Dear Mayor de Blasio:
As you know, hateful, bigoted signs that denigrate Muslims will be posted this week in NYC subway stations and on public buses. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), the sponsor of this ad, is one of three groups co-founded by Pamela Geller that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as anti-Muslim hate groups.
While a court has ruled that the First Amendment prevents the MTA from rejecting these virulently anti-Muslim ads, NYC has the right—indeed, the obligation—to denounce the message they promote and to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated with dignity and respect.
As members of the Jewish community, we understand from our own history how important it is to speak out and act when individuals promote bigotry and racial discrimination. That is particularly critical when a community, such as the Muslim community today, faces ongoing discrimination. The danger of individuals spewing hatred cannot be underestimated. It encourages others to think of Muslims as not deserving even the most basic civil rights and protections.
Mayor de Blasio, you were quoted in the Daily News as saying, “These ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong and have no place in NYC, or anywhere. These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city.”
We applaud that statement. But we are calling upon you to do more.
We need NYC’s elected officials to denounce such messages in a way that reaches those who cannot avoid seeing them—as they ride the subway or buses to school and or work.
We call upon you to place these sentiments near every American Freedom Defense Initiative/Pamela Geller ad, so that they are visible wherever these ads are posted in the MTA system. These ads are pernicious. But bigotry will not prevail if our city drowns out the hate with a message of respect and safety for all communities.
We need such prominent public statements from you and other City officials to make clear that we stand together with the Muslim community against these extraordinarily vicious forms of hate speech and that we stand against Islamophobia and racism in every form.
Karen R. Adler
Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Phyllis Teicher Goldman
Barbara S. Kane
Marjorie Dove Kent
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Nancy Schwartz Sternoff
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky