City leaders condemn anti-Islam Muni ads

Controversial anti-Islam ads displayed on Muni buses are back in the public eye.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative — labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — paid for new ads to run for four weeks on 10 buses.

One of the ads displays a picture of Osama bin Laden and the bombing of the World Trade Center and reads:

“The first thing that we are calling you is to Islam – Osama bin Laden. That’s #MyJihad. What’s yours?”

On the steps of City Hall, city and community leaders came out this afternoon to denounce the new ads as islamophobic and racist. District Attorney George Gascón said:

“When any part of our community is attacked, we’re all attacked. The purpose of those ads is to denigrate, marginalize and dehumanize our city’s Arab and Muslim communities. There is no place in San Francisco for bigotry or racism.”

Supervisor David Chiu is introducing a resolution tomorrow afternoon during the Board of Supervisors meeting condemning the ads:

“While some courts have found that these ads may have First Amendment privileges, that doesn’t mean that as a city we can’t condemn them with the strongest possible statement.”

This is not the first time the American Freedom Defense Initiative has displayed such ads on Muni buses. Last year the organization paid for ad space that compares Muslims to “savages.”

The ads were also displayed on New York’s subway system last year as well. The ads were initially rejected by the New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but the organization sued and won its case to display the ads.

Zahra Billoo, who is the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations, grassroots and civil rights organization, said she hopes the gathering of city leaders condemning the ads will send a message of solidarity:

“It’s really important to counteract the message of hate that’s being put forward in the advertisements.”

Muni spokesman Paul Rose said the transit agency will donate the money from the four-week run of ads to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to help fund a study that will look at the impacts of discrimination on the Arab and Muslim communities. The transit agency also donated funds from the ads last year to the commission.

Rose also said the transit agency has already begun displaying “peace ads” inside 100 buses to counter the anti-Islam ads.