Students should combat SEPTA ads with peace, knowledge

Jenny Roberts

Jenny RobertsStudents should not be caught off guard if, while on their commute to Main Campus or while making a journey into Center City, they happen to see the image of Hitler drive past them on a SEPTA bus.

 A recent federal court ruling handed down by District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg is requiring SEPTA to run a controversial anti-Muslim ad featuring Hitler on 84 of its buses.

 The ad, which was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is composed of a black-and-white photo of Hitler with Palestinian nationalist Haj Amin al-Husseini, who showed support for the Nazis over radio broadcast during World War II. The first line of the ad reads, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.”

 Through this statement the ad seemingly promotes the fabricated notion that the Islamic faith is not religiously tolerant of Jewish people. The remainder of the ad calls for the U.S. to end all foreign aid to Islamic countries.

 Though many Philadelphians, including SEPTA officials, are upset by this hateful ad, and rightfully so, the truth is that the ad is protected by the First Amendment. SEPTA has opened up its buses to serve as a public forum by allowing for other political and non-commercial ads to be run.

 As a result, SEPTA has now banned all political and non-commercial ads from its advertising space for the future, but prior ads have dealt with controversial subjects, such as animal cruelty, contraception and fracking.

For SEPTA to discriminate against the AFDI’s ad based on its inflammatory nature would be to limit the AFDI’s freedom of speech based on content.

Despite this current ad being controversial, as well as disparaging to Muslims and unrepresentative of Islam as a faith, the ad is protected by the Constitution.

 Speech cannot be limited just because it is offensive. For example, burning the American flag is a form of protected speech, as decided by the Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson in 1989. No matter how innately wrong or unpatriotic the desecration of the flag may seem to Americans, it is protected.

Burton Caine, J.D., a professor at Temple’s Beasley School of Law, believes that all speech is free speech. He called the language of the First Amendment being pretty straightforward in this regard.

 “The First Amendment provides that government ‘shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,’” he said.

 Caine has long argued that categories of speech, such as fighting words should not be allowed as exceptions to the First Amendment.

 Though Caine agrees with Goldberg’s ruling that forces SEPTA to run the ad, he admits to disliking the ad itself, and I agree with his mode of thinking. This ad holds up under legal scrutiny, though many of us in the City of Brotherly Love do not love its message.

 The only way for other citizens, who, like myself, dislike the ad, to combat its hateful message is to exercise the same expression granted to the AFDI in the First Amendment. We must simply speak up – in fact, it is imperative that we do so.

 The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia has already begun to speak up through its launch of the #DareToUnderstand campaign against the message of the AFDI’s ad. The alliance of community leaders behind the campaign are looking to promote interfaith unity and understanding.

 According to the campaign’s website, daretounderstand.causevox.com, the hashtag #DareToUnderstand calls for supporters “To take a stand in the face of divisive rhetoric … To embrace our diverse voices … To unite to effect positive change. To stand in solidarity with those who might otherwise be alienated.”

 By standing together, despite our differing beliefs we can oppose hate and promote understanding.

 On Main Campus, Tykee James, president of the Student Interfaith and Multicultural Society, is planning to work with Jalen Blot, director of Campus Life and Diversity, to make students aware of the AFDI’s ad and how they can respond to it peacefully.

 “The only vaccine [for] this plague of societal misinformation and negativity is really education,” said James, a junior mathematics and computer science with teaching major.

 Unfortunately, those people who are uneducated or misinformed about what Islam preaches are the very people who are most susceptible to believing the lies promoted in this ad. Hopefully, people who may not know much about Islam can sense that there is something wrong with the message conveyed in this ad and are able to seek out education for themselves.

 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.”

 I agree with the MSA’s statement and I urge my fellow Philadelphians and Temple students to respond with intelligence and goodwill when confronted with the display of bias that is conveyed by AFDI’s ad.

Jenny Roberts can be reached at jennifer.roberts@temple.edu.

Jenny Roberts
can be reached at jenny.roberts@temple.edu Or you can follow Jenny on Twitter @jennyroberts511 Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

1 Comment

  1. Jenny,

    Your article is based on feelings and unfounded opinions, not facts.
    ++
    Antisemitism in the Qur’an
    By: Andrew G. Bostom
    FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Qur’an 2:61—“And humiliation and wretchedness were stamped upon them and they were visited with wrath from Allah. That was because they disbelieved in Allah’s revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. That was for their disobedience and transgression.”

    My colleague and friend, the gifted and remarkably courageous independent scholar Robert Spencer, has kindly posted a long essay of mine, Antisemitism in the Qur’an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations at his indispensable Jihad Watch/Dhimmi Watch website.

    For those getting impatient with the delayed release of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (now due out in late May), this essay derives almost entirely from the book, and as such, provides a preview of the book’s extended introductory survey. Below, I have provided the Abstract and Introduction to this lengthy essay.The full text is available at Dhimmi Watch.

    Abstract

    The essential nature of the Qur’ranic “revelation,” as understood by Muslims, was elaborated in 1891 by Theodore Nöldeke (whose seminal 1860 Geschichte des Qorans remains a vital tool for Qur’ranic research): “To the faith of the Muslims…the Koran is the word of God, and such also is the claim which the book itself advances…” And to this day, as the contemporary Qur’anic scholar Ibn Warraq notes, for all believing Muslims, and not merely “fundamentalists, ” the Qur’an remains Allah’s “uncreated” words, “…valid for all times and places; its ideals are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism.”

    The Qur’anic depiction of the Jews—their traits as thus characterized being deemed both infallible and timeless—highlights, in verse 2:61 (repeated in verse 3:112), the centrality of the Jews “abasement and humiliation”, and being “laden with God’s anger,” as elaborated in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Qur’an 2:61, including the hadith and Qur’anic commentaries. The terrifying rage decreed upon the Jews forever is connected in the hadith and exegeses to Qur’an 1:7, where Muslims ask Allah to guide them rightly, not in the path of those who provoke and must bear His wrath. This verse is in turn linked to Qur’anic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). Moreover, forcing Jews, in particular, to pay the Qur’anic poll tax “tribute,” (as per verse 9:29) “readily,” while “being brought low,” is consistent with their overall humiliation and abasement in accord with Qur’an 2:61, and its directly related verses.

    An additional much larger array of anti-Jewish Qur’anic motifs build to a denouement (as if part of a theological indictment, conviction, and sentencing process) concluding with an elaboration of the “ultimate sin” committed by the Jews (they are among the devil’s minions [Qur’an 4:60], accursed by God [Qur’an 4:47]), and their appropriate punishment: If they do not accept the true faith (i.e., Islam), on the day of judgment, they will burn in the hellfire (Qur’an 4:55). As per, Qur’an 98:7: “The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures”

    After presenting a full spectrum of the major anti-Jewish motifs in the Qur’an, additional illustrations demonstrating their persistent influence on Muslim attitudes (and resultant behaviors) towards Jews, are provided. Four themes are considered, and their historical application illustrated, across space and time, through the present: (I) the Jews being associated with Satan and consigned to Hell (Qur’an 4:60, 4:55, 58:14—19, and 98:6); (II) the imposition of the Qur’anic poll-tax (jizya; Qur’an 9:29) on Jews, specifically, and (III) the related enforcement of the Qur’anic (2:61) “curse” upon the Jews for killing the Prophets, and other transgressions against Allah’s will, meriting their permanent humiliation and abasement; and, last in connection to this curse, (IV) the Jews’ transformation into apes/swine, as punishment (Qur’an 2:65, 5:60, and 7:166).

    The contemporary case of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, author of a 700 page scholarly treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions], and current Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, demonstrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam’s sacred texts—Qur’an, hadith, and sira—would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam.

    Introduction

    Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions], originally published in the late 1960s, and early 1970s, and then re-issued in 1986/87: 1

    [The] Qur’an describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word….[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not. (Qur’an 3:113)

    Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in 1996, a position he still holds. These are the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—the head of the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, Sunnis representing some 85% of the world’s Muslims. And Sheikh Tantawi has not mollified such hatemongering beliefs since becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs” 2, the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews, 3 or “dialogue” with Jews (just below), make clear. 4

    …anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward. My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Qur’an], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah. I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., from above, in Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna]

    Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam’s sacred texts—Qur’an, hadith, and sira—would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam.

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