New ads on Metro buses with a photo of Adolf Hitler and a prominent Muslim leader represent the “bigotry and hate” that divide people and spur hatred, religious groups said Monday morning.
“These ads are trying to say the Quran calls for hatred of Judaism,” said Ira Weiss, who represented the Jewish Islam Dialogue Society, which works to bring together Muslims and Jews. “It is easy to cherry-pick nasty parts of Scripture in any text – they were written thousands of years ago,” Weiss said at a news conference in Rockville. “These words used in the ads are like the devil using Scripture against its religion.”
The ads, created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, feature a photo of Hitler speaking to Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was grand mufti of Jerusalem at the time. They ask people to stop aiding Muslims in an attempt to “end racism.” The ads, which are on 20 Metro buses, declare that “Islamic Jew-hatred” is “in the Quran,” adding the “two thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries.”
The Montgomery County Faith Community Working Group – which represents the county’s Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian communities – organized the news conference and rally, which drew about 100 people to the Rockville Metro station.
James Stow, director of the county’s Office of Humans Rights, said he was happy to support the religious protest against the ad. “Freedom is not free,” Stow said. “It’s heavy lifting.” He said he recognized that the group that bought the ads enjoys freedom of speech, but it should use that freedom to speak against hate.
Meanwhile, Pamela Geller of New York, who leads that pro-Israel group, said she was surprised by the protest because she has not heard of other protests against what she called the teachings of the Quran. “I am surprised that these same Muslim leaders are not protesting the anti-Semitic texts and teachings in the Quran,” Geller wrote in an email to The Gazette. “Instead they protest those of us that oppose such hate speech.”
The ads concern U.S. aid to other countries, Geller said. “So if that is the issue, why didn’t these protesters protest against the American Muslims for Palestine ad?” she asked, referring to that group’s ads on Metro buses in April.
Those ads read: “We’re sweating April 15 so Israelis don’t have to! Stop US aid to Israel’s occupation.” The message was superimposed over a tax return form, next to a picture of Uncle Sam waving an Israeli flag.
“As for bringing in religion where it is not needed, that is not my doing,” Geller wrote. “The Islamic jihadists have done that, impeding peace in Israel with their genocidal religion-based hatred, as Hamas so memorably expressed recently when they said on their Aqsa TV channel: ‘Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah.’ It is chilling that anyone in the U.S. would protest against an attempt to draw attention to that hateful and violent ethos.”
Those who attended Monday’s rally called the protest a good step forward.
Imam Faizul Khan, an administrator with the Islamic Society of the Washington Area and co-chairman of the Faith Community Advisory Council, said he came because he was “concerned with the message of division, bigotry and hate.” “I came today to help bring awareness to the community, and bring unity,” Khan said. “I believe the best next step is to create an infection of love in Montgomery County and continue our momentum.”
Weiss said he realizes that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the Metro bus and rail systems, did not want to place these ads on its buses, but the advertising space has been ruled by the courts as a public forum protected by the First Amendment.
“We may not decline ads based on their political content,” WMATA said in an email to The Gazette. “WMATA does not endorse the advertising on our system, and ads do not reflect the position of the Authority. There is a disclaimer statement printed on the advertising stating this.”