Pro-Tolerance Ads Begin Appearing In NYC Subway

Dueling NYC subway ads. (Photo courtesy of United Methodist Women)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Three religious groups -- two Christian and one Jewish -- have decided to fight speech with speech in the clamor over a controversial subway ad. Pro-Muslim ads from those groups have begun showing up in the New York City subway -- in some cases, cheek by jowl with an ad that equates the the word "jihad" with savages.

Harriet Olson, CEO of United Methodist Women, said she and her colleagues objected to the original ad and wanted to counter it with a "visual response." So her group matched the anti-jihad group's $6,000 ad buy for posters in ten Manhattan subway stations. “We think that respectful dialogue is absolutely important and that the work for peace is very difficult," she said in an interview with TN, before referring to the anti-jihad ad: "incendiary speech is not the way to get there.”

Jim Wallis of Sojourners, a Christian social justice group, said he was similarly offended by the original ad.  "As a rabbi wrote in The New York Times last week, this ad may be legal but it's wrong and repugnant," he said.  The Sojourners ad reads simply, "Love your Muslim Neighbors."

It will begin appearing on Monday, as will a separate pro-Muslim ad by Rabbis for Human Rights. That message reads:  “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the executive director for the group, which includes 1,800 rabbis. "We want it to be clear that the Jewish community doesn't support this de-humanization of an entire group of people, but rather the Jewish community values working in partnership with our Muslim neighbors," she said.

After the original ad caused an outcry, including a rowdy confrontation at a New York MTA board meeting last week, the MTA considered banning so-called issue ads from its properties. The authority decided instead to put a disclaimer on some ads that express political, religious or moral views. The disclaimer would read that the ad “doesn’t imply an endorsement” by the MTA. The pro-Muslim ad by United Methodist Women does not include a disclaimer.