A Jewish Rabbi’s Brave Stand Against Islamophobic Ad

Posted on September 26, 2012

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CNN, Rachel Kahn-Troster

Subway ads: A right to hate speech, a duty to condemn

My daily trek to work is the last place I would expect to encounter a hateful message. But anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller is determined to make that happen to me and my fellow commuters.

This week, at 10 subway stations around New York, commuters will encounter ads from the virulently anti-Islam group headed by Geller, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Geller has been cited both by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center for her anti-Muslim activity.

The subway ads say, “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man.” Below that are the words: “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” with a Star of David on either side of the phrases. The coded message makes clear who the savages are: those who support jihad, which in Geller’s mind includes all Muslims. She has called Islam “an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the Earth.”

As a rabbi, I find the ads deeply misguided and disturbing. The Jewish community is deep in the heart of our High Holidays, the Ten Days of Repentance that encompass the holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. One of the most powerful moments in the holy days is when the community rises for a recitation of public confession, beginning Tuesday night.

I have always been struck by how many of the foibles of daily life have to do with speech. The words from our mouths have power: Once released, whether intentionally or by accident, what we say shapes reality. It can bring about healing or atonement, or it can unleash violence and hatred. Geller’s ads, sharply dividing the world into civilized people and savages, are only intended to hurt and tear fragile relationships apart. [Please click here to read the remainder of the article by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster]

 

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