It is quickly becoming impossible to criticize any aspect of Islam, no matter how violent or repressive, in the public square. My latest billboard battle is a case in point.
A month ago, a number of concerned Texans wrote me about a hijab promotion campaign on Outfront (previously known as CBS Outdoor) billboards running in Dallas. Local media wrote it up in glowing terms, of course.
KERA News ran a puff piece with the enthusiastic headline “Billboard Campaign In Dallas Aims To Dispel Misconceptions About Islam And The Hijab.” It featured a large photo of the billboard itself, which read “Respect – Honor – Strength. HIJAB. The Dress of Modesty.” It also offered a phone number for those with “questions about Islam and women.” Not a word, of course, about the many girls and women who have been threatened and even killed for not wearing the hijab in a practice commonly known as “honor killing.” This ad’s use of the word “honor” is especially cynical.
And then, of course, comes the post-ad followup describing horrific responses to the ad. The New York Post just ran yet another Muslims-are-victims-of-Islamophobia piece: “Muslim call center gets hundreds of hate calls for promoting hijabs on billboard.”
American media companies run these ads without hesitation, for fear of violating Islamic mores and traditions and appearing “Islamophobic” — a thought-crushing device designed to silence criticism of Islam, thereby enforcing sharia. The ads garner media attention, paint Muslims as victims, admonish Americans for things they haven’t done, and decry a non-existent epidemic of Islamophobia.
This billboard is the handiwork of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Neither KERA News nor any other news outlet that ran glowing coverage of this billboard bothered to mention that ICNA, according to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, and a report by Discover the Networks, is linked to radial Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the pro-Sharia organization from which Hamas and al-Qaeda come.
Says Emerson: “The ICNA’s hatred of the Jews is so fierce that it taunted them with a repetition of what Hitler did to them… The ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terror attacks, issues incendiary attacks on western values and policies, and supports the imposition of Sharia.”
ICNA’s January 2019 conference, with 20,000 attendees, featured a disquieting roster of participants and speakers with extremist views on slavery, homosexuality and Jews.
My organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), on the other hand, is a human rights group dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and individual rights. We have been targeted for death multiple times and escaped death in recent assassination attempts because of our work in defense of freedom.
AFDI submitted an ad to run on Dallas billboards right next to ICNA’s hijab “honor and respect” ad. But as of this writing, I have had to revise the ad over a dozen times to comply with Outfront (CBS) Outdoor’s constantly changing ad policy.
The first ad I submitted featured photos of a number of Muslim girls who were honor-murdered by their families for refusing to wear the hijab. Above the photos was the legend, “Muslim Girls Killed By Their Families Because They Refused Hijab,” and underneath, “Are you forced to wear hijab? Is your family threatening you? We can help. Go to FightforFreedom.us.”
Outdoor wouldn’t allow that; its General Manager Zack Danielson wrote me: “Good morning. I just received word that we cannot accept this copy due to the top tag line ‘Muslim Girls Killed By Their Families Because They Refused Hijab’. Is there any way you all can remove that line and leave everything else as is? Thank you.”
I responded: “But they were honor murdered by their families because they did not want to wear hijab – they wanted to be free. If I take that line out nobody understands who those girls are and by the way there from America and Canada. So what would be acceptable? ‘Honor killed by their families’ Would that work?”
To that, Senior Account Executive Sammy Tamporello replied: “I understand what you are saying, but as mentioned below whether I agree or not ultimately I cannot post creative that goes against our companies [sic] policy/approval process. Anything with the killed, murdered, or type of violence is not going to get approved.”
So I changed the top line to “Muslim Girls Who Refused the Hijab – R.I.P.” Tamporello responded: “Thanks for your assistance. If you all can eliminate the RIP, we will be good to go and I can send over the contract.” I said: “Sammy, I cannot eliminate the RIP – those girls are dead. How else would you have me convey that message? How about, ‘Rest in peace.’” Then I sent in a new ad reading: “In Memory of the Muslim Girls Who Refused Hijab.”
That was refused as well. Tamporello wrote: “Our corporate office just informed me that the top line needs to be removed or needs to not include a ‘death reference’ i.e. In Memory, RIP, or Condolences, etc.”
Then I wrote: “Sammy, Can you explain how Outfront is running a campaign promoting the hijab but refuses to allow a campaign offering help to Muslim girls who don’t want to wear the hijab? Why? Why would Outftont take sides against freedom in Texas of all places. What wording would Outfront if not in memoriam? Is there a decision maker I can speak with?” To that, Zack Danielson wrote: “We are happy to seek approval for your campaign with a message that is positive in nature. If you would like to send me the revised creative I would be happy to pass it along to our legal team.”
I answered: “Zack, Isn’t the message positive? We offer sanctuary to girls whose life is in dangerous. Saving a life. What could be more positive than that?” Danielson responded: “How about offering a positive message that speaks to that exactly, with a tagline that reads: We offer a sanctuary to young woman / girls who may feel that there life is in danger.” Note that in Danielson’s “positive” ad, all reference to the girls being in danger because they refused to wear hijab was removed.
This is in Texas, where Amina and Sarah Said were honor-murdered in cold blood by their father, according to police. But we can’t talk about it. Nothing remotely critical of Islam can be discussed.
Finally, I submitted an ad reading: “Are you forced to wear hijab? Is your family threatening you?” And underneath the photos: “These girls could have been saved.”
To that updated submission, Outdoor has not yet responded.
Our ad is a public service announcement, and public service ads offering help to women threatened by domestic violence run all the time. But when it comes to the cause of Islamic honor, suddenly we must be “positive” and show “respect.”
We’re not going to let these appeasers and useful idiots stop us.
Pamela Geller is the President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publisher of The Geller Report and author of the bestselling book, FATWA: Hunted in America, as well as The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America and Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.