Anti-jihad transit ad pulled after request from James Foley's family

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Story highlights

  • "IT'S NOT ISLAMOPHOBIA... IT'S ISLAMOREALISM," ad says
  • It shows photo of Foley just before he was beheaded
  • Creators say they are removing ad only because of Foley family request
A transit advertisement depicting deceased American journalist James Foley moments before he was beheaded by ISIS was pulled from circulation in New York and San Francisco, according to the attorney representing the organization behind the ads, American Freedom Defense Initiative.
The ad, which read in part, "IT'S NOT ISLAMOPHOBIA... IT'S ISLAMOREALISM," was intended to launch Monday, appearing on buses and at the entrance of subway stops.
David Yerushalmi, the attorney representing the president of American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller, said he sent a letter to the Foley family attorney on behalf of his client Sunday in response to a letter from the Foleys' attorney requesting the ad be pulled.
Foley disappeared on November 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. At the time of his disappearance, he was working for the U.S.-based online news outlet GlobalPost. The video of his beheading was posted to YouTube on August 19.
Yerushalmi's letter reads in part: "As a mother, and one who still feels the pain of the hideous murders of many in her extended family by the Nazis, and with friends in Israel brutally affected by Islamic terrorism as a constant of daily life, Ms. Geller understands and feels intimately the pain your clients are suffering. Neither she nor AFDI wish to add to that pain, even if only tangentially."
The letter goes on: "For this reason, and this reason alone, my clients have reached out as early as this morning to the New York and San Francisco transit authorities' respective advertising agents to pull the displays depicting the captive Mr. Foley prior to his beheading."
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Yerushalmi said the ad was pulled "as a matter of compassion for the family," but the rest would remain in circulation.
Geller, who is behind the campaign, said the ad featuring Foley is speaking out against jihad terror.
"I am thinking of the family. I'm thinking of the next victim as well," Geller told CNN's Rosa Flores on Wednesday. "But frankly, I think that that ad does a service to the family to expose the ideology that incites this kind of barbarity."
Diane Foley, James Foley's mother, said in an email Monday that her family received the letter and "greatly appreciate the compassionate response."
Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Flores, "These ads are targeted mainly at people who are not Muslims trying to get them to hate Islam and be hostile to Americans Muslims.
Despite criticism, Geller said her message is not anti-Muslim, it's anti-jihad.
"There is nothing in my ads that say Muslim. We oppose jihad, and the idea that it's anti-Muslim, in my opinion, is a way of detracting from the message," Geller said Wednesday.
One of the ads in circulation reads: "Islamic Jew-hatred: It's in the Quran. Stop the hate."
Geller said she believes the Quran ignites jihad.
"There are numerous, numerous, verses ... calling for the annihilation of the nonbeliever. Smite them at their necks. ... Every action is accompanied by an Islamic prayer," she said.
Peter Awn, a religion professor at Columbia University, said, "to say that the Quran in and of itself is really what guides the choices Muslims make is really naive."
This is not the first time Geller has rattled emotions with edgy campaigns. In 2012, when the metropolitan transportation authority rejected one of her ads, Geller took her message to federal court and won. The 2012 ad read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
All the ads launched Monday in New York have a disclaimer that reads: "The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA's endorsement of any views expressed."