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Politicians and religious clerics denounce anti-Islam bus ads

Elected officials and representatives from religious organizations condemned anti-Islam SEPTA bus ads during a news conference yesterday.

The Islamic community joined clergy of several faiths and elected officials to denounce bus ads. (CHANDA JONES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
The Islamic community joined clergy of several faiths and elected officials to denounce bus ads. (CHANDA JONES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)Read more

IN A SHOW of solidarity, interdenominational clergy and elected officials gathered yesterday at the Masjidullah Mosque in East Mount Airy to denounce the anti-Muslim advertisements that have stirred controversy since a federal judge last month ordered SEPTA to run them on buses.

"Communities need to stand together . . . when these ads on the bus happen, we are all diminished," said Nancy Kreimer, with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote. "Every one of us who is a citizen of this city is diminished by having hate ride on our buses."

Omar Woodard, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams' policy director, represented the mayoral candidate at the news conference attended by about 62 people. He told the Daily News that finding common ground was essential.

"The senator's vision for the city is of one Philadelphia. Bringing together the Jewish community, the Christian community and the Muslim community to unite on an issue that affects all of us," Woodard said.

The advertisement in question says: "Islamic Jew Hatred: It's in the Quran." The ad calls for an end to U.S. aid to Islamic countries and features a photograph of a 1941 meeting between Adolf Hitler and Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian Arab nationalist.

The ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a pro Israel group led by blogger Pamela Geller. The organization tried to have the ads placed with SEPTA last fall, but when the transit agency rejected them, the AFDI sued in federal court and prevailed.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, who was appointed by Gov. Wolf to the board of directors for SEPTA in February, said he attended the news conference to show his support and reinforce SEPTA's position.

"I deplore this type of message and advertisement," he said. "I was present today to show support to the Muslim community as I would to the Jewish and Christian community."

Michael Rashid, president and CEO of the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, said that he was very grateful that so many people came forward to show their support.

"We are all for free speech, but there are limits where free speech can become uncivilized and hurt people. [This ad] is not just an attack on Islam, we see it as an affront to religion in general," he said.

Masjidullah's Imam, Muhammad Abdul-Aleem, said he wanted to show that the Muslim community was invested in Philadelphia and that it was just as much a part of American society as any other religion or community.

"Here is a house of worship that brings people together from all different backgrounds and religions and stands in solidarity.

"We wanted to show that the people who say that the Quran spreads hate obviously don't know the Quran," said Abdul-Aleem adding that he was very hopeful for the future of American-Muslim relations.