A group that bankrolled a series of anti-Islam ads to be displayed on New York City buses and in its subway system decided to pull one of the spots after receiving complaints from the family of slain American journalist James Foley, who was executed by a member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in August.
Blogger Pamela Geller and the far-right group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which paid $100,000 to New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for six advertisements with anti-Islam messages, withdrew the spot at the 11th hour. The other five ads will run for four weeks beginning on Monday.
David Yerushalmi, Geller’s attorney, told the Associated Press that the Foley family was notified that the group would pull the ad featuring their son.
“Ms. Geller understands and feels intimately the pain your clients are suffering,” Yerushalmi said in a letter to the family’s lawyer.
The AFDI is characterized as an “active anti-Muslim group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization which monitors hate groups throughout the United States.
The five remaining ads are slated to appear on 100 New York City buses and two subway entrances starting on Monday. One of the spots equates the Washington-based advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) with Hamas, the Palestinian-Islamist political and military group that the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization.
In response to questions about why the five ads will be permitted to appear within the MTA system, Kevin Ortiz told Al Jazeera: “We review every viewpoint ad under the standards, but a series of court rulings have made clear that our hands are largely tied.”
The MTA attempted to oppose previous anti-Islam ad campaigns sponsored by Geller and the AFDI, but Geller won a lawsuit in July 2012 against the agency on the grounds of her constitutional right to free speech.
Zeyad Ramadan, a CAIR board member, said his organization did not plan to launch a counter campaign because it did not want to draw additional attention to the messages. He also expressed shock that Geller and the AFDI agreed to pull one of the ads.
“I’m shocked that Pamela Geller was sensitive to anything,” said Ramadan. “Her ads are so outrageous and are intended to provoke the worst in people that I am actually shocked that she was willing to do that all.”
Nevertheless, Ramadan said all the ads were offensive and should not be displayed within the MTA system at all.
“I don’t think anybody’s making a good enough effort, a valiant enough effort, to make sure that these nasty ads don’t get put up,” Ramadan said.