- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Conservative activist Pamela Geller won the latest court decision against a local transportation authority trying to censor her anti-jihad and anti-sharia campaign.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority had sought to keep off city buses one of four ads purchased by her American Freedom Defense Initiative. The ad had quoted a Palestinian TV station run by the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip as saying that “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.”

In a ruling dated Monday but released Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl said the ad was protected political speech under the First Amendment and that a government agency cannot refuse it based on unspecific fears that the ads would incite violence. He granted AFDI’s request for a preliminary injunction against the MTA’s rejection.

“Under the First Amendment, the fear of such spontaneous attacks, without more, cannot override individuals’ rights to freedom of expression,” Judge Koeltl said, noting both that the ads had essentially already ran without incident in Chicago and San Francisco.

He also said the MTA claim that the ad would incite violence “thoroughly unpersuasive.”

“The defendants contend that the advertisement could be read as urging a subset of Islamic extremists to follow Hamas’s command, but if that group is as violent and radicalized as the defendants contend, presumably they would not need a bus advertisement to remind them of Hamas’s interpretation of the Quran,” Judge Koeltl wrote.

At her site, Ms. Geller called the decision “another huge AFDI victory for freedom and individual rights … The Judge came down on our side on every point, upholding the Constitution and beating back sharia restrictions on free speech.”

Ms. Geller’s ads parody a previous ad campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called “MyJihad,” which paints “jihad” as about personal struggle against sins or temptations and not a call to wage holy war against infidels. The CAIR ads had lines like “”My Jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule. What’s yours?” and “My Jihad is to not judge people by their cover. What’s yours?”

After quoting the “Killing Jews” or other lines, Ms. Geller’s ads end by riffing off CAIR’s campaign: “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”

None of Islam’s major jurisprudential schools say “jihad” cannot mean “holy war,” though there is a general consensus that it has a broad meaning and many applications.

The judge stayed his order for a month in order to let any appeals go forward, though MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the agency hadn’t decided what to do yet.

But the city’s political leaders were not happy with the judge’s decision.

“These anti-Islamic ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong, and have no place in New York City, or anywhere,” Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, noted in a statement.

“These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city,” she said.

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