Incendiary anti-Muslim ads that previously stirred up controversy when they ran in New York City and Washington, D.C. subway stations arrived Wednesday in Chicago.
One of the ads, which are reportedly slated to run on 10 CTA bus routes over the next four weeks, proclaims: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support the Copts. Defeat Jihad.” Images of a CTA bus with the new ad, which references tension between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, first appeared on Reddit on Wednesday morning. Other ads currently running in Chicago offer slightly tweaked variations on the theme, including one that reads “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.”
Transit officials in New York and D.C. attempted to block the ads from appearing in their cities, but they were upheld in court after federal judges ruled that barring the ads would violate the First Amendment.
Conservative blogger Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sponsored the ads, claimed that they threatened legal action against the CTA if they tried to block the campaign, but an agency spokesman denied that report.
Brian Steele, CTA spokesman, said in a statement that the agency “understands that this ad may be offensive to our customers,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
“While the courts have ruled this ad is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, we object to its divisive message,” Steele’s statement continued. The ads will bring in some $4,500 for the CTA.
Mirroring the condemnation of many in the ads’ previous runs in other metropolitan areas, a number of area organizations have labelled the campaign racist and divisive. Chicagoans have already created a Change.org petition urging the CTA to pull the ads.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, said their group will next week launch a nationwide ad campaign titled “My Jihad” in which Muslims will offer their explanations of what the spiritual duty means to them, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has also launched a protest against the ads titled “Not In My Chicago.”
“These ads are meant to create false divisions among our communities, generating suspicion and animosity,” Judy Levey, executive director of the Chicago-based JCUA said in a statement. “It is very important to say in a clear voice, ‘not in our city.’ We’re better than that.”
UPDATE: In response to to JCUA’s campaign, Geller penned a caustic post on the website of AFDI, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated “anti-Muslim hate group,” that compared the group to Nazi sympathizers:
As if on cue, dhimmi Jews in Obama’s old stomping ground did the step ‘n fetchit for Islamic supremacism. Taking their cue from the Jewish councils of Germany and the judenrat that sold out their own people, they immediately denounced from ads. Are we to extrapolate from this that these Jewish groups support the persecution of Christians in Egypt and Nigeria, Hindus in Pakistan, Bahais in Iran, and more? That’s not a Jewish lesson I remember learning in my Talmud classes.