Hatem Bazian: Anti-Islam ads on San Francisco buses put Muslims at risk

Ads running on San Francisco municipal buses, paid for by noted anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative, have sparked controversy about hate speech and fears they could stoke more violence against the American Muslim community. The ads come at a time when American Muslims have suffered at least nine attacks across the nation over a two-week period in August.

The advertisements, cribbed from an Ayn Rand quote, state: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the American Freedom Defense Initiative as a hate group.

The outcry has focused on discrimination against adherents of Islam, and rightly so. On Aug. 10, pigs’ feet were strewed on the lawn of a mosque in Ontario, while Muslim worshipers in Hayward were pelted by oranges and lemons as they walked into prayer. In Illinois, an acid bomb was thrown at an Islamic school and shots were fired at a mosque. In both cases, worshipers were inside attending to Ramadan prayers. A mosque in Joplin, Mo., was torched and burned to the ground, and other mosques in Oklahoma and Rhode Island reported incidents of vandalism. In Panama City, Fla., a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Muslim family’s home.

Geller’s ads demonize Muslims at a time when they are under attack.

As an educator, I fully support free speech and the open exchange of ideas.

But hate speech like the bus ads has a destructive, cumulative impact on society. The term “savages” has been used to demonize people of color and marginalize them throughout this country’s history.

The San Francisco Transportation Authority has posted ads condemning Geller’s language next to her ad, and has set up a commission to review its advertising policies.

Caribbean: Alleged plot casts light on the Caribbean

The alleged terror plot against John F. Kennedy International Airport has cast a spotlight on radical Muslim elements in the Caribbean, including a group that launched the hemisphere’s only Islamic revolt and a former Florida man wanted by the FBI. In 1990, Yasin Abu Bakr, a Muslim leader on the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, led a six-day coup attempt against the government with his 113-member Jamaat Al Muslimeen organization. The prime minister was shot and wounded and 24 others killed. In an indictment unveiled in New York on Saturday, the U.S. government accused the four men of conspiring to plant explosives at the airport and of trying to contact Abu Bakr personally to seek his support. Two of them failed, but one of them claimed to have talked to Abu Bakr, the indictment said. Three of the men are natives of Guyana and one is from Trinidad. Two of the men were arrested last week in Trinidad and police are searching for a third suspect there. The fourth man was arrested in Brooklyn on Friday night. (…) Muslims, mostly Sunnis, make up about 9 percent of Guyana’s population of about 770,000. Though Guyana has not had the same level of activity as Trinidad, the FBI has been looking for Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el Shukrijumah, a former Broward County resident and one of the few alleged al-Qaida members known to have been in Latin America – in his case, Trinidad, Guyana and Panama. The Saudi Arabia-born el Shukrijumah lived with his parents in Miramar, Fla., until four months before the Sept. 11 attacks. An FBI statement at the time said he was “possibly involved with al-Qaida terrorist activities and, if true, poses a serious threat.”