Court allows ads for “The Muslims are coming!’ on New York subway

A federal judge las week allowed the posting of light-hearted subway advertisements promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians, ruling that a transportation agency improperly labeled them political in nature. Judge Colleen McMahon said the advertisements created by two Muslim comedians – one including the line: “The Ugly Truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes” — were not primarily political. “That the advertisements at issue gently mock prejudice and employ Islamophobia as a comedic device does not make their message ‘prominently or predominantly’ political,” she wrote.

A federal judge las week allowed the posting of light-hearted subway advertisements promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians, ruling that a transportation agency improperly labeled them political in nature.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates the subway system and the rest of the nation’s largest mass transit network, had earlier this year rejected the ads for the film “The Muslims Are Coming!” The MTA had initially approved the ads, but then reversed the earlier decision, saying the ads violated its new policy of not allowing political ads.

Judge Colleen McMahon said the advertisements, created by two Muslim comedians, were not primarily political.

“That the advertisements at issue gently mock prejudice and employ Islamophobia as a comedic device does not make their message ‘prominently or predominantly’ political,” she wrote.

The New York Daily News reports that the advertisements were originally scheduled to run in April and May, and were aimed to promote the idea that American Muslims are ordinary people and to boost viewership of the 2013 film, produced by Vaguely Qualified Productions (VQP), which was issued in June.

The judge noted that the ads promoting the movie were being posted in the subway system at least in part to counter a campaign by an organization which displayed ads critical of Muslims.

Last year, activist Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim advocacy group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) purchased $100,000 worth of advertising space on a hundred New York City buses and two subway stations to display anti-Islamic messages and images. The campaign features six posters, including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS in August, and another of Adolf Hitler (see “Anti-Islamic posters to be displayed on NYC buses, subway stations,” HSNW, 22 September 2014).

One of the six ads promoting the movie “The Muslims Are Coming!” included the statement: “The Ugly Truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes.”

Another said: “Muslims hate terrorism! They also hate: People who tell you they went to an Ivy League school within 10 seconds of meeting them … When the deli guy doesn’t put enough schmear on your bagel … Hipsters who wear winter hats in the summer … the pickling of everything …”

All the advertisements included the Internet address of a Web site promoting the film.

Judge McMahon called it “utterly unreasonable” that an MTA official would arbitrarily decide that an advertisement including the word “Muslims” was political.

The MTA said it was reviewing the judge’s decision.

The judge said the MTA erred in investigating whether the ads’ creators had a political objective by seeking information about VQP, the production company. She said there was no evidence that the MTA had thoroughly researched other ads when it sought to determine whether they were political in nature.

“Indeed, the evidence before the court plainly indicates that VQP’s silly advertisements were subject to greater scrutiny than other potentially controversial ads,” she wrote.

Comedians Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad welcomed the ruling supporting their ads.

“We’re thrilled that the judge in this case recognized that our Muslim background was not a political issue,” Obeidallah said.

“Shutting down a couple of American Muslim comedians from spreading delightfulness on the subway? That never made sense,” Farsad said.

 

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