Back in September, “The American Freedom Defense Initiative” (AFDI), an organization based in New Hampshire, attempted to purchase advertising space on SEPTA to run anti-muslim ads, as part of a campaign that AFDI has pursued in transit systems in several major cities across the country, including New York City, Washington, and San Francisco. On March 11, the federal courts ruled that SEPTA must run the ads, despite initially refusing.
The four-week ad run is expected to begin on 84 SEPTA buses the first week in April.
Since the fall, a coalition of religious leaders, The Religious Leaders Council, has stood in opposition to anti-Muslim advertisements on SEPTA, and the Council released a statement on the advertising campaign earlier in March. The Religious Leaders Council, founded and staffed by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, represents more than 30 religious traditions and denominations within our community. It is led by Co-Conveners Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Rabbi David Straus, Imam Anwar Muhaimin and Bishop Claire Schenot Burkat.
The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia has also created a petition as part of its campaign.
“Ads like these violate our values, even if the judge ruled they do not violate the law. We applaud SEPTA for its efforts to restrict the placement of the controversial ads,” said Abby Stamelman Hocky, executive director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, in a press release. The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia chose SEPTA as a co-recipient of its annual “Dare to Understand” award, to be presented April 29, at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia has also launched a campaign called Dare to Understand. Donations to the campaign will help to sustain the collective community response, including a series of its own advertisements designed by photographer JJ Tiziou, including a billboard on I-76. According to the campaign website, the goal is “to prove that Philadelphia is a bastion of religious freedom and tolerance, and we want its citizens to truly embrace the idea of religious and cultural pluralism.”
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“It’s less about reacting, and trying to criticize those ads, but more to put out in the world what we actually want to see on the sides of the buses,” said Tiziou, who had previously tried to raise money for a Everyone is Photogenic campaign, but the Kickstarter failed.
“I am a little bit saddened that conservative bloggers behind this campaign have that kind of money to put that kind of campaign all over the country,” he said. “My dream would be to have the same capacity that Pam Geller does, in the same way that she can get messages all over buses all over the place, what if I could get my message on buses all over the place.”
The campaign also encourages people to participate by taking a “selfie,” and taking a snapshot with a sign with the hashtag #DareToUnderstand.
Image via Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia-30-
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