Many San Franciscans were shocked by anti-Islam advertisements that appeared on ten Muni buses Monday. The ads show inflammatory quotes by Islamic fundamentalists accompanied by a picture of the speaker, an anonymous terrorist, and in one case, a victim. One shows a picture of Osama Bin Laden next to the quote: “The first thing that we are calling you is to Islam,” alongside an image of the burning World Trade Center.
This isn’t the first time San Francisco has dealt with controversial ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a controversial anti-Muslim group led by Pamela Geller. Last August, Muni buses featured ads calling Palestinians “savages” and urging people to support Israel; the ads sparked outrage. In response, Muni launched a self-funded campaign alongside the AFDI ads saying the transit agency did not support discrimination.
FDI ads have also appeared in the New York City subway system and on DC's Metro.
San Francisco officials are once again roundly denouncing the ads. In a press conference held on Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee made it clear he does not support the ads.
“Hate has no place in our city,” he said. “San Francisco is a city that celebrates its diversity and hateful speech and discrimination against our Arab and Muslim communities will never be tolerated."
San Francisco Board of Supervisors president David Chiu echoed that sentiment. "As a former civil rights attorney, I'm proud to stand with our Arab and Muslim American families to send a united message that San Francisco embraces diversity and tolerance, not hate and bigotry," he told the crowd.
Chiu said he planned to introduce a resolution formally condemning the ads as racist and Islamophobic at the Board’s next meeting.
Muni believes it must accept the advertising from the AFDI based on a federal court decision in New York last year. In that case, a district judge ruled that New York City’s transportation agency couldn’t discriminate against advertisements that could be considered offensive – especially if they were political in nature.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency – which oversees Muni – has announced it will donate all $5,000 of the revenues from the ads to the Human Rights Commission to study discrimination against Muslims and Arabs in San Francisco.