United Methodist Women Unveils Ad Countering Hate Speech in New York City Subway
United Methodist Women General Secretary Harriett J. Olson unveiled an ad countering the anti-Muslim hate speech of another ad posted in 10 New York City subway stations during an interfaith press conference Sept. 25.
Organized by the Interfaith Center of New York, a coalition of community and faith-based organizations, including United Methodist Women, gathered at the steps of New York’s City Hall in Manhattan to denounce the “harmfully provocative and inherently divisive” ads, the group said.
“We needed to be present with a counter voice, we need to stand for the work of peace, and to say that free speech should not be used recklessly or in an inflammatory way,” said Ms. Olson.
The counter ad, sponsored by United Methodist Women, states, “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.” They are scheduled to appear next week in 10 subway stations in Manhattan, the same stations where Pamela Gellar’s ad implying Muslims are “savages” appears.
“United Methodist Women recognizes that women have always been the most significant victims of violence,” Ms. Olson said, acknowledging hate speech as a form of violence. Because of that, she said, “We have a particular incentive to work toward peace.”
Ms. Olson said United Methodists support and respect the use of faith toward peaceful goals.
“Religions of the world should invest in the work for peace,” she said. “Peace comes because we work for it. Women know that the best.”
Interfaith Leaders Denounce Hate Speech
Other leaders of the interfaith coalition advocated for moral speech, while recognizing the right to free speech.
Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, implored government officials to “make space for ads that contribute to the moral health” of society.
“This is not just a Muslim issue but an American issue,” said Muneer Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).
Aisha al-Adawiya, founder of Women in Islam, insisted that New Yorkers are “committed to honor, respect and dignity.” She called on elected officials to “denounce the naked attempt at hate.”
Speakers celebrated the diversity and tolerance New Yorkers have for one another, in community. “In this city, we’re from many countries, but from one city where we value each other as human beings,” said Councilman Robert Jackson. “We stand for peace and justice no matter what faith you come from.”
Dr. Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America added, “America’s strength lies in building the most diverse society in the world. There will always be people trying to undermine the work of diversity, but every time, people of faith and no faith have raised voices against this immoral behavior.”
Jewish leaders denounced Ms. Gellar’s use of the ad to promote support for Israel. “This ad is decidedly prejudice,” said Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “Don’t equate support for Israel with hate against Muslims.”
Given the Jewish community’s past experience with discrimination and violence during the Holocaust, Jews “are doubly obligated to condemn hate speech,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson from Jews Against Islamophobia.
The speakers encouraged people to engage through the Twitter hashtag #MySubwayAd in order to make their voice heard on the issue.
Leigh Rogers is United Methodist Women's web content and public relations associate.