NEW YORK - Anti-Islamic advertisements are to appear on New York buses next week, funded by a pro-Israel group, the latest in it’s longstanding attempt to recast Islam as an inherently violent religion, according to media reports. 

One features an image of James Foley, the American journalist, flanked by an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist taken from the video of his murder and the slogan: ‘Yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline.’ Alongside is a photograph of the London rapper suspected by some of being ‘Jihadi John’, the masked man in the video.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (ADFI) has run similar advertisements before, heading off criticism that they enflame public feelings towards Muslims by citing the first amendment’s guarantee of free speech. Its president, Pam Geller, defended the ads claiming they were designed to put pressure on Muslim communities to root out extremists in the midst. She added that a previous campaign – condemned for depicting a war between civilised men and ‘savages’ - was vindicated by the rapid rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria this year.

The ads, which make heavy use of shocking pictures and bold text, attempt to frame Islam as a violent religion that radicalizes its followers. The campaign calls for the United States to ‘end all aid to Islamic countries,’ and attempt to connect Hamas in Palestine to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an American Muslim organization that projects Islam as a peaceful religion and has condemned terrorism for years, and has passionately denounced ISIS as ‘un-Islamic and morally repugnant.’ CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said that while AFDI’s ads are deeply offensive to many Muslims, the extreme nature of the accusations is a tactic often used by anti-Islam groups to get attention and solicit funds.

‘This is her usual schtick: anti-Muslim bigotry,’ Hooper said, referring to Geller. ‘Basically what she does is go into a market and introduce the most inflammatory, defamatory remarks that she can possibly come up with, knowing that it will all give her free publicity. Then, if the [local transit authority] denies her, she sues and gets more publicity.’ Indeed, this isn’t the first time the AFDI has used public space to push messages that demonize Islam and Muslims. In 2012, the group posted ads in Washington, D.C. and NYC that referred to enemies of Israel as ‘savages,’ and this summer it put posters on 20 buses in the U.S. capital that included an image of Adolf Hitler sitting next to Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini underneath the caption, ‘Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.’

Ironically, the divisive ads have prompted compassionate responses from various groups, including a CAIR-sponsored campaign in Washington, D.C. where counter-ads were posted on bus routes that depicted a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew endorsing a peaceful passage from the Qur’an. CAIR also offered to give free Qur’ans to anyone who wished to understand the inaccuracy of ADFI’s claims.

The United Methodist Women also bought their own counter-ads with the slogan ‘Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed,’ and the back-and-forth between various groups ultimately prompted the Washington Metro authorities (WMATA) to include a disclaimer on all of their ‘viewpoint’ ads saying that messages ‘[do] not imply WMATA’s endorsement of any views express.’