A lawyer for an Egyptian-American columnist charged with spray-painting over a pro-Israel subway ad used an odd hypothetical example to argue his client was merely exercising her right to free speech.
“My client decided to take a stand based on principle,” Stanley Cohen said of Mona Elathawy, who was arraigned on misdemeanor charges, including criminal mischief, in Manhattan Wednesday. The ad she defaced implies Muslims are savages.
“I wonder how New Yorkers would react to a poster with an oven that said, ‘Not enough Jews,’ ” Cohen reasoned.
Elathawy on Tuesday sprayed pink paint on a poster that says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The American Freedom Defense Initiative paid the MTA to place the ad in 10 subway stations. The MTA initially refused on the grounds that the content demeaned individuals based on race or religion. The authority, however, was overruled by a federal court that declared it constitutionally protected free speech.
Update: Activist Mona Eltahawy, detained for spray-painting over the controversial pro-Israel anti-Jihad ads which have been plastered across New York’s subway system, was released on Wednesday and will return to court on Nov. 29 to face charges of criminal mischief, she has announced on Twitter.
She said she was held in custody for 22 hours longer than her detention with Egypt’s interior ministry and military intelligence
“I return to court to face my charges – proudly – on Nov29,” she announced in one of her tweets.
She added that she “spray-painted that racist piece of s*** poster out of principle, protected speech & non-violent disobedience. Proud & absolutely no regrets!”
She also announced that four hours before her action a man at another NYC station “ripped off half of that racist piece of s*** poster saying ‘This is fucking New York City!’”
The New York County District Attorney’s Office said that Eltahawy “has not yet been arraigned” and that “once she has we will have more info.”
“No update on timing; all on background; possibly today, no data on specific timing,” a member of the communications office who refused to be named told Al Arabiya English.
Eltahawy appeared on Wednesday in a New York Post video and she was confronted by a woman, Pamela Hall, who was defending the ads and trying to block the activist from continuously spray-painting over an ad describing enemies of Israel as “savages.”
When asked by the woman if she had the right to do what she was doing, Eltahawy responded by saying her action is a freedom of expression just as the ad was.
Hall counteracted by telling Eltahawy that she was violating free speech to which Eltahawy responded by saying she was making an expression rather than a violation.
Eltahawy insisted on spray-painting despite Hall’s standing in the way, when the activist said “That’s right, defend racism.”
“This is non-violent protest, see this America!” she said as cops cuffed her. “I’m an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate,” Eltahawy could be heard shouting as officers apprehended her, NYP reported.
The ad, which reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” has been mounted in 10 stations across Manhattan and cost $6,000.
It followed a disputed court order which resulted in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority implementing the ad campaign, created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative led by Pamela Geller.
Abdul Yasar, a New York subway rider who considers himself an observant Muslim, said Geller’s ad was insensitive in an unsettling climate for Muslims.