WASHINGTON -- The agency that operates the D.C. Metrorail system has until the end of Monday to post a set of controversial anti-Muslim advertisements that it fought in court to delay. A judge on Friday ordered the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to post the ads on First Amendement grounds saying that free speech trumped Metro's worry that the ads could promote violence.
Friday's decision by Judge Mary Collyer echoed a similar ruling in New York City that forced transit officials there to post the ads in select subway stations.
The ads, paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, are supposed to be posted in the U Street, Georgia Avenue, Takoma and Glenmont stations for one month.
The ad reads: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." They have been widely condemned as promoting Islamophobia.
Controversial advertising is nothing new for Metrorail. This past winter, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) objected to an ad in the Virginia Square station that said "Go to hell, Barack!," part of a promotion of movie opposing health care reform. Metro said the advertisement, managed by CBS Outdoor, was protected speech. The ad stayed for its month-long run, but was vandalized.
In this case, transit agency officials felt that the ad could promote violence, considering tensions remain high around the world after an anti-Muslim movie posted on YouTube was met with deadly protests, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
As the Examiner reported last week about the court proceeding:
... Metro asked Thursday to delay the ads until at least Nov. 1, saying that three federal agencies had warned them of a verified domestic terrorism threat amid Mideast riots over an American anti-Islam video. Metro also received a separate email threatening to firebomb the system if it ran the ads.
The ads in New York were vandalized shortly after they were posted.
As WTOP-FM reports, groups that oppose the ad are asking Metro to provide free space to post ads with an opposing message. "The answer to hate speech is not censorship. The answer to hate speech is more civil speech promoting mutual understanding and tolerance," Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Islamic Relations told the radio station.
In New York, a group of rabbis and a Christian group have paid for advertising space near the anti-Muslim ads to promote a message of religious tolerance.