Jewish Groups Condemn Ads Promoting Hate and Anti-Muslim Bigotry
and Pledge to Challenge Islamophobia
Jews Against Islamophobia (JAI), a coalition of three Jewish organizations, condemns the hate-mongering ads, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), that will begin appearing in New York City subway stations the last week of September. “During this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which, for many Jews, is a time of reflection and introspection, we must recommit ourselves to standing up against these ads and all forms of Islamophobia,” pledged JAI member Marjorie Dove Kent, executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), one of JAI’s member groups.
The ad states: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man.” Below that statement, it reads: “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” “This message denigrates Muslims, Palestinians, and other Arabs,” said JAI member Elly Bulkin. “Its use of the term ‘savages’ has resonance for all communities of color in this country that have faced a long history of racism and discrimination against them.”
The American Freedom Defense Initiative ad is part of a nationwide campaign to demonize Muslim and Arab Americans. The AFDI also funded an identical ad that ran this summer on San Francisco municipal buses, as well as an advertisement vilifying Islam that it placed on Metro-North train platforms in August. In both cases, a wide range of interfaith and civil rights groups came together to denounce the ads and to stand up for unity and solidarity. The AFDI’s Pamela Geller is co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
This anti-Muslim ad campaign takes place in the context of a post-9/11 atmosphere of fear, hate, and bigotry in the United States that targets Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners, Sikhs and other South Asians. The ads also come at a time of recent violent attacks and acts of harassment in New York City and across the country: the burning to the ground of a mosque in Missouri; the firing of an air rifle at the Muslim Education Center in Illinois while 500 people were praying; the throwing of a homemade bomb at a Muslim school in Illinois and a Muslim home in Florida; worshipers harassed by teenagers at a California mosque; and the vandalism and desecration of mosques, including recently on Staten Island. The hatred of Muslims expressed in these acts, along with anti-Sikh sentiment, created an atmosphere of hate, suspicion, and bigotry that contributed to the August attack by a white supremacist who killed six Sikhs at their gurudwara in suburban Milwaukee.
While the blatant Islamophobia in the ads is shocking, clearly anti-Muslim attitudes are also displayed by New York City Police Department (NYPD) policies, including police surveillance of Muslims that has flagrantly violated the community’s civil and human rights. These policies contribute to the atmosphere of Islamophobia in which people like Geller thrive. An NYPD intelligence official recently conceded that the NYPD widespread surveillance of the Muslim American community and infiltration of mosques had not uncovered a single criminal lead. As civil rights lawyer Alan Levine, also a member of JAI, recently wrote in the National Law Journal: “The Muslim community should not have to wait a day longer for city officials to abandon a practice that so flagrantly affronts principles of equal justice and religious freedom.”
People across New York City are joining the Muslim community to oppose these ads and to ensure that the rights of all our communities are fully protected and that no group is subjected to any form of harassment or racism. Jews Against Islamophobia pledges to be part of that movement for justice. As JAI member Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, noted, “Knowing too well from our history how harmful bigotry and vilification of any religious or ethnic group can be, we feel especially obligated to speak out against Islamophobia. We urge the rest of the Jewish community, and all communities, to join us.”
Jews Against Islamophobia (JAI) is a coalition of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/