- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Claiming an ad campaign now featured on Washington D.C. public buses misrepresents their faith, a leading Muslim anti-discrimination group announced a counter ad campaign of its own on Wednesday.

Officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said their campaign is meant to battle the ads on D.C. area buses sponsored by the Stop Islamization of America (SIOA)/American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization run by Pamela Geller, a New York activist and prominent critic of Islam.

Ms. Geller’s ads feature a black-and-white photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler speaking to Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was grand mufti of Jerusalem at the time. They ask people to stop aiding Muslims in an attempt to “end racism.”

The ads, which are on 20 Metro buses, declare that “Islamic Jew-hatred” is “in the Quran,” adding the “two thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries.”

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday morning that the anti-Islam ads “are not what this city is about. This city is about tolerance and coexistence.”

Mr. Awad hopes to “send a message of inclusiveness” by “letting the Quran speak for itself.”

The CAIR ads began appearing this week on D.C. buses featuring a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew with the words, “This verse speaks for me,” in reference to a passage from the Quran encouraging respect of alternative faiths.

This bus ad battle is part of an ongoing feud between SIOA and CAIR. In 2012, the groups had a similar back and forth placing ads in D.C. Metro stations.

In an emailed response, Ms. Geller called the latest CAIR ads “a deceptive and dishonest propaganda campaign.” She claims that the Quran passage cited in the Muslim group’s ads is taken out of context and only applies to members of other faiths who convert to Islam.

CAIR knows this, and is trying to deceive gullible non-Muslims.” said Ms. Geller.

When asked about whether she was planning a response, Ms. Geller said other ads sponsored by the AFDI, which have already gone up in New York City will be coming to D.C. subways and buses. Those ads highlight what she said were links between CAIR officials and the anti-Israeli Islamist Hamas movement.

Leaders of diverse faiths and organizations stepped up to promote support of the CAIR ad.

Rabbi Charles M. Feinberg of Congregation Adas Israel said the new bus ads are meant “to promote peace and understanding in our community.”

Reverend Ron Stief, executive director of National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said that Christianity and Judaism share with Islam “[a] positive vision of life.”

The message of the multifaith effort, he said: “Stop the violence, promote the peace. … Let’s be one nation.”

Seth Morrison, one of the men featured in the ad, said that once individuals get the opportunity to interact with those living in the Middle East, “you realize that we’re all people.”

CAIR is also offering free copies of the Quran for anyone who wishes to learn more about Islam.

In response to being asked what the public will think of these ads, Mr. Awad was optimistic, saying that he believes CAIR’s message is “in tune with the public.”

CAIR’s bus ads will appear on various routes in D.C. for one month, and the $41,000 cost is being paid for by a crowd-funding campaign on the website, Indiegogo.

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