Miami Bus Ads Ask Ex-Muslims: “Fatwa on Your Head?”

“Is your family or your community threatening you?”

Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have come up with a new wheeze: anti-Muslim bus ads on the sides of buses in Miami. Here’s the poster:

Geller tells us that:

Our pro-freedom campaign rolled out today on the following buses all over Miami — Route 3 (Biscayne Blvd and US1), Route 88 (Kendall Drive SW 88th Street, from the Dade and North Metro Rail station to SW 80th street), Route 40 (Bird Road SW 40th Street), Route L (Hialeah along 79th Street Causeway, Collins Avenue to Miami Beach Convention Center), Route E (Collins Avenue), Route 11 (FIU Bus terminal to FIU South campus, West Flagler street ends at Government center Metro station) — split between curb side and street side. 

Spencer explains that:

One of the first projects that we’ve been working on for Stop the Islamization of America and the Freedom Defense Initiative organization that I started with Pamela Geller was this bus ad campaign… This is the first time anyone has offered public help to those who are threatened under Islam’s apostasy law. In the Land of the Free, government and law enforcement should be on this. But they aren’t. So we are. It is time for free citizens to stand for freedom — or lose it.

Spencer and Geller agreed to take charge of Stop Islamization of America a couple of weeks ago, at the request of Anders Gravers and Stephen Gash of Stop Islamisation of Europe; SIOA, as I blogged here, was formed in September (at the time the link to SIOE was not clear; DL Adams and Kendra Adams of the New English Review were named as the SIOA founders [1]). Spencer goes on to pose a rhetorical question:

…Why did we create and organize a bus ad campaign to offer resources to Muslims who want to leave Islam but feel threatened?

Because you realised it’s a clever way to annoy Muslims, since if anyone objects you can accuse them of acquiescing in threats against ex-Muslims? Apparently not…

 We wanted to show that some people will stand up against violent intimidation, some people will stand up for religious freedom in America. And we wanted to counterbalance the smooth deceptions of the CAIR campaign. We wanted to show that some people will stand up against violent intimidation, some people will stand up for religious freedom in America. And we wanted to counterbalance the smooth deceptions of the CAIR campaign.

…Sharia law holds no weight or legitimacy here. Apostates are free to leave Islam and to be who and whatever that want to be.

In January 2009, CAIR had run a number of bus adverts offering Muslim literature; Fort Lauderdale’s Christian fundamentalist mayor Jim Naugle had called for these to banned (a demand Spencer implicitly endorsed).

The “Refuge from Islam” website promises to “call public attention” to cases that they are contacted about. However, the “resources” on offer at the site are a token effort: there is a link to an evangelical Christian apologetics site, and links to Amazon pages for books by Robert Spencer and Ibn Warriq. Three women’s shelters in Miami are listed, since Miami is “site of the first SIOA Religious Freedom Campaign”. That’s about it – but, of course, the ads are primarily a stunt calculated to provoke rather than a serious effort to help closet ex-Muslims extricate themselves from difficult (and of course sometimes dangerous) circumstances.

Spencer also tells us that the design for the bus ad was developed “with the help of the enormously talented Big Fur Hat“. BigFurHat is a conservative satirist who is also responsible for the new SIOA logo; before Christmas, he designed a Christmas card for Geller’s readers to print out and send to Rifqa Bary, the ex-Muslim teenager who claims that her Muslim parents want to kill her and who is currently in foster care and the subject of a court case. That was another stunt: not unexpectly, Bary’s parents objected to their daughter receiving a deluge of letters from strangers that might contain all kinds of ravings, and they asserted through their lawyers that the cards should be intercepted because “the [Guardian ad Litem] for Fathima Rifqa Bary, [Franklin County Children Services] and the parents of the minor child have a right to know when third parties are communicating to the minor child particularly when the third parties might endanger the health and safety of the minor child.” This was inevitably picked up by various sites (including Fox News) as further evidence of Muslim heartlessness (the motion was eventually dropped for unstated reasons). The card also advertised BigFurHat’s satirical website, I Own the World; the site is largely devoted to anti-Obama and anti-liberal jibes, some of which tend towards the coarse.

I blogged on the general trend for using bus ads for religious controversy here.

UPDATE (16 April): It is now being reported that the adverts have been pulled by the bus company; according to the Miami Herald:

…on Thursday, Miami-Dade Transit spokeswoman Karla Damian said that after reviewing the ads, the department decided they “may be offensive to Islam” and would remove them before the buses ran on Friday.

Damian said the ads were able to initially go up because Miami-Dade Transit has an outside company sell ad space and does not routinely review ads before they run.

The South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had critiqued the ads as promoting “bigotry” and making false statements about Islam.

Spencer has responded to this with the pronouncement that Miami-Dade Transit is “submitting to Sharia and Islamic supremacist intimidation” and with an appeal for funds – inevitably, SIOA intends to sue:

We are deeply grateful that David Yerushalmi, P.C., an expert in Sharia, and The Thomas More Law center are taking this case on a pro bono basis. But there are many costs involved — and so please donate to the legal fund. Any funds we can raise to offset David Yerushalmi’s costs will allow him to take on more cases like these — and nothing is more certain than that there will be more.

I wrote a blog entry on Yerushalmi’s supposed expertise in Shariah here.

UPDATE 2 (21 April): The ads are now back up; SIOA reports that

By Friday, the day after the bus ads had been pulled, Mr. Yerushalmi and his co-counsel Robert Muise were prepared to go into federal court early the next week. A teleconference was arranged first with the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s office, which took place Monday afternoon. After listening to Mr. Yerushalmi’s brief, the county attorneys conceded the ads should not have been pulled. By Tuesday, Mr. Yerushalmi had negotiated a full and complete retraction of the contract termination with a NY-based attorney for CBS Outdoor. Not only would the original 10 king-sized ads go back up on the Transit Authority buses, but CBS would run an additional 20 king-sized bus ads for the same original contract price.


[1] Kendra Adams has now posted a statement on the NER Facebook page announcing that “Our affiliation which many here noted and followed with an organization that opposes the growth of Islam in the United States is now at an end. While the affiliation is concluded, the work continues”, oddly failing to mention SIOA by name. The SIOE website, meanwhile, tells us that “Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are deeply grateful to Kendra Adams for her previous work with SIOA, and applaud her dedication to the cause of stopping the spread of Sharia in the United States.”