Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hate Against Muslims? San Francisco Gays Shouldn't Stand For It

One of the original ads.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative Hate Group (AFDI) has decided that riling up anti-Muslim rhetoric on buses and subway stops is an ideal way to stay relevant and maybe recruit some ignorant fools to their cause.  In San Francisco, they are even trying to convince gays and our allies to hate Muslims.  There is no reason why they should succeed with such a blatantly hateful message, but it doesn’t take much to incite hate crimes and justify much worse.  Gays and our allies have to take action against the presence of these disgusting ads on our buses.  If Muni won’t take down the ads, then other actions, such as the culture jamming that is already taking place, are in order.

The AFDI, apparently, feels it is critical to educate Americans about the dangers from extremists who identify as Muslim, like Osama bin Laden.  Because, you know, Americans are just too accepting of bin Laden’s views.  That’s silly and there is obviously no such need. AFDI’s objective is to rile up hatred of all Muslims and defame an entire religion.  Indeed, the ads they are mocking were fairly innocuous ads run by the #MyJihad initiative that showed average Muslims and their admirable self-improvement goals.

One of AFDI's reactionary hate ads.
After AFDI's initial run of disgusting response ads, and a lot of pushback in San Francisco, they decided that their newest ads should include some quotes about homosexuality by some people who call themselves Muslim and/or claim to speak in the name of Islam.  There is no other purpose for such ads, but to attempt to demonize all Muslims in the eyes of San Francisco gays and our allies.

No one would debate that people can and do use religion as a twisted justification for hate and violence – whether against gays or others.  This is true of all religions though. Yet you don’t see the AFDI Hate Group running ads quoting the Westboro Baptist Church and warning of the dangers of Christianity or Christian extremists.  No.  They’re bigots and prefer to target a religious minority already targeted by hate crimes, and overzealous law enforcement.

The AFDI’s hate ads certainly encourage hate crimes.  They also help justify and support killing, war, occupation and apartheid.  That is the larger context beyond the mosque fires and assaults in our communities, as horrible as they are.  Demonizing Muslims reinforces policies supported by some of our political leaders in Washington – war in predominantly Muslim countries, incarceration without trial at Guantanamo Bay, assassination by drone, support for friendly despots in predominantly Muslim countries, and tremendous support, including billions in tax dollars, to Israel with no accountability for crimes against Palestinians.

Earlier AFDI Hate Ads dealt with properly.
I think Muni should pull the ads because I don’t believe these particular ads could be described as “political speech,” and the substance of their message is only one demeaning an entire religion and everyone in that religious group. Of course I understand the risks involved in removing the ads.  Our Muni system is already underfunded and the last thing they need is a major lawsuit. Though it is hard for me to believe they would allow ads from other hate groups, such as the aforementioned Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan, without a fight.  Regardless, it would be an uphill battle in the courts.  I’m also very sympathetic to arguments by many civil libertarians about the dangers of empowering the state to police hate speech when that same state may easily abuse such powers.  I get all that.  In some ways, perhaps the best case scenario is widespread civil disobedience.  The hate ads have already received a fair amount of reappropriation, and in a city like San Francisco, we’ll hopefully see much more culture jamming and thus much more popular education.

As a historic center of the gay rights movement, San Francisco has an opportunity to demonstrate that our gay rights agenda is not so narrowly focused.  Gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist – we are a community for all and we’ll tolerate everything but intolerance and hate.


 The new gay-themed ads are set to run in April.  Hopefully we'll see more of this: