Despite the important free speech aspects of this story, and despite the fact that the Hamas-linked Islamic supremacists of CAIR have never before been dealt such a defeat, the mainstream media (including the allegedly conservative media) is — not surprisingly — ignoring the story of the restoration of our SIOA bus ads, with the notable exception of CNS News.
Join SIOA here.
We are taking the bus ad campaign nationwide. Help us pay for the ads — and the lawyers — by contributing. Use the “Contribute to Jihad Watch” button on the upper right sidebar.
“Activists Claim Free Speech Victory As ‘Leaving Islam’ Ads Return to Buses,” by Patrick Goodenough for CNS News, April 22:
(CNSNews.com) – A public transit authority in Florida has reversed a decision to take down banner advertisements on buses that offer help to Muslims wanting to leave their faith. Activists are hailing the move as a victory for free speech and religious freedom.
Not only will the ten originally planned ads appear on Miami-Dade Transit buses in coming days, but an additional 20 ads will be run at no extra cost.
The decision came after the group initiating the ad campaign threatened a lawsuit, claiming breach of contract and violation of First Amendment rights.
It was confirmed in an agreement signed on Wednesday, according to lawyer David Yerushalmi, whose firm prepared a federal complaint together with the Thomas More Law Center.
The bus company pulled the ads last week less than 48 hours after they had gone up, after a controversial Islamic pressure group complained that they promoted “anti-Islam bigotry.”
Produced by an organization called Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), the ads alluded to the difficulties faced by Muslims wanting to leave Islam.
Under Islamic law, or shari’a, any Muslim who abandons his faith is guilty of apostasy, an offense that leading scholars have taught is punishable by death.
“Fatwa on your head?” the ads’ tagline read. “Is your community or family threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!” The ads also give the URL of a Web site offering resources for people who have abandoned Islam or are thinking about doing so.
Their appearance triggered protests from the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Its director, Muhammed Malik, said the issue of apostasy was being used as “a smoke-screen to promote anti-Islam bigotry and attempt to marginalize American Muslims.”
Following the CAIR complaints, a Miami-Dade Transit spokeswoman told Florida media that the authority decided to remove the ads after reviewing them and determining that they might be offensive. An outside company, CBS Outdoor, had sold the ad space and the ads had not been routinely reviewed at the outset.
Yerushalmi said he had been ready to go to federal court this week to apply for a temporary restraining order, but that during a teleconference with the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s office, “the county attorneys conceded the ads should not have been pulled.”
The lawyer then negotiated a retraction of the earlier contract termination with CBS Outdoor. “The ads are expected to go back up by early next week.”
Miami-Dade Transit did not respond to queries Wednesday.
The driving forces behind SIOA and a related group, the Freedom Defense Initiative, are Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs Web site, and Jihad Watch director and author Robert Spencer.
When they launched the campaign last week, Geller and Spencer said it marked “the first time anyone has offered public help to those who are threatened under Islam’s apostasy law. In the Land of the Free, 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.”
SIOA has cited cases like that of Rifqa Bary, the teenage girl of Sri Lankan origin who converted to Christianity from Islam and then fled from her Ohio home to Florida last year, claiming in an affidavit that her father had threatened to kill her because of her conversion. […]
CAIR did not respond Wednesday to queries sent to its South Florida chapter office and to Malik’s personal email address. […]
In one Hadith (the Sahih al-Bukhari) Mohammed commands, “Any [Muslim] person who has changed his religion, kill him,” and in another (Imam Malik’s Muwatta) Mohammed specifies that the form of execution should be beheading.
CAIR’s stated position on the subject, outlined in a statement last year, is that “faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion.”
The statement included several Koranic references to back up that assertion, including the “no compulsion in religion” one, but said nothing about the various Hadith relating to death for apostasy.
Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Mauritania are some of the countries where people have been formally accused or found guilty of apostasy.
Apostasy laws typically give an accused person three days to reflect before being condemned. “If he does not repent within this time limit, he is to be condemned to death as an apostate and his property will be confiscated by the Treasury,” states Mauritania’s criminal code.
In Afghanistan, a Christian convert named Abdul Rahman was sentenced to death in 2006 for apostasy, but after the U.S. and other Western countries with military forces deployed there put pressure on the Karzai administration, he was freed and allowed to seek asylum abroad.
Even in countries where conversions are not punishable by law, apostates often face hostility or violence at the hands of relatives, communities or Islamist radicals. The Barnabas Fund, a British-based charity working among Christian minorities in the Islamic world, says Muslims who change religions often face “a lifetime of fear.”