is better then your god! NaNa! It would be funny except we live in a world with nukes and the 5 year olds are about to get nukes. I wish there was a god to save us from this madness.

    The sooner humanity can shed these dark age superstitions the better.

  • aby

    I agree to support the civilized over the savage if the “civilized” is fighting for justice and the “savage” is against justice. Is this really the case with the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis? Who is occupying whose lands?

  • aby

    It is not that Muslims tear the bible and urinate at it in public by Muslim clerics, but even the so-called moderate Muslims tell us to our face in a matter of fact tone that the bible is corrupted. Their “proof” is that it does not prophesy the coming of their “prophet”.

  • dcrswm

    Also, it is the same god….they just pray to it in a different language and recognize a different profit.

  • dcrswm

    halozcel2, you are so wildly ignorant of both history and religion (I’m not even going to start with your “command” of the English language) that attempting to have a rational argument with you is literally a waste of time. I would have a better chance of teaching a cabbage how to dance than get you to recognize why you are so very very wrong….