Tag Archive | "Jihad"

Sub-liminal Messaging

By William Denselow, Palestinian Beat Reporter- A poster war is in full swing these days in New York City and it’s bubbling beneath the surface.

In late September, a controversial poster campaign went up across 10 New York subway stations. Within hours, many of the ads had been vandalized, some with stickers branding the posters as “racist.” There are now three different counter-ads in the subways.

The ads are scattered across Manhattan. Several stations in the Upper East Side have the posters up, as do stations at Times Square and West 23rd Street.

The original poster reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.”

“The posters infer that certain human beings are savages,” said Zead Ramadan, 46, president of the board for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York. “It’s demeaning and de-humanizing,” he added.

Ramadan, who was born in Palestine, also believes that the term jihad has been intentionally taken out of context.  Jihad, he added, means “struggle” in Arabic and has been used in these posters and elsewhere in order to spread hateful rhetoric against Muslims and Arabs.

Pamela Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the group that bankrolled the original poster campaign, said that leftists and Islamic supremacists have misrepresented the ads message.

“The jihad against Israel is a jihad against innocent civilians, and the targeting of civilians is savage,” she said.

Ramadan said that he has no problem with a poster that advocates for Israel. What he contests, it is Geller’s attempt to take a good word and make it evil.

“If you want to put up a poster saying ‘Support Israel,’ that’s fine, it’s hunky dorey, but it’s unfortunate they defame a decent word.” Ramadan added, “They try and make anything Arab or Islamic evil.

Since the posters went up, various members of the Islamic community in New York have attempted to inform the public about Islam, especially when it comes to jihad.

After seeing the posters, Shehnaz Khan, 26, volunteered to join Why Islam, an educational organization that seeks to upend negative stereotypes about the faith. On the first Saturday after the ads were released, Khan and four other volunteers set up shop on Columbus Circle near Central Park to hand out flyers. Braving the wind under a flimsy yellow gazebo, Khan said that she was responding to Geller’s hateful ads.

“I just feel that Pamela Geller is a hateful bigot and an Islamophobe who doesn’t care to know the truth,” Khan said.

Geller dismisses charges that she is motivated by bigotry and turns the tables on her opponents.

“Why aren’t they standing with me and supporting this ad? Surely they don’t support the violent jihad against Israeli civilians. And if they’re so ’tolerant,’ why aren’t they tolerating this ad?”

The backlash against Geller’s posters has not solely come from the Islamic community. In fact, of the three counter-posters, two are from Christian organizations and the other is from a Jewish group.

The first counter-ads that went up were funded by the United Methodist Women, a group that claims to be the largest denominational faith organization for women. They argue to have around 800,000 members. Their posters went up in the same subway stations as Geller’s. A few were even placed next to each other.

Their pea-green poster reads, “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”

Harriett Olson, CEO of the United Methodist Women, said her organization felt compelled to speak out. “The original ads seemed to us to be so objectionable that it seemed important to respond in the same public space.”

While it may seem that the United Methodist Women are wading it a fight that isn’t their own, the Rev. Vicki Flippin, 29, of the United Methodist Church of the Village on West 13th Street, supports the move. “Our Muslim brothers and sisters are people of faith just like we are and that stereotyping them in any way is harmful to all of us,” she said.

Not everyone in the United Methodist community is happy with their message though. Mark Tooley, 47, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a watchdog on church denominations, questions why the United Methodist Women would react to a poster that denounces violent Jihad.

“They seem to dispute that there should be any legitimate concern about radical Islam,” Tooley said. “They seem to accept the critique that to express any concern about radical Islam was to slam all Muslims,” he added.

Olson said that her organization’s posters were not intended to address that issue.

“The point of the posters is not to take on the violence itself. It’s to take on the de-humanization of using the of language savages for other people,” Olson said.

She added that throughout history, de-humanization has been used as a tactic prior to violence.

A few days after the Methodist posters went up, two more poster campaigns hit the subway. Geller’s posters are now outnumbered three to one. One is backed by Rabbis for Human Rights and the other is supported by Sojourners, a group led by Christian author Jim Wallis. They both urge love for “Muslim neighbors.”










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