Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Federal Court Orders Detroit Transit to Allow Anti-Muslim Ads on City Buses

A federal court in Detroit has granted a preliminary injunction against the city’s SMART bus system, ordering them to allow anti-Muslim advertisements on buses until an upcoming trial decides the issue. The ruling has predictably infuriated Muslims both in the US and abroad, who see the ads as an attack on their religion and part of a wider war against Islam in the United States.

The ads, created by the anti-Muslim group Freedom Defense Initiative, call on Muslims to abandon their religion. It reads: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!”

Freedom Defense Initiative was founded, in part, by Pamela Geller, a rabidly anti-Islamic firebrand who also runs Stop Islamization of America, an organization classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. OnIslam reports that Geller has recently published a book appropriately titled Stop Islamization of America, a screed billed as a “how-to guide to fight the creeping Sharia (Islamic law) in our schools, towns, culture, government, and economy” that “[shows] Americans how to fight back… so as not to wake up one day and find the country transformed into an Islamic state.”

Geller hailed the court’s ruling. “This is a huge win, not just for us, but for the First Amendment,” she said.

Muslim advocate Victor Begg says Geller’s group is abusing the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, to attack Muslim Americans. The case “is another example of a hate group taking advantage of our First Amendment,” Begg said.

But it is precisely that freedom of speech that allows Americans to make controversial statements like the one displayed in the Freedom Defense Initiative’s ad. According to the Michigan Messenger, it was an earlier ad placed on SMART buses by the freethought group Detroit Coalition of Reason that said “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone” that helped set the precedent for allowing the anti-Islam message on buses.

SMART, which serves a metropolitan area that is home to America’s largest Muslim population, had rejected Freedom Defense Initiative’s application to run the ads on Metro Detroit buses.

There is no denying that Muslims have been under attack in this country since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Their civil rights have been eroded and their religion has been stigmatized. Mosques have been attacked and plans to build an Islamic center in lower Manhattan and other mosques around the nation have ignited an Islamophobic frenzy. Last month’s Congressional hearings on radical Islam in America, organized by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) smacked of the 1950s communist witch hunt of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Lawmakers from at least 13 different states have also introduced anti-Islamic legislation.

Both sides in the SMART case are due back in court next week.


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  1. John SmithApril 4, 2011 at 11:38 amReply

    Since when is getting out of Islam alive a bad thing. Think of all the women with their tongues cut out or their faces eroded by acid that would love the opportunity to escape this horrendous religion. I will not support a religion that regularly stones to death women for being raped.

    • Brett WilkinsApril 4, 2011 at 11:50 amReplyAuthor

      While the excesses of Islam are indeed horrific, I think you’re confusing religious doctrine with tradition. Nowhere does Islam prescribe the cutting out of tongues or stoning to death for rape. These are TRADITIONS that people have adopted, loosely based on what they believe their religion dictates. Much like how some Christians believe that dancing or rock n roll music is forbidden. It is not, that’s tradition, not doctrine at work. Granted, it seems the “traditions” espoused by the more backwards adherents of Islam are often brutally barbaric. And I celebrate anyone who breaks free from the ignorance, superstition and intolerance of religion. But to blame the terrible crimes you list above solely on the religion of Islam is extremely simple-minded and ignorant.

  2. John SmithApril 4, 2011 at 12:26 pmReply

    Egyptian-born M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, educated at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, and Cambridge University and now professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, translates for Oxford University Press (2004), as follows:

    4:34 Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great.

    Check out the line “then hit them.”

    Also, stoning is in many versions of the Koran and we know it is practiced today by many Muslims. On the other hand, the Bible advocates stoning for certain “crimes.” Not sure we hear to much about recent Christian stonings…

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