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Judge rules for group touting anti-Islam ad
Oralandar Brand-Williams ("The Detroit News," April 2, 2011)

Detroit, USA - A national group that wants to advertise its anti-Muslim messages on Metro Detroit buses has won the right to display their ads on the sides of local buses.

The ads, which will soon be ready to go on the side of some local public buses, read "Fatwa on your head? Leaving Islam? Refuge from Islam.com. Got questions? Get answers!" The controversial ads from the New York City-based American Freedom Defense Initiative group are aimed at people who want to leave the Islamic faith.

Metro Detroit has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the nation.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Denise Hood granted a preliminary injunction against the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority's rejection of the ads, ruling SMART violated the group's First and 14th Amendment rights. Both sides are due back in court April 11.

"This is a huge win, not just for us, but for the First Amendment," Pamela Geller wrote on the American Freedom Defense Initiative's website.

"This is a direct refutation to all those who claim I am a hater or that my lawyers are 'haters' for representing me," added Geller. "I love, not hate."

Local Muslim activist Dawud Walid sees it differently.

"The organization … is simply fomenting Islamophobia," said Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Michigan). "(Geller) is simply engaging in fear mongering."

Victor Begg, also a Muslim advocate, said the case is "is another example of a hate group taking advantage of our First Amendment."

The "Quran states 'there is no compulsion in religion' so those who want to leave Islam can freely do so," Begg, the senior adviser for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, added.

Geller also runs Stop Islamization of America, a group referred to as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center.

SMART spokeswoman Beth Gibbons said the transportation agency had no comment on the judge's order "while we decide how to move forward."

A year ago, SMART carried ads by the United Coalition of Reason as part of its campaign to reach out to atheists.


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