Muslim parody posters banned by MTA are not political ads, judge says
by Dan Rivoli and Stephen Rex Brown
A humorous "The Muslims Are Coming!" poster campaign banned by the MTA in the wake of a related fight over Islamophobic ads is a violation of its own rules, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The ads, commissioned by comedians Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad, featured lines like "The ugly truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes."
The ads were bought in response to conservative provocateur Pamela Geller's anti-Islam advertisements, which prompted the MTA to change its policy and ban "political" ads in April.
That new policy, in turn, resulted in the MTA also declining the "Muslims are coming!" parody campaign.
But Judge Colleen McMahon said the two campaigns are obviously different, and that the humorous "Muslims are coming" ads do not amount to political speech.
"That the advertisements at issue gently mock prejudice and employ Islamophobia as a comedic device does not make their message 'prominently or predominately' political," she wrote.
She noted that the MTA had run advertisements for a Republic presidential debate since its policy change.
"To suggest (the debate ad) is somehow less 'political' than humorous statements about the Muslim population's dislike of both terrorism and insufficient bagel schmear is, quite clearly, not viewpoint neutral," McMahon wrote.
An MTA spokesman said "we are reviewing the judge's decision."
Geller has appealed a ruling upholding the MTA's ban on her posters.
Obeidallah continued to see the humor in the free speech debate.
"The judge's ruling is more than a victory for us, it also ensures that New York City's straphangers will get a chance to see funny and often silly posters about Muslims. What better way to spend your time while crammed on a subway platform?" he said.
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