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Faith groups launch campaign to counter controversial 'Defeat Jihad' ad

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Sat October 6, 2012
Jewish and Christian groups are running a campaign to rebut
Jewish and Christian groups are running a campaign to rebut "Defeat Jihad" ads like the one shown here.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The "Defeat Jihad" ad is displayed in several New York subway stations
  • Jewish and Christian groups buy new ads, touting religious tolerance
  • Some are already up; others go up on Monday

New York (CNN) -- Jewish and Christian groups have unveiled three separate ad campaigns to counter what they claim is hateful speech toward Muslims contained within an advertisement posted at some New York City subway stations.

The new ads tout religious tolerance and offer support to the Muslim community.

"Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors," reads one. "Support peace in word and deed," reads another.

The campaigns are in response to a controversial "Defeat Jihad" ad that is displayed in 10 of the city's more than 400 subway stations. It reads: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially rejected the ad, which was produced by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. But the authority's decision was overturned when a federal judge ruled that the ad is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Interfaith group protests ad that says "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad"

Jihad -- Arabic for "struggle" -- is considered a religious duty for Muslims, although there are both benign and militant interpretations of what it means.

"We, as an organization of rabbis want to make it clear to New York and to the U.S. that neither rabbis nor the mainstream Jewish community support this dehumanization, but in fact we value partnership with our Muslim neighbors and Muslim organizations," said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, of Rabbis for Human Rights, one of the three groups behind the new ads.

The other groups are Sojourners, a Christian faith-based social justice group, and United Methodist Women.

Jacobs described an outpouring of support from individual donors in response to the "Defeat Jihad" ad, which allowed for the purchase of 20 new ads. They are expected to be posted in city subway stations Monday, said Jacobs.

Timothy King, of Sojourners, said his group will debut 10 ads, also Monday, in close proximity to the "Defeat Jihad" ads.

"We are going to go out of our way to make sure Muslims are treated well here, and we hope our fellow Christians will be treated well abroad," King said.

United Methodist Women have already posted its ads around Manhattan, according to Harriet Olson, the group's general secretary.

Meanwhile, Pamela Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, defended the controversial "Defeat Jihad" ad, saying there is nothing hateful about it.

"My own ad is not hate speech. It's love speech. It's love of life speech," she told CNN in an e-mail Friday.

Regarding her critics, Geller said: "Their moral myopia is immense. They are confusing resistance to hatred with actual hatred."

Opinion: Subway ads -- A right to hate speech, a duty to condemn

CNN's Erinn Cawthon contributed to this report.

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