As supporters held up signs protesting Islamophobia, a coalition of community leaders and residents gathered downtown Thursday to denounce anti-Muslim ads posted at Metro-North Railroad stations throughout Westchester County.
The coalition called on Metro-North to distance itself from the ads and donate revenue earned from its publication to a group that combats extremism.
The ads, paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group led by Pamela Geller, associate the religion of Islam with 19,250 terrorist attacks carried out by extremists since Sept. 11, 2001. Printed in large block lettering on a dark background, an asterisk denotes that number is rising, and a slogan below reads: “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.”
“The bigotry and hate this ad directs at Muslims and Islam is totally unacceptable in Westchester or anywhere else,” said Priscilla Read, a community activist who helped organize the event. “Our purpose is to raise awareness about what this ad represents, and mobilize action in support of our Muslim neighbors.”
Geller told The Journal News the ads highlight the reality and magnitude of Islamic jihad and the mainstream media’s coverup of it.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to denounce the signs, suggesting a disclaimer be placed on Metro-North platforms saying the agency does not support the ad.
Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman, said it does not endorse the view in the ad but refrains from banning advertising based on its message. Anders said the railroad relies on ads to generate revenue. Joseph Lhota, MTA chairman and CEO, has indicated the agency will discuss its policies on political ads later this month.
“When I first saw the word Islamorealism, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe these people actually met some Muslims,’ ” the Rev. Gawain de Leeuw of St. Bartholomew’s Church in White Plains said. “But I know these people. I know they are opportunists who seek to prey on the fears and worries of hardworking Americans. But what they don’t know is that this will not work. Toleration is a part of our American DNA.”