A series of adverts containing strong anti-gay messages are set to appear on buses in the US city of San Francisco later this month. Organisers of the campaign claim that it is intended to raise awareness of anti-gay oppression within Islam.
The ads were purchased by the pro-Israeli American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), and contain inflammatory quotes from The Iranian President, a controversial British radio presenter and an Islamic cleric, all condemning homosexuality.
“The punishment of homosexuality is the death penalty,” reads one advert, quoting a leading Islamic cleric, Sheik Qaradawi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Another reads: “Homosexuaity is ugly…In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” President Ahmadinejad of Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death. He made the remarks in a television interview in September 2012.
“If there are two such persons among you, that do this evil, the shameful act what do you have to do? Torture them, punish them, beat them and give them mental torture,” a third quote reads from Sister Ruby Ramadan, a presenter on a Muslim radio station in Britain.
The organiser of the campaign, and spokesperson for the ADFI, Pamela Geller, said the ads were meant to highlight the oppression of homosexuals under Shariah law, not to promote it.
The design of the ads is supposed to satirize a series of ads by a group called MyJihad, which attempts to redefine the popular conception of the word ‘jihad’, using a similar campaign of bus adverts.
“The ads will increase awareness about the subjugation and oppression of gays under Shariah law,” Geller said to the San Francisco Examiner. “The gay community should be standing with me, not against me.”
The San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency (SFMTA) said it would not reject the adverts, despite disagreeing with the content, because of a recent ruling in New York City, which decided that it could not censor ads just based on their political content.
“Though we disagree with the content of these ads, we don’t believe it is right to spend the public’s money and resources to litigate over AFDI’s First Amendment rights,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.
“As a city agency, we believe we should focus on providing safe and reliable transportation services to the public.”
Geller has since commented on the reaction of the SFMTA. “The SF official reaction to my ads is obscene and absurd,” said Pamela Geller, reports the Huffington Post.
“They wouldn’t condemn the hateful statements on the ads, even when specifically asked to do so. They’re only condemning me for drawing attention to those statements–as if this problem will go away if we ignore it.
“Refusing to call attention to the plight of gays under Islamic law is killing people,” she added.