Well over a year ago, the human-rights group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), of which I am executive director, filed a lawsuit in Michigan against the transit authority, SMART, for the egregious violation of free speech in its banning of our bus ads for Muslims in need of help and resources.
Our “Leaving Islam?” bus campaign was designed for girls like Rifqa Bary and Jessica Mokdad and Noor Almaleki and Amina and Sarah Said, and for any one of the girls in Muslim families whose fathers have threatened them with death for being too “Westernized” or for leaving Islam. Apostasy from Islam is punishable by death under Islamic law, and we are seeing a spike in these horrific murders in the West.
Despite the crying need for resources for Muslims under threat for leaving Islam, the city of Detroit refused to run our freedom campaign on the Dearborn and Detroit buses. Instead, they caved to Islamic supremacism and violated their own ad guidelines of freedom of speech. Muslims of conscience strongly supported the outreach to Muslims. Shariah advocates, Muslim Brotherhood groups and Islamic supremacists did not. Muslim Brotherhood groups in America are free to advertise on buses proselytizing for Islam, but those whose lives are in jeopardy are denied.
Dawud Walid of the Michigan chapter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained that our ads were “designed to promote Islamophobia.” This was more Islamic propaganda to enforce Islamic law of blasphemy (do not insult Islam) and to reinforce the Shariah penalty for converts out of Islam (death).
And this was the line SMART adopted. AFDI filed a lawsuit arguing that “the Constitution does not permit government to decide which types of otherwise protected speech are sufficiently offensive to require protection for the unwilling listener or viewer.” SMART claimed that our ads offering help to those threatened for leaving Islam were political.
By doing so, they were effectively admitting that Islam was political – an admission that has immense implications (far beyond, I’m sure, what Detroit imagined). If Islam is political, it ought to be subject to the restrictions and scrutiny to which all political entities in the U.S. are subject. This could open the door to a re-evaluation of the unthinking assumption that Islam is simply a religion like Judaism or Christianity, and transform anti-terror efforts that are now hamstrung by the all-too-common idea that all that goes on in mosques is purely “religious.”
Back on March 31, 2011, I happily announced that we had won in our year-long struggle against the violation of our First Amendment rights in Detroit, regarding the refusal to post our freedom ads on Dearborn buses. Yet SMART Transit still refused to post it. And so on July 13, our freedom-fighting legal team, Robert Muise of Thomas More Law Center and David Yerushalmi, submitted a request for a ruling on our freedom buses in Dearborn. They argued that SMART had violated our right to freedom of speech. The judge has remained silent, never upholding her own ruling. Now, therefore, we are yet again back in court. Muise and Yerushalmi (the nation’s foremost defenders of our constitutional freedoms) filed last Thursday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6h Circuit.
The very same week our ad was scheduled to be placed on buses, another young Muslim girl was honor killed in the very town our ads were scheduled to run.
We could have helped her. We could have gotten her to a safe house. Perhaps 20-year-old Jessica Mokdad would be alive today, and free. Breathing. But our political and media elites are crippled by the fear of offending Muslims more than they are concerned with equal protection under the law; in gross negligence, SMART refused to comply with the judge’s ruling. They are more concerned with offending Muslims than with protecting freedom of speech. They are more concerned with adhering to Shariah law than with upholding American law.
Shame on the city of Detroit. How do Detroit officials look at themselves in the mirror?
We have an obligation to protect and defend our cherished freedoms. And the specter of honor killing and the Islamic death penalty for apostasy are real and terrible threats for Muslims yearning to be free. They cannot keep these buses off the streets. Let our freedom buses roll!