DENVER - A new advertisements equating Jihad with savagery in Denver in the US state of Colorado is inviting the anger of Jewish and Muslim groups in the United States for stoking religious hatred and intolerance.
"This whole campaign insinuates Muslims are violent," said Asaf Bar-Tura, programs director for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Reuters reported.
New ads appeared on the back of buses of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) equating Jihad to savagery.
"In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man," the ad says.
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They conclude with the words, "Support Copts. Defeat Jihad," referring to friction between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt.
The ads are sponsored by anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, the head of the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative.
So far, federal judges have sided with the advertisement's sponsor, which sued transit authorities in New York City and Washington, D.C., when they initially rejected the ads.
Those judges ruled that public forums such as buses and trains cannot bar advertising entitled to First Amendment protection.
On her blog, Geller posted a letter from her lawyer threatening legal action against the CTA if the agency didn't place the ads.
Brian Steele, a spokesman for the CTA, denied that the authority was threatened with a lawsuit.
But the precedents did deter the CTA from rejecting the ads, which are expected to run on different routes each day for four weeks.
"While those courts agreed that the AFDI ads violate anti-disparagement or anti-demeaning standards similar to CTA's, that violation in and of itself did not remove AFDI's First Amendment protection to place the ads," Steele said in a statement.
"CTA understands that this ad may be offensive to our customers," he added.
"While the courts have ruled this ad is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, we object to its divisive message."
But the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs urged CTA to distance itself from the anti-Islam ads.
"If it's within their legal powers, (CTA) should either not put it up because they incite hate and stereotypical thinking or put a label next to each sign saying, 'The CTA disagrees with this ad,'" Bar-Tura said.
The umbrella Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it would accelerate its campaign next week to counter the offensive ads.
"I don't feel the urge to fight. â¦ I'd rather put out the alternative," Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR's Chicago chapter said.
"People can decide what racism is."
In October, CAIR championed a campaign to counter the anti-Jihad ads with signs reading a passage from Noble Qur'an saying: "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant."
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim sentiments sharply grew in the United States over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.A recent report by CAIR and the University of California said that Islamophobia is on the rise in the US.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net