Hamid Kargaran was pacing in his San Francisco living room Sunday, not watching the news, trying to stay positive, waiting for his wife to call from Iran. She was due to leave for the airport within the hour, hoping that this time she wouldn’t be prevented from boarding a plane back home.
“I never thought when I moved here and made this country my home that this would happen,” he said. “I employ people, I pay taxes. We love this country. But I feel like the hard work has been meaningless. We’re second-class citizens.”
Now he was waiting, and he knew there would be no relief until his wife actually walked into the sun in San Francisco. In three hours, she would find out whether Lufthansa agents in Tehran would let her onto a plane. In Germany, she would learn whether officials there would let her transit to California. At home, she still had to pass through U.S. passport control.
“I don’t know,” Kargaran said. “We’ve tried to do everything right. Doesn’t that matter?”
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a Michigan transit authority could bar from the side of its buses an advertisement that read: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got Questions? Get Answers! RefugefromIslam.com”
The group behind the ads is the the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which describes its mission as acting “against the treason being committed by national, state, and local government officials, the mainstream media, and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.”
The group had sought in 2010 to place the ads on the buses in Michigan’s four southeastern-most counties, but the authority refused, on the grounds that the ads violated a policy against political advertisements and offensive speech.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said Thursday said that the side of the bus, in this case, wasn’t a public forum because the transit authority – Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART – rejected all political advertisements. The state never opened the space for discourse.
WASHINGTON — The D.C. transit system must allow a pro-Israel ad that equates Muslim radicals with savages, a federal judge ruled Friday. A spokesman for the Metro system said it would comply with the judge’s decision and that the advertisements would go up over the weekend.
“The result is absolutely correct,” said David Yerushalmi, a lawyer representing the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the organization behind the advertisements. “There simply was no way under the First Amendment jurisprudence that we have today that this ad should not have gone up when contracted.”
The one-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Mary Collyer follows a similar court order in New York that cleared the way for anti-jihad ads to go up in that city’s subway system last month. The ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The transit system’s lawyers called the ad’s message “fighting words in the context of current events” and said the FBI was investigating a promise of violence if the ads ran in Washington. Still, the violence that roiled the region has largely abated since then, and there have been few reports of mischievous or hostile reactions to the ads since they appeared in New York.
Striking back against an anti-jihad advertisement in the subways widely perceived as anti-Muslim, two religious groups – one Jewish, one Christian – are taking out subway ads of their own to urge tolerance.
Rabbis for Human Rights – North America and the group Sojourners, led by the Christian author and social-justice advocate Jim Wallis, are unveiling their campaigns on Monday. Their ads will be placed near the anti-jihad ads in the same Manhattan subway stations, leaders of both groups said and transit officials confirmed. The groups said their campaigns were coincidental.
The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights turns the language of the earlier ad, placed by a pro-Israel group, on its head. The original ad says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights says, “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”
Rabbi Jacobs said: “Geller thinks she is speaking for the entire Jewish community. We are a group of 1,800 rabbis and we want everyone to know that we have to work in partnership with the Muslim community and do not believe in dehumanizing them.”
A Sojourners solicitation for donations says: “Hateful anti-Muslim ads only result in violence, hatred, and more fear. Everyone — regardless of race, religion, or creed — deserves to feel welcome & safe when riding public transit in the United States.”
An Egyptian-American columnist, who rose to prominence on social media last year for her commentary during the revolution in Egypt, was arrested in the Times Square subway station on Tuesday for spraying pink paint on a pro-Israel poster that calls Islamist opponents of the Jewish state “savage.”
The poster was one of 10 placed in subway stations across the transit system this week, on the heels of violent and sometimes deadly protests across the Muslim world in response to an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
The columnist, Mona Eltahawy, is a former Reuters correspondent now based in New York who became a dual citizen of Egypt and the United States last year. Her Twitter feed, which has more than 160,000 followers, became popular last year as a source of information on the Egyptian revolution.
Ms. Eltahawy, initially known for her commentary on the Egyptian revolution from afar, became personally involved in the protest movement last November, when she used her Twitter feed to document her physical and sexual abuse by Egyptian police officers following a crackdown on a demonstration near Tahrir Square in Cairo.
In May, she earned the enmity of many Egyptians for writing a Foreign Policy cover story on women’s rights in the Middle East published with the headline “Why Do They Hate Us?”
News of Ms. Eltahawy’s arrest made headlines in Egypt and earned her praise from like-minded Internet activists. A Lebanese blogger, who was less impressed with the stunt, wrote a satirical blog post accusing Ms. Eltahawy of attention-seeking.
NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved new guidelines for advertisements on Thursday, prohibiting those that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.”
Under a policy adopted Thursday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, ads expressing political, religious or moral viewpoints will have to include legends cautioning that the views being expressed aren’t necessarily endorsed by the MTA. The disclaimers also will carry the names of the people or groups sponsoring the advertisements.
The ad, which began running in the nation’s biggest transit system this month as a result of the court order, says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
This week, an Egyptian-born U.S. columnist was arrested for spray-painting one of the advertisements in a Manhattan subway station. The columnist, Mona Eltahawy, who calls herself a liberal Muslim who’s spoken publicly against violent Islamic groups, said as police officers were arresting her, “I’m an Egyptian-American, and I refuse hate.”
In a statement, the MTA said it had considered banning political speech and restricting ads to only those with commercial messages.
NEW YORK — New York’s Sikh and Muslim transit workers will be allowed to wear religious head coverings without a government agency logo after years of bitter legal battles that started after the 9/11 terror attacks.
A settlement between workers and New York City Transit run by the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority was announced Wednesday.
“This was the back-of-the-bus solution,” said Amardeep Singh, a Sikh-American community spokesman who compared the agency’s dealings with the employees to the pre-civil rights practice of seating black Americans at the back of public buses.
The agency issued a policy before 9/11 forcing employees wearing the traditional Sikh turbans and Muslim khimars, or headscarves, to work out of public view. Some were reassigned from bus routes to nonpublic jobs in depots.
The agency later changed the policy so that workers were allowed to wear the head coverings in public — but only with the MTA logo attached.
Shayana Kadidal, an attorney at Manhattan’s Center for Constitutional Rights, said it was “a calculated attempt” to hide certain workers “on the grounds that they ‘look Muslim’ and might alarm the public for that reason.”
Among them was a subway train operator who became a 9/11 hero, for evacuating more than 800 people from the subway near the World Trade Center by maneuvering his train to safety after power was knocked out. Above, the towers were collapsing and dust filled the station.
“The MTA honored me for driving my train in reverse away from the towers on 9/11 and leading passengers to safety,” said motorman Kevin Harrington. “I didn’t have a corporate logo on my turban on 9/11.”
The problem started when his client, Malikah Alkebulan, a Muslim bus driver, was hired several months after Sept. 11, 2001. While in training, he said, “she was told she would have to take ‘that thing’ off her head.”
Telegraaf reports that a tram conductor has been suspended for wearing a cross, though the headscarf is permitted for Muslim employees. The conductor, Ezzat Aziz, is seeking a summary injunction against the transit authority GVB for discrimination. GVB defends the move, explaining that it “has had a new uniform for a year. To ensure a professional image, jewellery may not be worn visibly over the uniform..”
Four men arrested in Kenya for allegedly plotting terror attacks were released from detention in the Netherlands on Friday. The men were arrested near the Somalian border in July, thought to be in transit to a jihadist training camp and later deported to Belgium before extradition to the Netherlands. “We have not yet received any information from Kenya concerning their alleged terrorist activities”, public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told the German Press Agency dpa. “Therefore we have no legal grounds to extend their detention.” The men have been released without condition.
According to its annual report on terrorism, the U.S. State Department stated that “Spain remained an important transit and logistical base for terrorist organizations operating in Western Europe.” The State Department also said that Spain’s government and citizenry “were concerned that their country remained a principal target of domestic terrorism and Islamic extremism.” During 2008, Spain made 65 arrests of persons suspected of Islamic terrorism, including alleged sympathizers of groups like al-Qaeda. Despite the ongoing threat within Spain, the State Department said that Spain has made great efforts to prevent terrorists from getting access to its national financial institutions.
This news article highlights the importance of transnational cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and the reality that in order to strengthen its intelligence in areas of national security, international agencies require the working together across national lines and boundaries.