Some background: Last year a pro-Israel group the American Freedom Defense Initiative sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority because officials refused an ad that the group wanted posted on city buses and subways. The ad contained the quote: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” Transit officials objected to the text, concerned that it could incite violence against Jews. (Note: AFDI is considered an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups).
Farsad and Obeidallah saw the news coverage last fall. They’d grown weary of the group and its message, which also has appeared in transit systems in Philadelphia and Chicago. A similar anti-Muslim message prompted the group to sue Metro in 2012, when the transit system said it would delay displaying the ads.
In light of the battle in New York, the question for the two comedians became: How do we combat ADFI’s message?
Farsad recalled riding in a cab turning the matter over in her mind. And then: “I thought ‘If she can do it, why can’t we do it?'” she said.
And thus, “The Fighting-Bigotry-with-Delightful-Posters-Campaign was launched with an online fundraising campaign. Within two days, they had the $20,000 they needed to launch the effort. And on Tuesday, their posters began appearing in subway stations across New York.
“People are much more open to something humorous,” Obeidallah said. “It’s a great way to reach people that’s accessible and fun. You feel good about yourself if you laugh or smile a little bit when you get off the subway. It appeals to the better angels in people.”
A postscript: Last week a federal judge ruled that MTA had to run the ad and this week, the transportation authority’s board voted to ban all political ad displays from the system, which means ADFI’s ad won’t run.