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Free Speech Wins A Narrow Victory In New York

Last Friday, my organization the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI), my colleague Robert Spencer and I filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for refusing my SIOA “Preservation of Ground Zero” bus campaign. 

Unbelievably, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) refused the campaign because it contained “9/11 images” and associated the Ground Zero mega-mosque with 9/11. (Full text of our complaint is here.)

But on Monday, the MTA recognized the justice of our position in our lawsuit, and agreed to run our ad as originally submitted. This is a great victory for freedom of speech.

Nonetheless, the fact that we even had to fight this battle shows how threatened the freedom of speech is in the U.S. today, and how anxious authorities are to kowtow to Islamic supremacism.

The mosque organizers have frequently associated the mosque with 9/11. But we couldn’t. Through the MTA, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was attempting to impose blasphemy laws (Islamic sharia laws) on the secular marketplace.

Last month, I signed a contract with CBS Outdoor to run a “Preservation of Ground Zero” bus ad campaign. The campaign was paid for in full.

The ad I submitted showed one of the planes about to crash into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 on one side, with the planned mega-mosque (which recalls the World Trade Center in its design) on the other. The inscription was simply, “Why There?”

The ad was refused. When I asked on what grounds, CBS Outdoor told me that the city said that “images of 9/11 were not allowed.”

I said, “It is American history. How can it be banned? What about Pearl Harbor? Is that censored too? On what grounds are 911 images banned? It is unconscionable.” The CBS Outdoor representative told me: “You can’t run the [image of the] plane.”

I asked CBS/MTA to provide me with the guidelines. They never did. And so I removed the plane and submitted a new ad with a note saying that I was still waiting for the MTA guidelines, and that I objected to their changing my artwork and my message in the process.

But CBS Outdoor refused my revised ad, because it showed smoke rising from behind the World Trade Center towers. They said I had to remove the smoke.

Even worse, when I spoke to CBS’s representative concerning the second rejection of my Ground Zero bus ad, he said that the MTA “doesn’t want to associate the new building” – that is, the Islamic supremacist Ground Zero mega-mosque – “with Ground Zero.” He said: “The people behind the new building say it has nothing to do with Ground Zero.”

I said, “But they are on record repeatedly as saying they want it there for Ground Zero ‘healing’ and ‘outreach.’ What do they (the Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan) have to do with running my ad? They dictate what can and cannot run?”

Apparently they did. Finally the CBS Outdoor representative said, “Get me an ad ASAP without smoke, without any flames -- just the towers.”

I had the smoke removed and submitted an ad showing the Twin Towers in pristine condition. A plane flew by some distance away. But then CBS, on behalf of the MTA, said, “Remove the plane.”

And so I submitted another plane-less ad, stating: “I object to this censorship, which is effectively editing the viewpoint I am attempting to express in my message.”

At that point my legal team, David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise, filed suit on our behalf against New York City. The complaint alleged violation of FDI’s, Robert Spencer’s and my free speech rights. It charged that the MTA has decided to accept the claim of the pro-Sharia Ground Zero Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, that their mega-mosque has nothing to do with marking the jihadist “victory” of September 11, 2001 – a claim that mosque leaders themselves contradict.

Comments Yerushalmi: “What makes this jihad against free speech so egregious is that the MTA has run any number of controversial religious and political ads without batting an eyelid. But as soon as the Shariah-faithful cowed Mayor Bloomberg and the MTA into dhimmi-like submission, the First Amendment to the Constitution gave way to Sharia’s blasphemy laws.”

Yerushalmi added: “Mr. Mayor and your colleagues at the MTA and the Landmark Commission: New Yorkers will not forget 9/11 and we will not be cowed into submission or silence. You claim the mantle of the Constitution as a basis for supporting a Shariah-Islamist mosque at Ground Zero, yet the MTA—a government agency of the City—cavalierly denies ‘infidels’ freedom of speech. Enough is enough.”

We won this round. But there will be many more free speech battles coming in the future.

Pamela Geller is a human rights activist and the founder, editor and publisher of Atlas Shrugs.com. She is also the executive director of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and of the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI). Geller is the author of the book "The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America, with Robert Spencer with a foreword by Ambassador John Bolton (Simon & Schuster)."  

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