It is clearly a case of fighting fire with fire. Following a publicity campaign earlier this year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations to cleanse the word jihad of associations with violence, a group that styles itself the American Freedom Defense Institute has sponsored an ad buy of its own. Like CAIR, they are plastering their messages on the sides of municipal buses in the city of San Francisco.
Yet, this latest campaign, launched on Monday, has ignited a debate on the line between free speech from hate speech. One ad that reads “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah” prompted District Attorney George Gascon to declare that “San Francisco won’t tolerate Islamophobic bigotry.”
But is it bigotry if the messages are direct quotes of group members of terrorist organizations such as Hamas or al Qaeda? That is what Pamela Geller, of the AFDI, maintains. Geller, known better for her website Atlas Shrugs, was interviewed by CBS News. In the video, which appears below, she tells reporters:
The purpose of our campaign is to show the reality of Jihad, the root causes of terrorism [by] using the exact quotes and texts that they use.
The above quote, as a case in point, is from a music video that was broadcast on the official Hamas television network Al-Aqsa TV in November 2012. The video in its entirety, with English subtitles, follows.
Interestingly DA Gascon, in addressing a crowd of protesters of the bus ads outside San Francisco’s City Hall, added, “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to look the other way and do nothing.” His words were meant to be sympathetic toward those offended by AFDI’s ads, but they could just as easily describe the position of many liberals immediately following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As to the ads, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said AFDI is comprised of “well-known hate extremists” and said he is introducing a resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting to denounce the ads.
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