A federal court ruling allowing a national group to advertise anti-Muslim messages on buses in the US city of Detroit is infuriating American Muslims for stigmatizing the sizable community and their faith.
“The organization … is simply fomenting Islamophobia,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Michigan), told The Detroit News on Saturday, April 2.
An anti-Muslim group, the Freedom Defensive Initiative, was planning to run anti-Muslim ads on Metro Detroit buses.
Calling on Muslims to leave their religion, the controversial ad says: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get Answers!”
The ads were objected by the Southeastern Michigan Transporation Authority’s (SMART).
But US District Judge Denise Hood allowed the anti-Muslim group to go ahead with its ads.
"Given the arbitrary nature of SMART's policy and decision-making practices, (the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its directors) have a high likelihood of succeeding on the merits with respect to whether the restriction of their speech was unreasonable in this case," the ruling states.
The ruling drew praise from founders of the anti-Muslim group.
“This is a huge win, not just for us, but for the First Amendment,” co-founder Pamela Geller wrote on the American Freedom Defense Initiative's website.
SMART spokeswoman Beth Gibbons said the transportation agency had no comment on the judge's order “while we decide how to move forward.”
Both sides are due back in court on April 11.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown recently over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property and an increase in anti-Muslim hate speech.
American Muslims criticized the campaign for bashing Muslims and their faith.
“(Geller) is simply engaging in fear mongering,” Walid, the CAIR-Michigan executive director, told The Detroit News.
Known as a right-wing extremist blogger, Geller established her fame based on targeting all Muslims and describing Muslims as extremists.
Targeting them for years, Geller led many campaigns against Muslims, especially the opposition to plans to build an Islamic center close to the 9/11 site in New York.
Geller also runs “Stop Islamization of America”, a group referred to as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center.
She has recently published a book titled ‘Stop Islamization of America’, giving notes on “how-to guide to fight the creeping Shari`ah in our schools, towns, culture, government, and economy.. Showing Americans how to fight back.. so as not to wake up one day and find the country transformed into an Islamic state.”
Victor Begg, also a Muslim advocate and the senior adviser for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, attacked Geller’s group for using rights granted by the American constitution to attack American Muslims.
The case is “is another example of a hate group taking advantage of our First Amendment,” Begg said.
The “Qur’an states 'there is no compulsion in religion' so those who want to leave Islam can freely do so.”
US Muslims have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
Lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
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