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Anti-Muslim groups' ad in NYC subway calls jihad 'savage.' Is now a good time?

With the Muslim world still roiled by the US-made, anti-Muslim video on YouTube, the ad citing 'war between civilized man and the savage' will appear Monday at 10 NYC subway stations.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / September 21, 2012

In this undated photo provided by anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller, an example of an advertisement that equates foes of Israel with 'savages' is shown. Geller said she is not concerned that the advertisements could spark protests when they appear at 10 New York City subway stations next Wednesday.

Pamela Geller/The American Freedom Defense Initiative/AP

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New York

With the Muslim world still roiled by a YouTube video denigrating Islam that was made in California, an ad that some groups consider anti-Muslim will appear in 10 of New York’s subway stations starting on Monday.

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"In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” reads the ad, which is being paid for by two groups, the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop the Islamization of America, both of which have a distinctly anti-Muslim bent.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center consider Stop Islamization of America to be a hate group.

One of the people involved with placing the ad is Pamela Geller, a co-founder of the two groups who was also behind the effort in 2010 to halt the construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. She says there are plans to run the ad in several other US cities once there is funding, and on Thursday the sponsors filed suit to have it run in the nation’s capital as well.

The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority tried to ban the ad on the grounds that it was demeaning. But a federal judge ruled recently that the message is protected under the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, it is likely to provoke a debate over how far the First Amendment right extends in a city with a large Muslim population.

Mainstream Jewish groups call the ad “offensive and inflammatory,” and many New Yorkers worry that it might provoke a violent reaction.

“I understand free speech, but on a visceral level you feel like you have a bull’s eye on your back,” says Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch University and a subway rider. “I just tweeted that I don’t want to be a victim of Muslim rage.”

The ads are coming at a time of high tensions over the anti-Muslim YouTube video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was seen as insulting the Prophet Mohammed and which led to a surge of anti-American violence in the Arab world. The US ambassador to Libya was among four Americans killed in an attack in Benghazi.

On Friday, the violence overseas continued with 17 people reported killed in Pakistan in anti-Western protests. The high tension is the reason the Washington, D.C., transit system has said it wants to “defer” running the ads. On Thursday the ad’s sponsors filed a lawsuit against the Washington Metro system challenging the action.

“When is a good time?” asks Geller in a phone interview. “There is never a good time.”

Geller defends the ads, saying they are a recognition of reality. “Those ads are accurate,” she says, citing Hamas attacks on Israel and the July attack on Israeli citizens in Bulgaria. “Isn’t that savagery?” she asks.

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