NEW YORK — Provocative advertisements equating Muslim radicals with savages appeared in New York City subways on Monday, drawing immediate criticism from some riders.
“It’s a terrible idea,” said Colby Richardson at a subway station in midtown Manhattan. “It’s going to spark controversy obviously when you deem one side savages and the other side civilized. “
The ads — reading, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” — went up in 10 stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site.
Many commuters in New York City were uncomfortable with a new series of subway ads that equate Muslim radicals with savages. The MTA was forced to put up the ads in the subway system after a lawsuit by anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York initially refused to run blogger Pamela Geller’s ad, saying it was “demeaning.” But a federal judge ruled in July that it is protected speech under the First Amendment.
To hip hop and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like “a rap beef” that can be resolved through dialogue and understanding.
“A little trust, and it’s over,” he said.
When he isn’t managing his clothing line Phat Farm or promoting artists, Simmons champions an eclectic mix of causes, from veganism to gay rights to yoga.
In Israel, he’s focusing on interfaith trust. He said creating dialogue should be as simple as a mediating a rap battle, were it not for the political deadlock between Palestinians and Israelis.
Muslims and Jews “have the same aspirations and goals that are much greater than the things they call differences,” Simmons said.
Simmons arrived in Israel on behalf of a foundation that aims to promote face-to-face dialogue between ethnic and religious communities. He discussed yoga with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmed Hussein, and received a blessing from the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz.
Simmons even did a headstand in front of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites to Muslims, though he said it was “for the kids” and not for any yogic spiritual reason.
A Jewish advocacy group says its members should also face criminal charges in light of Orange County prosecutors’ decision last week to charge 11 Muslim student protesters with conspiracy to disrupt the Israeli ambassador to the United States’ speech at UC Irvine last year.
When 11 students affiliated with the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States last year, they no doubt knew there would be consequences.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a liberal group that advocates for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, said the student protesters at UC Irvine were targeted because they are Muslim.
Jewish groups that have interrupted speakers in the past — including a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year in New Orleans — have not faced criminal charges, they noted.
Up to 300 people called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, in a peaceful march in Paris. A pick-up truck that was part of the march carried a banner reading “Free Palestine”, followed by five fake coffins covered with a burial cloth, false blood and the inscriptions: “Victims of Israeli terrorism”, “They died for us” and “They died for Freedom”.
The three French nationals who returned to France three days after the Israeli commando assault on the six ships arrived in Paris from Athens after they were deported by Israel. Le Monde notes that there is strong support for Palestinians in France.
Peter Neumann, director of the Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London University, said the Gaza convoy incident could prove to be a “tipping point” similar to the publication of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, credited by analysts with deepening Arab and Muslim opposition to Western intervention in Iraq. “I’d expect a significant impact from this on radicalisation,” he told Reuters.
In Britain, Muslim activists reported fury at the incident. “My streets are in danger, and I say ‘streets’ meaning not just Bradford but the whole UK. This makes trouble for us peacemakers,” said Owais Rajput, a researcher at Bradford University in West Yorkshire, the home area of three of the four men who killed 52 people in the London attacks of 2005.
Abu Muaz of Call2Islam, a radical British-based Muslim group that seeks uncompromising opposition to Israel, said in the past two days there had been “a lot of anger among the youth.” “They ask what’s the point of just demonstrating? In the mosques, the imams don’t have a solution.”
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative that works to improve Muslim-West relations, argues that religion is a key part of the solution in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He uses the Sacred Text of Islam, the Quran, to show how Muslims and Jews are united and are capable of reaching out to each other through “Abrahamic ethics” as the core of monotheism.