Muslim Students Association: let SEPTA ads spark discussion

Eighty-four SEPTA buses will feature an ad which states “Jew Hatred: it’s in the Quran.”

Khalid Blankinship, chair of the department of religion, reads from the Quran in his office in Anderson Hall. |Kathryn Stellato TTN
Khalid Blankinship, chair of the department of religion, reads from the Quran in his office in Anderson Hall. |Kathryn Stellato TTN

A controversial advertisement which some feel is offensive toward Islam will appear on SEPTA buses.

The ad, funded by the American Freedom Law Center, incorporates a black-and-white photo showing Adolf Hitler seated with Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian nationalist who supported the Axis powers in World War II. Next to the image is the text: “Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran.”

The ads will run on 84 SEPTA buses for an entire month, which will cost $30,000. At a university with a sizable population of both Muslim and commuter students, it’s likely that many will see the advertisements. Temple’s Muslim Students Association said in a statement that they hope the ads spark discussions among those unfamiliar with the religion, and discouraged students from vandalizing the ads.

“We must work together with the leaders of the communities involved in order to create an environment of understanding,” the statement read. “We would urge people not to [vandalize] because it is important to be respectful of other people’s opinions and that is what our religion teaches.”

Khalid Blankinship, chair of the department of religion, said the ads posed a greater question to the limitations of speech. He believes the ads, by stating what the backing organization believes to be in the Quran, seek to harm Muslims’ “ability to interpret their own scripture in their own way.”

Blankinship added that it could be difficult to work through the differences in opinions about religion, because each side might comprehend religion differently.

“One person’s hate group is another person’s freedom fighter … something where there is no objective designation,” he said.

SEPTA suggested that the ads were insinuating demoralizing rhetoric towards a person or population of individuals based on race, sex, religion, ancestry, national origin or special needs.

Members of the Islamic community in Philadelphia as well as other religious organizations in the city, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, had protested the ads.

In a news conference held last week in LOVE Park, Mayor Michael Nutter said residents should not let the ads affect relations in the city.

“We will not allow any misguided and opportunistic political tactics to undermine or obscure the shared respect among communities of faith,” Nutter said.

Multiple courts have ruled that the ad must run in order to not deny the group its First-Amendment right to free speech. To not run, SEPTA would have to cease running all religious advertisements.

Allen Habtamu can be reached at


  1. Ishaq 262 – “Some Muslims remained friends with the Jews, so Allah sent down a Qur’an forbidding them to take Jews as friends. From their mouths hatred has already shown itself and what they conceal is worse”

  2. Qur’an (1:5-7) – “Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray” This is a prayer that Muslims are supposed to repeat each day. “Those who earn Thine anger” specifically refers to Jews and “those who go astray” refers to Christians (see Bukhari (12:749)).

  3. The Myth:

    Muhammad Lived at Peace with the Jews
    Part 1: The Banu Qaynuqa

    The Truth:

    The early part of the Qur’an was written while Muhammad lived in Mecca, a town with very few Jews and no Jewish tribes. At the time, he presented himself to the Meccans as a Jewish prophet based on the stories that he learned from the Jews that he met on his travels – and from his cousin Waraqa, a convert from Judaism (the Qur’an addresses this accusation, but only to the extent of denying it).

    When Muhammad relocated to Medina, there were three Jewish tribes living there already whose good graces he needed to stay in initially, since he and his small band of Muslim immigrants were in a position of relative weakness. He tried to convince the Jews that he was the last in the succession of their own prophets and even changed the Qibla (direction of prayer) toward Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world.

    The Jews at Medina were not impressed with Muhammad’s esoteric claims, particularly since there were obvious discrepancies between their Torah and his version of the same stories. In the Qur’an, history from the Bible is presented immaturely and sounds more like a series of fairy tales with the same redundant moral – believe in Muhammad’s claims about himself or face earthly destruction and eternal torment.

    When asked why he didn’t provide proof of his prophethood by performing some sort of miracle as the prophets of the past had done, Muhammad came up with a clever excuse by saying that there was no point in doing so since the Jews had rejected those past prophets anyway (Quran 3:183-184). Thus, Muhammad had nothing to offer but his own testimony.

    The prophet of Islam did not handle the Jewish rejection well, particularly since his people had been relying heavily on his many claims of being a prophet in the same mode as Moses, Abraham and Jesus. Muhammad “resolved” his dilemma by claiming that the Jews of Medina were heretics and he arbitrarily dismissed their “version” of the Torah by claiming that they had corrupted it and “hidden” the verses that supported his claims of being a prophet. (Interestingly, despite the many Jews who converted to Islam, either out of compulsion or free will, no one ever produced the “uncorrupted Torah” that was supposed to have existed).

    Following Muhammad’s victory against the Meccans at Badr, his wealth and power had increased to the point of being able to take care of his “Jew problem.” The words of the Qur’an become noticeably harsher toward the “People of the Book” in the Medina portion of the text, and his actions become confrontational.

    Although much is made of the “Constitution” of Medina, the treaty that Muhammad created for all of the local tribes on his arrival, contemporary Muslims are often reluctant to admit the injunction that cancelled out this treaty less than two years later:

    “While we were in the Mosque, the Prophet came out and said, “Let us go to the Jews” We went out till we reached Bait-ul-Midras. He said to them, “If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari 53:392)

    Having announced his intentions, Muhammad looked for an excuse to take land from those Jews who refused to convert to Islam. His first target was a tribe that had recently been aligned in a conflict against the other two. Muhammad guessed correctly that the other Jewish tribes would not come to the assistance of the Banu Qaynuqa if he laid siege to them.

    Muhammad’s excuse is said to be an incident in which a Muslim was killed by an angry Jewish mob. That the mob was angry because the Muslim in question had just murdered a Jewish merchant over a woman’s honor is sometimes conveniently forgotten by contemporary apologists, who nonetheless admit that Muhammad chose to lay siege to the Qaynuqa stronghold rather than mediate a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

    This point is important. According to Muslim historians, the first blood shed was when a Jew was murdered by a Muslim for playing a prank on a Muslim woman (by lifting her dress). The Muslim was killed in retaliation by those who had just witnessed the murder.

    On what basis is physical violence – much less murder – justified by a prank of this sort? Moreover, if Muhammad believed in the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye,” then why did he not recognize the legitimacy of the second killing against the disparity of the first?

    In any event, the self-proclaimed prophet of God responded with self-serving force against a people that had welcomed him to their community less than two years earlier. Unprepared for battle, the Qaynuqa surrendered to their former guest without a fight.

    Muhammad wished to slay the entire tribe outright, but was talked out of it by a mutual Arab friend, who was horrified by his intentions:

    Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul went to him when God had put them in his power and said, “O Muhammad, deal kindly with my clients” (now they were allies of Khazraj), but the apostle put him off. He repeated the words, and the apostle turned away from him, whereupon he thrust his hand into the collar of the apostle’s robe; the apostle was so angry that his face became almost black. He said, “Confound you, let me go.” He answered, “No, by God, I will not let you go until you deal kindly with my clients. Four hundred men without mail and three hundred mailed protected me from all mine enemies; would you cut them down in one morning? By God, I am a man who fears that circumstances may change”’ The apostle said, “You can have them.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 546)

    Muhammad was thus talked into allowing the Jews of Qaynuqa to escape only with a few tools and the clothes on their back. He confiscated their wealth and land, taking a fifth for himself and giving the rest to the other Muslims. (According to the Qur’an, this was their punishment for not believing in Muhammad 3:10-12).

    The man who had saved the lives of the Jews was later called a hypocrite by Muhammad, and it is evident that he deeply regretted his decision not to slay the Qaynuqa. One of the nine Qur’anic verses that prohibit Muslims from taking Jews and Christians as friends was “revealed” at this time.

    Thus was Muhammad able to fulfill his own promise that “those who resist Allah and his Messenger will be humiliated” (Quran 58:20), further solidifying his credibility with the Muslims – and inspiring fourteen centuries of relentless Jihad in the name of following his example.

    See also “Muhammad Lived at Peace with the Jews, Part2: The Banu Nadir”
    and “Muhammad Lived at Peace with the Jews, Part3: The Banu Qurayza”

  4. A small correction: Haj Amin al-Husseini was a Palestinian nationalist who supported the Axis powers in World War II, not World War I.

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