If you are planning on riding the 14L bus this week, keep your eyes open for the newest ad taken out by Pamela Geller, founder of the American Freedom Defence Initiative. In response to the recent Islamophobia surrounding ISIS, Geller depicts Muslims as a radical group of extremists showing how one’s devotion can only be measured by their radical acts of aggression. Geller’s ad deserves the triple crown for not only being polarizing, but also for being uninformed and mistargeted as well.
Two years ago, Geller made headlines when she took out similar ads on New York buses equating Muslims to savages. When her ads were pulled by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Geller sued the MTA, and with the federal court ruling in her favor, was able to continue to promote her proudly anti-Islamic views. With the recent obsession with ISIS and Ebola, how could Geller not capitalize on the state of fear that the mainstream media is perpetuating?
Geller is painting an entire religion, culture, and region of the world as terrorists causing fear against Muslims in the United States. This xenophobic response to war is not new and it is a stark reminder of how little has changed since the Japanese Internment camps of the 1940s. Geller has the attention of many Americans piqued because of the recent military gains ISIS has made, as well as the footage they released of their executions of American and British citizens. The association then becomes jaded; if Muslims are only mentioned for their acute actions of violence then one would assume it is a culture inherently full of bloodshed. This could not be more wrong. Associating an entire religion, an entire culture, and entire region of the world with these small organized radical groups causes harm to the Muslim Identity and further alienates Islam from other religions.
These ads — not only harmful to Muslims, but lump Sikhs and Hindus into the same group because of slight similarities in their religious clothing — further perpetuate an intolerant stereotype. It is religious collectivism that is not grounded in any sort of number, statistic, or study. With every religion, there is a radical minority that defaces the tradition in order to gain political leverage and a larger following. But the association that has been made between Muslims and violence must end.
Geller is subject to fear, just as we all are. This fear has caused her to demonize and destroy what she believes is a threat — Islam. Is she wrong? Definitely. But this is no different than it has ever been. This fear comes from an unrealistic view of what Muslims are and what their culture consists of. As for every group that we are fighting, there is propaganda created by fear that leads to a radical view from those who would otherwise be neutral. However, these ads do not condemn ISIS. They attack every man in a turban and every woman in a burka. They fuel the growing Islamophobia in the United States instead of substantiating Islamic culture and beliefs. They are ignorant of any cultural identity as well as ethnic background. They perpetuate violence and hatred where understanding is necessary.
Ads like this and organizations like the American Freedom Defence Initiative will never disappear. It is within their constitutional rights to exist and espouse their views in whatever nonviolent way they choose. But, these ads are misleading and wrong in scope. These ads do nothing to stop ISIS. They do nothing to further defend the United States from their aggressive advances, and do nothing to stop the terrorist organization’s rapid recruitment. These ads instead perpetuate hatred and ignorance — hatred for those who do not deserve it and ignorance in regards to why they do not.
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes