Controversial ‘defeat jihad’ ads show up on CTA buses

A controversial ad that a local Muslim organization is calling “racist” and the CTA is calling “divisive” popped up on 10 buses Wednesday.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad,” the ad reads.

The ad is financed by conservative blogger Pamela Geller and her organization, American Freedom Defense Initiative. It has caused controversy — and some legal challenges — in Detroit, New York City and Washington, D.C.

One of the group’s goals is to counter pro-Islamic bus and billboard campaigns with its own messages, Geller says on her blog.

Courts in other cities have agreed that the group violated anti-demeaning standards that are similar to the CTA’s, but that the First Amendment protected the ad.

The CTA agrees, and without a legal challenge, it’s allowing the ad to run on 10 buses for four weeks.

“CTA understands that this ad may be offensive to our customers. While the courts have ruled this ad is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, we object to its divisive message,” according to a CTA statement.

Several organizations, including the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, say the campaign racist, and CAIR is launching its own campaign in Chicago and nationwide.

The group has submitted an application to advertise on 25 CTA buses and will unveil more details of a national campaign called “My jihad” next week, CAIR-Chicago Director Ahmed Rehab said. The campaign will discuss the “real meaning of jihad and how we are impacted in our daily lives,” Rehab said.

“These are racist ads, and it’s not surprising coming from Pamela Geller and her organization, who have a track record of anti-Muslim expression,” Rehab said.

The Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs also has launched a campaign on Facebook and Tumblr against the ads.

“We feel it’s demeaning to basic human dignity to have these things up,” said Asaf Bar-Tura, the group’s director.

“If these ads can be up in the public’s sphere, against an entire community, what’s to stop someone from putting up these ads against the Jewish community?” he said.

And despite claims from Geller that the CTA agreed to run the ads after it threatened legal action, spokesman Brian Steele said Wednesday that the group never filed legal action against the transit agency.

The CTA will make $4,500 in revenue from the ads.