Artists alter Islamophobic ads on SF buses, MUNI adds disclaimers

The original ad. (Photographer unknown)

After artists altered the ad. (Photographer unknown)







Days after shockingly racist and Islamophobic ads started appearing on city buses in San Francisco — paid for by a notorious anti-Muslim group led by notorious racist Pamela Geller — anonymous artists wheatpasted over the ads with an image of a hand and a stamp with the words “HATE SPEECH.”

Additionally, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) posted full-sized disclaimer placards on MUNI buses that carry the Islamophobic ads. The disclaimer says that “SFMTA policy prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics, and condemns any statements that describe any group as “savages.”

MUNI’s disclaimer, which is placed next to the racist ads.

As Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said on The Electronic Intifada podcast this week, MUNI made it clear “that they would not be removing the ads,” because as vile as the message was, “it was likely protected by the First Amendment.” However, the community has mobilized and was in talks with MUNI and the SF Human Rights Commission to determine the impact of the ads and how to move forward. Earlier in the week, the SFMTA announced that the revenue from the ads would be directed to the Human Rights Commission.

Pamela Geller and her group “thrives on lawsuits,” Billoo added. “She goes from city to city, waiting for someone to turn her down, so that she can sue them. She’s using lawsuits to essentially blackmail other cities into submission.” After New York City’s transit agency rejected the same ads, Geller filed a lawsuit and won a temporary injunction last month when a federal judge ruled that Geller’s ads were protected by the First Amendment.

“San Francisco said, ok, we’re not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole,” Billoo said. “We’ll give her the ad space. And so they caved because of the fear [of a lawsuit].”

To hear more of our important interview with Zahra Billoo, listen to our podcast

In other news, The Gothamist reported on a new ad from Pamela Geller and her Islamophobic hate group that turned up at the Hartsdale Metro-North station in Hartsdale, New York. The poster reads, “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01* (*And Counting)” and “It’s Not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism.”

Geller’s new ad in New York.

supertrampnyc The Gothamist

The Gothamist reported:

Naturally, this upsets a local Westchester politician.

Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh Town Supervisor, tells the Daily Politics that he wants the MTA “to warn passengers that the ads could be upsetting and don’t represent Metro-North’s views or that of the community,” noting, “There are many Muslims residing in Greenburgh and in our villages. They should not be discriminated against. the posters encourage hatred, discrimination and do not help the efforts to fight hate crimes.”

Feiner added that he wants the MTA to donate the ad profits to an anti-discrimination campaign, “I feel it’s not a violation of free speech for Metro North to put up a competing sign and it’s also not a violation of free speech if they donate the profits to an anti-defamation league or an organization that objects to hate crimes. I feel that it should be clear that the people of Metro North and the town do not support this message.”

The poster is from the American Freedom Defense Initiative (from Pamela Geller), which complained about some Jewish organizations criticizing the ads, “Look how tough these Jews are when it comes to going after their own who are brave enough not to hide behind the genocidal rhetoric of the annihilators. Are we to understand that these liberal Jews sanction the jihad war on innocent civilians in Israel?




Yet another example of wealthy Zionists & pro-Israel groups sponsoring Anti-Islamic hate campaigns.

Is there any more surreal irony than that of the state of Israel funding the swastika tattooed, shaven headed, zieg-heiling thugs of the EDL, whilst simultaneously attempting to portray any & all criticism of its own actions as "Anti-Semitism?


I am an artist. I will reveal information about myself before giving my view on the ads. I teach in a state university in which those who support Palestinian rights (including me) are punished on a regular basis. My views are not those of my university's (which would become tragically clear to anyone who came to my campus). I speak for myself only. I was born in San Francisco. I spent much of my childhood there. Back to the ads. Props to the unknown photographer who documented the alteration of this expression of public/community art. The ad was altered, by artists, in an elegant, effective manner that raises issues that can be discussed within a larger context. There are many artists who support Palestinian rights and/or reject Islamaphobia. I am speaking out because I am in a position to do so; hopefully, others, and especially other artists, will find ways to respond to these ads (through art, discussion and direct action). Attacks on Muslims are rampant in Europe as well. Those who speak out will suffer consequences at their places of employment and elsewhere; nevertheless, we need to continue to speak out.


Just trying to be Islamorealistic here: As an anthropologist I can't help but be a little curious as to how an attack can be islamic. Is it passed on from the parents? If so, what if the daddy attack is a christian and the mama attack is a muslim or the other way around? Are attacks allowed to convert from other religions? Are there secular attacks, or are they all religious? Help, I'm confused!


Bravo the artist and photographer of the alteration!


Hey! An invitation to you, a regular San Fran citizen, to try your hand at graffiti without anyone telling you it's not okay. Just tag, stamp, and paste on top of all of them. As many as you can find! People will thank you! You'll be a hero to some! Claim it's "free speech". Hurry before the signs go down! Then the message will effectively be "san fran hates hate"

20 second tutorial:
I know you read that word "wheatpasted." That was a clue - or should I say GLUE! It means corn starch and water. Mix them together. You just made glue! Now apply it to something you print out and cut out. Now slap it on a hate speech ad. Viola.

Here's some inspiration:


IANAL so here's a genuine qiestion: Is there a precedent for how not accepting ads is somehow an infringement on free speech?


There was one in the story you commented on: "After New York City’s transit agency rejected the same ads, Geller filed a lawsuit and won a temporary injunction last month when a federal judge ruled that Geller’s ads were protected by the First Amendment." The First Amendment is the one on freedom of speech.


If the Islamophobic ads makers are really civilized, they should have left America the Land of the American Indians and go back to where their ancestors came from. Also, English is not the Continent of America's original language.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).