No Free Speech about Leaving Islam?

Advertising on taxpayer-funded transit has become the latest free speech battleground -- and the cause of freedom has just won a significant victory. The Council on American-Islamic Relations tried to defeat free speech in Miami, with the lapdog media on its side, and was just handed a major defeat.

The case revolves around these two bus ads:

Miami-Dade Transit says NO!
Offensive to Muslims!

Miami-Dade Transit says YES!
Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad as Muslim prophets -- not offensive to Jews and Christians!

Stop Islamization Of America and the Freedom Defense Initiative, the new organization I have begun with bestselling author and Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer, began our pro-freedom "Leaving Islam" ad campaign on Miami buses last Tuesday. We ran the top ad on Miami buses. But on Friday, after CAIR complained, Miami-Dade Transit pulled the ads, despite the fact that they ran the second ad pictured above last year with no problem.

The lapdog media was shilling for CAIR from the beginning. Jaweed "JD" Kaleem, a reporter for the Miami Herald, contacted me the day after our ads began running. Our ad campaign was the first time anyone offered public help to people threatened under Islam's death penalty for apostasy. One would have thought that that would be newsworthy, but Kaleem was the only mainstream media reporter who contacted me, with this e-mail: "Hi, Pamela. Can you give me a call or send me your phone number? I had a few questions about the 'Leaving Islam' ads for a possible Miami Herald article."

After I sent him some information via e-mail, he wrote back: "Hi, thanks! Could I give you a call to ask a few questions about the effort? -- JD." I spoke with him on the phone and supplied him with all the information he requested in e-mails. He asked me for high-resolution pictures of a Miami bus with the ad on it, and I sent them to him. He asked me where the buses would be running, and I gave him detailed information about the routes.

Significantly, he never asked me why we were running the ads in the first place.

Kaleem's story appeared on Friday, headlined, "Miami-Dade Transit to remove 'offensive' Islamic bus ads." His story was all about how Miami-Dade Transit decided to infringe upon our freedom of speech rights, breach its contract, and pull our ads. Kaleem quoted Miami-Dade Transit spokeswoman Karla Damian that the ads "may be offensive to Islam" and would be removed from the buses before they began their Friday routes.

Kaleem also quoted my associate Robert Spencer, whom he incorrectly identified as the head of SIOA, saying that the ads were "offered in defense of religious liberty." But he included no statement from me at all, despite the fact that as Executive Director of SIOA, the bus ad campaign was my initiative. And he got the statement from Spencer before the ads were pulled. Jaweed Kaleem made no attempt to contact anyone from my organization to get a statement on Miami-Dade Transit's pulling of the ads. He didn't even ask for our response to this flagrant breach of contract and violation of free speech. Since he already had contacted us a number of times, this failure to get a statement from us was no accident.

Further, he included in his article unchallenged remarks by a spokesman for CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) -- an unindicted co-conspirator and Hamas-tied Muslim Brotherhood front -- without so much as mentioning who and what they are. And the CAIR spokesman Kaleem quoted lied outright, but Kaleem never called him on it. Kaleem wrote:

The South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had critiqued the ads as promoting "bigotry" and making false statements about Islam. ‘Islam guarantees freedom to and freedom from religion. ... ["We] reject as un-Islamic any extremist interpretation that sanctions the killing of any individual because she decided to 'leave Islam,'" said director Muhammed Malik.

If Kaleem had asked me about this, which he did not, I would have told him that Muhammed Malik is a liar. If what he said were true, then the "Leaving Islam" bus ads would run with no problem. One only needs to read the works of the most reliable witnesses: former Muslims living in America such as Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, and Nonie Darwish. I would also have told Jaweed Kaleem about the thousands of dead apostates, and about a fatwa recently issued by Al-Azhar University, the leading Islamic university in the world, that amounted to a death warrant on apostates. The Al-Azhar fatwa committee wrote about a man who had converted out of Islam to Christianity: "Since he left the Islam, he will be invited to express his regret. If he does not regret, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law."

The most glaring, concrete, living (thank G-d) proof of the danger to Muslims who leave Islam is the very public persecution of teenage Christian convert Rifqa Bary, who fled from her family in fear for her life after converting from Islam to Christianity and later received public death threats on Facebook. Muslim apostates have recently been murdered in Bangladesh, Chad, and Somalia and threatened in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, and Nigeria -- as well as in Australia, Britain, and the United States.

So why was CAIR saying that my ads were promoting bigotry, and why was the Miami Herald printing this charge without qualification? My "crime" was responding to the inquiries from desperate Muslims seeking sanctuary from the dangers of leaving Islam. SIOA and FDI are human rights organizations seeking religious freedom, individual rights protections, and free speech.

And ultimately, free speech won out: After we threatened a lawsuit, Miami-Dade Transit agreed to restore our ads and add them to twenty new buses at the mere cost of printing the new posters. Our lawyer, David Yerushalmi, did a superb job, with the aid of the Thomas More Law Center's Robert Muise.

And probably soon, you will be able to read about how terrible CAIR thinks this is, courtesy of Jaweed Kaleem and the Miami Herald.

Or will they bother to tell the truth this time?

Pamela Geller is the editor and publisher of the Atlas Shrugs website and is former associate publisher of the New York Observer. She is the author (with Robert Spencer) of the forthcoming book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster).
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