Free Speech Victory

Miami-Dade Transit agrees to restore “Leaving Islam” ads on buses.

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Pamela Geller, founder, editor and publisher of the popular and award-winning weblog She has won acclaim for her interviews with internationally renowned figures, including John Bolton, Geert Wilders, Bat Ye’or, Natan Sharansky, and many others, and has broken numerous important stories — notably the questionable sources of some of the financing of the Obama campaign.. Her op-eds have been published in The Washington Times, The American Thinker, Israel National News, Frontpage Magazine, World Net Daily, and New Media Journal, among other publications. She is the co-author (with Robert Spencer) of the soon to be released, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (forward by Ambassador John Bolton).

FP: Pamela Geller, welcome to Frontpage  Interview.

Geller: Thank you, Jamie.

FP: Tell us about the "Leaving Islam" bus ads and what’s going on.

Geller: Last Tuesday (April 13), Stop Islamization Of America and the Freedom Defense Initiative, the new organization I have begun with bestselling author and Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer, rolled out our “Leaving Islam” ad campaign on Miami buses. But on Friday (April 30), in an outrageous denial of our free speech rights, Miami-Dade Transit pulled our ads – because they might be “offensive to Islam.”

At the behest of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an un-indicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case, Miami-Dade Transit took our SIOA ads off the buses in South Florida because they offended Muslims.

Miami-Dade Transit was bowing to Sharia, Islamic law, which forbids non-Muslims to insult Islam. But ultimately free speech won out: after we threatened a lawsuit, Miami-Dade Transit agreed to restore our ads and add them to twenty new buses at the cost merely of printing the new posters. Our lawyer, David Yerushalmi, did a superb job, with the aid of the Thomas More Law Center’s Robert Muise.

FP: What was the motive of your campaign?

Geller: Jamie, this campaign was and is in defense of religious freedom. Our ad asks, “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!” This is the first time anyone offered public help to people threatened under Islam’s death penalty for apostasy. America is the land of the free, and apostates must know they are free here. Safe here. Government and law enforcement should be on this. But they aren’t. So we are. It is time for free citizens to stand for freedom -- or lose it.

Miami-Dade Transit’s kowtowing to CAIR, even though it ultimately reversed itself, shows how close we are to losing it.

FP: Didn’t CAIR run a bus ad campaign of its own?

Geller: Yes, Jamie. CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups ran campaigns on buses across the country last year, including Miami, inviting people to convert to Islam and claiming that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim prophets. It was important to counterbalance this offensive appropriation of the founding figures of Judaism and Christianity and outright deception with a healthy message.

FP: It’s amazing that defending freedom of religion would be controversial.

Geller: That’s right, Jamie. Freedom of religion is an unalienable right. Sharia law should hold no weight or legitimacy here. Apostates should be free in America to leave Islam without fear, and be who and whatever that they want to be.

But Miami-Dade Transit thought otherwise, and it took the threat of a lawsuit to keep them from submitting to Sharia. While they allowed the CAIR bus ads despite how offensive they were to Jews and Christians, they initially disallowed the SIOA ads. In December 2008, the Miami Herald ran a glowing piece on the CAIR bus ad campaign, which ran in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for eight weeks. No one took offense, despite the Islamic supremacist nature of the ads. No one breathed a word of protest.

So Muslims can run bus ads all across America inviting the clueless to convert to Islam, but we cannot make information available to Muslims who want to leave Islam. Still think this is a free country? Still think we enjoy the protection of the First Amendment on speech that offends the powerful? Think again: it didn’t start with Miami. At least three of the bus companies that ran CAIR’s dawah (invitation to Islam) bus ads turned down our ad.

FP: How did CAIR react when your ads were pulled?

Geller: As Miami-Dade Transit bowed and scraped, CAIR lied. CAIR-South Florida director Muhammed Malik claimed: “Islam guarantees freedom to and freedom from religion. . . . [We] reject as un-Islamic any extremist interpretation that sanctions the killing of any individual because she decided to ‘leave Islam.”

If what Malik said were so, the ads would run. But what about the thousands of dead apostates in Muslim countries? Al Azhar University, the leading Islamic university in the world, recently issued a fatwa that constitutes a death warrant on apostates from Islam. Ruling on the question of a Muslim who had converted to Christianity, the fatwa said: “Since he left the Islam, he will be invited to express his regret. If he does not regret, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law.”

Will Muhammad Malik denounce Al-Azhar University? Will he denounce Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Al-Jazeera, who said that all the major schools of Islamic law “agree that apostates must be executed”?

FP: What’s the next step?

Geller: Jamie, I am proud to announce that Robert Spencer and I are taking our “Leaving Islam” campaign nationwide. Miami was a key test case. Now we are trying to raise money for ads – and lawyers – all over the country. Free speech and religious liberty must be defended in the United States. Public institutions like Miami-Dade Transit must not give way to Islamic rules governing speech. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

FP: Pamela Geller, thank you for joining us.