Metro Ad Highlights Debate Over Freedom of Speech
Do we ever pause to reflect on certain advertisements? Do we care what they’re really trying to say? Or do we just focus on their trademark catch phrases and cool poster designs? It is important that we understand what we’re reading so that we don’t remain gullible to advertisements that are offensive and derogatory.
Last Tuesday, Sept. 25, an Egyptian-American activist, Mona Eltahawy, ran into an altercation with Pamela Hall, an independent journalist, as she tried to stop Eltahawy from calmly spray-painting over a pro-Israeli ad that was placed in a New York subway. The ad, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), marked anyone who did not support Israel as being “savage” and uncivilized.
The two women then began arguing over freedom of expression, with Eltahawy defending her actions as her right to free speech. The commotion roused by the argument quickly brought nearby policemen to the scene who did not hesitate to apprehend Eltahawy. She was arrested and forced to spend the night in prison.
Eltahawy demanded that the policemen give reason for her arrest, but she was simply handcuffed and hauled off to jail without another word or any justification.
While Eltahawy claimed that this ad was a product of racism, the journalist regarded it as freedom of speech.
Here, one should ponder over the phrase “freedom of speech,” and question what it really entails.
Does freedom of speech give a person the right to insult and personally attack others? Does it justify the degradation of all other races except one’s own?
The ad in question reads, in capital letters, “IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE, SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN. SUPPORT ISRAEL; DEFEAT JIHAD.”
One of the AFDI’s co-founders, Pamela Geller, a Jewish political activist with a strong anti-Islamic stance, was the woman behind the slogan-maker, according to the New York Post.
It becomes clear that Geller specifically debases Islam when she urges the reader to “defeat Jihad.”
The Arabic word “jihad” which literally means “struggle,” has been abused by extremists as a feeble excuse for unnecessary bloodshed and who’ve obliterated its most important meaning. For a believer, jihad is the act of rising against one’s own ego through patience, justness and humility in the hopes of attaining greater closeness to God. By attacking this moral principle, Geller’s real aim seems to be to defeat anyone who abides by the principle as well.
So, what did she hope to gain through this bold statement, knowing that it would be subjected to criticism, if not by Christians, then by Muslims?
Eltahawy, now charged with criminal mischief and possession of graffiti, has been released from jail and is awaiting another appearance in court to be tried. However, the camerawoman has walked away essentially unscathed for defending an outrageously racist ad. No matter which side one takes, this ironic incident serves as an unpleasant reminder that freedom of speech, in the land of the free, can still lead to dire consequences.