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Conservative's Anti-Muhammad Ad Rejected by Detroit Transit System -- But Can You Guess Which Ad Was Accepted?


"Sharia compliance in accordance with blasphemy laws under Islam."

Religious advertisements have been known to spark intense debate. Consider the anti-God billboards that are regularly posted by non-theist groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists. But it isn't only non-believers who invoke controversy with their messaging.

Pamela Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) have also come under intense scrutiny for subway and bus ads that target Islamic extremism. Now, the AFDI is embroiled in a new battle over a proposed anti-Muhammad ad that was rejected this week by Detroit's Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) bus system.

In an e-mail to TheBlaze on Tuesday evening, the AFDI president noted that, while SMART previously accepted an "anti-God" atheist ad from the Detroit Coalition for Reason (DCOR), the public transit company has rejected her organization's ad. This is particularly interesting, seeing as the AFDI modeled its design almost entirely after the DCOR's banner.

"Our ad, same ad, with one word flipped, was rejected," Geller told TheBlaze.

The original atheist design featured clouds and the words, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." The organization's web address was also present to the bottom left of the ad, sending Internet users to a web site that encourages people to "shine the light of reason" and to reject faith and religion.

Photo Credit: Detroit Coalition of Reason

As you can see below, AFDI ad looks almost entirely similar to the aforementioned description. The only difference between the designs is that the word "God" is swapped out for "Muhammad," the holy prophet in the Islamic faith. And the web address in the latter ad encourages those viewing it to go to, a web site that wages some potentially-offensive allegations against the religious figure.

Photo Credit: American Freedom Defense Initiative

Obviously the similarities were intentional, with Geller telling TheBlaze that her quest to see the Muhammad ad get placed had everything to do with examining free speech as it applies to the Islamic faith.

"This message parallels the atheist ads -- 'Don't Believe in God? You're Not Alone' -- that ran previously," she explained. "Since they were accepted, I modeled this ad after them to see if the freedom of speech applied to criticism of Islam in our cowardly and politically correct age."

In a letter that Geller forwarded to TheBlaze, CBS Outdoor's Howard Marcus rejected the ad, citing a past legal battle that AFDI waged against SMART over a previous rejection.

"The proposed advertisement submitted by Pamela Geller has been reviewed under SMART’s content policy. SMART, consistent with its review process, also reviewed the referred-to website:," read Marcus' e-mail. "Consistent with its policy, with the Sixth Circuit opinion in AFDI v SMART, and consistent with other law, SMART declines to post the advertisement."

Geller, who is less-than-content with the decision not to allow the Muhammad ad, called SMART's response to her request "sharia compliance in accordance with blasphemy laws under Islam."

The previous case that is cited in the CBS Outdoor e-mail commenced in May 2007. It was a tangled debate surrounding another ad aimed at the Islamic faith. The legal war went back-and-forth for years, with the AFDI inevitably losing the latest phase of the battle. Here's how Geller explained the free-speech court debacle in her e-mail to TheBlaze (a more intensive recap can be read here):

"SMART is the same government agency that refused to run our 'Leaving Islam?' ads that have helped many Muslim girls who want to lead more Western lives escape dangerous, devout households. When we tried to run them, SMART refused. We sued. We won. They appealed to the 6th circuit (sharia sensitive) court. The Sixth Circuit ruled in their favor having deemed 'Leaving Islam?' a political ad. It was a tortured and twisted ruling. We are, of course, appealing."

Geller noted that her latest ad attempt was an effort to point out SMART's "hypocrisy," as the two parties are slated to head back to court. She said that the latest rejection does, indeed, showcase inconsistencies in how messaging is treated and pledged to "fight on."

The AFDI is no stranger to legal battles, with the AFDI v. SMART case serving as only one example. Last year, New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority lost a separate legal battle over another ad and was forced to allow Geller's group to post it following a judge's ruling.



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