Hate group places Islamophobic advertisements on San Francisco buses

Shockingly racist advertisements paid for by a notorious Islamophobic group led by famous anti-Muslim inciter Pamela Geller are currently being displayed on several MUNI buses in San Francisco, after New York City’s transportation agency said they wouldn’t consider running the ads.

This photo of the racist ad has been passed around by activist groups and the local media in the Bay Area.

The ad states, “In any war betwen the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel … Defeat jihad.”

Sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initative (AFDI), which has been defined as a hate group, the ads have drawn outrage from civil rights, human rights and legal advocates and activists in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as citizens who have called San Francisco’s transportation authority and signed a petition demanding to take the ads down.

Mondoweiss assembled some important reactions in the media to the ads, including an interview on KQED (the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate) with Pamela Geller, who said that “if San Francisco had denied my ad, I would have filed a lawsuit in San Francisco.”

Additionally, a brief post on Geller’s Islamophobic ad campaign appeared on Gawker. Gawker’s Cord Jefferson wrote:

Last month, a federal judge ruled that New York’s MTA had violated the AFDI’s First Amendment rights by rejecting the group’s ads for city bus placement. That decision prompted the Muni in San Francisco to accept the ads, despite the fact that it has a policy against political advertising. Because what’s political about a Jewish organization putting out a bus ad that tacitly calls Palestinians subhuman savages?

Following the outrage about these inciteful advertisements — which were put up during a time when Arabs, Muslims and other persons of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent are being targeted, their places of worship attacked, shot, killed, and pursued by white supremacist groups, members of Congress, and government agencies in this country — several Bay Area-based civil rights groups sent out a press release earlier today saying they will begin to measure the impact of the ads on the Arab and Muslim community. For their part, the San Francisco municipal transportation agency agreed that the ads “have no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice,” and stated that the advertising revenue would be directed to the SF Human Rights Commission.

The press release reads, in full:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Today, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) cautiously welcomed a response issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in response to anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic advertisements running on San Francisco buses. The groups have been working on a community assessment and response to the ads since complaints of them were first received last week.

The ad, sponsored by a group calling itself The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), led by Pamela Geller, states: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man.” It further states, “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” AFDI has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“While the community respects the importance of free expression even for offensive speech, it is clear that these ads were designed specifically to intimidate Muslim, Arab and Palestinian members of the San Francisco community,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

In the statement issued yesterday, the Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement acknowledged that although the First Amendment prevented them from removing the advertisements from public buses, they have “no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice.” Further, the statement went on to commit to directing all resulting advertising revenue to the SF Human Rights Commission (HRC).

ALC, AMP, CAIR-SFBA and JVP will be concluding a week-long community assessment this Friday, and plan to work with the HRC to develop requests of SFMTA that will properly reflect the level of community concern as well as solutions for remedying the harmful impact of these advertisements.

AMP Chair Dr. Hatem Bazian stated: “since the message of this advertisement foments the hostile climate towards Arabs and Muslims, especially during a two week time period that has seen more than eight attacks on mosques and Islamic institutions, it is important that all responses directly address Islamophobia and not merely diversity generally.”

For more information, see Who’s Behind the anti-Muslim Ads on MTA and MUNI? in Mother Jones, and KQED’s blog post on the issue, MUNI Bus Ads Calling Israel’s Enemies ‘Savages’.




If they can now run political ads, why can't we? Using the same mechanism (threat to sue) lets raise money and run ads in the San Fran and New York public transportation system.


From the same viewpoint, someone could advertise using any four letter word. I am saddened though not surprised that people read the constitution that way. The first amendment is there to protect free citizens, not so that dumb people can openly verbly bully another. The way to handle this is simple. Anytime some racist group wants to promote this way, all a company has to do is put a disclaimer above it- "It has been interpreted that the first amendment gives some people the right to advertise racist written attacks. We submit that the following is such and definitely do not endorse the following racist comments. by law, we are forced to accept this groups money and appologize in advance. You may reach (person or group) who is responsible for this ad at...( number and address)". As long as the disclaimer is in the advertising contract and at the discretion of the company being payed it would be legal.


"New York City’s transportation agency said they wouldn’t consider running the ads."
It seems bizarre to not even consider running them, though I'm glad NYC (for good reason) didn't run them. Can you say why? (The Mother Jones article you link to says NYC did consider the ads -- and rejected them. Is MJ wrong?)

Perhaps it's because "the American Freedom Defense Initative (AFDI) ... has been defined as a hate group ..."
But you don't say who proclaimed this definition. How official is this status?
Is your reference the press statement saying the Southern Poverty Law Center "identified" (not defined) AFDI as a hate group?


I encourage everyone to call the SF MUNI phone number (415 701 2311) and file a formal complaint. This racist, war-mongering messaging on busses is unacceptable


The hate mongers need to be reminded that their freedom to speech, even to hate, is protected by acts of such brave Muslims:
Capt. Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan Buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, ... Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Ayman Taha of Virginia, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 and of Army Cpl. Kareem Khan of New Jersey, who was killed there in 2007.
Both received the Bronze Star.
Muslims serve in all 4 services of US Armed Services. American people should at least honor their own soldiers, who died protecting their freedoms, including the freedom of hate speech of these misguided hate mongers. And BTW, Muslims serve in every professions, including surgeons, physicians, policemen, EMTs, nurses, professors, school teachers, scientists, engineers,business managers, and a host of other services. Like our Jewish and Christians brothers and sisters, we share common themes in our scriptures. But, above all, we belong to the same family, The Family of Man.Shalom, Peace, Salaam

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).