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NYC Bus Ads Asking ‘Leaving Islam?’ Cause a Stir

NEW YORK – The questions on the ads aren’t subtle: Leaving Islam? Fatwa on your head? Is your family threatening you?
A conservative activist and the organizations she leads have paid several thousand dollars for the ads to run on at least 30 city buses for a month. The ads point to a website called, which offers information to those wishing to leave Islam, but some Muslims are calling the ads a smoke screen for an anti-Muslim agenda.
Pamela Geller, who leads an organization called Stop Islamization of America, said the ads were meant to help provide resources for Muslims who are fearful of leaving the faith.
“It’s not offensive to Muslims, it’s religious freedom,” she said. “It’s not targeted at practicing Muslims. It doesn’t say ‘leave,’ it says ‘leaving’ with a question mark.”
She said the ad buy cost about $8,000, contributed by the readers of her blog, Atlas Shrugs, and other websites. Similar ads have run on buses in Miami, and she said ad buys were planned for other cities.
Faiza Ali, of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the ads were based on a false premise that people face coercion to remain with Islam. She said Muslims believe faith that is forced is not true belief.
“Geller is free to say what she likes just as concerned community members are free to criticize her motives,” Ali said.
Geller has a history of speaking out against Muslims, and the ads are “a smoke screen to advance her long-standing history of anti-Muslim bigotry,” Ali said.
Geller said she had no problem with Muslims, but was working to “maintain the separation of mosque and state.” She is also among those speaking out against the building of a mosque and cultural center near ground zero.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads have been in place since May 14 and were scheduled to come down in a couple of weeks. There are about 6,000 buses in the MTA fleet.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said all ads are screened. Most are reviewed by the company that handles the MTA’s advertising opportunities, but some are sent to the MTA for ultimate approval.
Geller’s ad was sent to the MTA for assessment, he said.
“We reviewed it and found that it did not violate the MTA’s ad guidelines,” he said.
The agency had received no complaints since the ads went up, Donovan said. The 30 or so buses with the ads pass through all five boroughs of the city.
Associated Press – May 26, 2010
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Henrietta22

    It would be interesting to hear if anyone calls the AD number.

  • pagansister

    Interesting. Yes, Henrietta, wonder if anyone will call the number. I’m sure that some who see it might be upset, but in this country, one is free to buy Ad space on buses. The woman behind this claims she has nothing against Muslims…which I don’t believe.

  • Glenn

    Of course they will claim that it is anti-muslim. The FACT is this. Many people feel forced to take part in Islam. It is Mandatory, not an option and the threat of death is VERY real. This is not some accusation but a fact that is backed up by many many people that have been threatened or worse. If they don’t like the negativity then change the problem.

  • nnmns

    I understand the death threat is real, though perhaps not in all circumstances and probably not in all places. But I could be wrong. It would be very good for an expert on Islam to come and hold forth on that.
    If it is true it is one of the most evil parts of the religion. People must be free to make up their own minds. (Christianity tries to prevent people making up their own minds in other, less drastic ways.) Indeed if it is true it might just be grounds for forbidding Islam in the US or someplace else where freedom is valued.

  • nnmns

    Ok, here’s the Wikipedia article on apostasy in Islam for what it’s worth. Apparently there are very differing opinions about what, if anything, the penalty should be. There’s no pope in Islam and any “jurist” can apparently issue his own fatwa. Fatwa city!

    The four major Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Madh’hab) all agree that apostasy is a sin as long as the individual does not do so in ignorance or under duress.[1] They also differentiate between harmful apostasy and harmless apostasy (also known as major and minor apostasy).[2] According to Wael Hallaq apostasy laws not are derived from the Qur’an.[3] Sura 9:74 would appear to dispute this, as it apparently hand out a grievous penalty for apostates “in this life and in the Hereafter”[Qur’an 9:74].

    Some Islamic jurists, such as Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi,[4] Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid al-Baji, and Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah, and some contemporary Islamic jurists, such as Shafi`i Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa[5][6] and Shi’a Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri,[7] argued or issued fatwas that the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances.[8][9][10][11] Some groups within Islam such as the Shi’a Ismaili reject death for apostasy altogether.[citation needed]

    Some prominent contemporary examples of death sentences threatened or issued for apostasy include Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity who was arrested and jailed on the charge of rejecting Islam in 2006 but later released as mentally incompetent[12] or the Egyptian Mohammed Hegazy.

    If I had somehow become a Muslim and quit I think I’d worry about some idiot fundamentalist following one of the idiot fundamentalist jurists. Again, the danger would surely depend on where you are.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Interesting that people should even have to wonder if it is ALLOWABLE to quit a religion. If I reject what the religion teaches or preaches, I already have left it in spirit, even if I keep going to church/mosque and keep on reciting prayers and singing hymns, etc. If I take faith in God seriously, God knows what is in my heart. That being so, any religion worth half an ounce of self-respect would say to the person quitting, “Peace be with you, go with God.” Of course, that is exactly the type of religion that people are NOT likely to quit.
    Religions that criminalize or condemn “apostasy” reveal themselves to be spiritually bankrupt.

  • Henrietta22

    The parents, Muslim, of Mis USA consider themselves liberal Muslims. Undoubtedly there are some in the middle Muslims, and the very orthodox or fundamentalist who fall on the side of extreme. It’s to the extreme that this Ad was directed to, IMO. Girls of teenage have been killed here in the U.S. because they had boyfriends who weren’t of Muslim religion. One teenager ran away to FL to a Church she read about on line for help. I might not like hearing, as a Christian, about families in Oregon letting their children die because of their extreme belief of Christian religion, but it won’t make me leave it. I imagine that it is the same with Muslim people.

  • Ahmet

    Our Religion condemns forcing religion on people. there are many Surahs against it. If a person is forced to accept it, then it is not truly in their hearts, they will not be considered a Muslim in the eyes of god. so it’d be pointless.
    Certainly in some cultures there is a taboo about leaving your religion and people are punished for it. but it is a cultural thing. not religious. for example: say , Syria, and claims to be a Muslim, kills his daughter for rejecting Islam. The killing though it may be accepted culturally, would be condemned Religiously.

  • cknuck

    Thanks for the explanation Ahmet I can understand that

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    If killing a person for leaving Islam is condemned religiously, are the mosques actively preaching to their congregants that such killings are NOT permitted, that they disgrace the faith? Does the same condemnation apply to “honor killings” for perceived sexual misconduct?
    If that message is being spoken loudly and forcefully by the religious leaders, then I would think these horrors would soon end. If that message is NOT being spoken loudly and forcefully, then the religious condemnation isn’t worth spit.

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