WASHINGTON — The D.C. transit system must allow a pro-Israel ad that equates Muslim radicals with savages, a federal judge ruled Friday. A spokesman for the Metro system said it would comply with the judge’s decision and that the advertisements would go up over the weekend.
“The result is absolutely correct,” said David Yerushalmi, a lawyer representing the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the organization behind the advertisements. “There simply was no way under the First Amendment jurisprudence that we have today that this ad should not have gone up when contracted.”
The one-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Mary Collyer follows a similar court order in New York that cleared the way for anti-jihad ads to go up in that city’s subway system last month. The ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Debate over the ads flared two weeks ago against the backdrop of violent reaction in the Middle East to the online video, “Innocence of Muslims,” which denigrated the prophet Muhammad . Metro had delayed approving the ads because of safety concerns and the uproar over that video.
The transit system’s lawyers called the ad’s message “fighting words in the context of current events” and said the FBI was investigating a promise of violence if the ads ran in Washington. Still, the violence that roiled the region has largely abated since then, and there have been few reports of mischievous or hostile reactions to the ads since they appeared in New York.
The New York ads went up in 10 stations across Manhattan on Sept. 24. Since then, an Egyptian-born U.S. columnist was arrested for spray-painting the ad, though two religious groups say that, starting Monday, they’ll hang ads urging tolerance alongside the anti-jihad ones. The ads also appeared recently on city buses in San Francisco, where some have been defaced or have had words removed.
The ads won’t be particularly visible in the Metro system. One ad will appear in each of four Metro stations for one month, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
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[Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2012]