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Those Metro ads: Hate speech or free speech?

Regarding the Oct. 6 Metro article “Metro is ordered to display pro-Israel ads”:

Our Metro system is a great equalizer. Who can name another D.C.-area institution in which citizens and undocumented immigrants; rich and poor people; theists and atheists; gay and straight people; young and old; whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians; and conservatives and liberals sit side by side daily?

It is disappointing that an institution that unites so many must post ads that seek to divide us between supporters of Israel and supporters of Islam.

I write as a Christian Lebanese American proud to embrace our area’s religious diversity, and I ask all of our religious, civic, educational and corporate leaders to denounce the inflammatory language of the American Freedom Defense Initiative ad posted in Metrorail stations.

Metro’s patrons should not be forced to choose between the many positive aspects of Metro use, such as convenience, cost and environmental impact, and the support of an institution that has complied with a court order requiring it to accept hateful advertising.

Metro should appeal the court order to display the ads.

Steve Herro, Washington

I believe that the ad that Metro has been ordered to display is not pro-Israel but is grossly offensive to Muslims.

The ad reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” I am Jewish and pro-Israel, but this boorish ad offends me. I see it as subtle anti-Semitism to suggest that Jews think of themselves as “the civilized man” threatened by “savages.” Threats to Israel’s existence are serious, but this rabble-rousing language is unacceptable.

Surely it’s not necessary, in order to maintain our freedom of speech, for a captive audience riding public transit to be exposed to this kind of language. There are limits, after all.

Madelyn Lefkowitz, Charlottesville

So Metro’s lawyers wanted a court to ban an ad describing as “savages” jihadists and, perhaps by extension, all Muslims. They wanted this action taken not on the grounds that the ad is bigoted or insulting but because Muslims might react with violence, endangering the lives of innocent Metro riders. This concern, it seems to me, puts Metro in full agreement with the idea that Muslims really are violent and “savage.”

Those Muslims who are peaceful and nonviolent might wonder how their supposed friends at Metro have now become their worst enemies.

James E. Keenan, Middletown, Md.

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