The tension between free speech and hate speech is already on display in the Middle East. Now it’s come to the New York City subway system. An ad campaign branding Muslims as “savages” has gone on display. Wisely, courts have resisted censorship. But the subway ads have had at least one positive effect: They’ve brought together many Jewish and Islamic groups in criticizing the campaign.
Pamela Geller of the anti-Islamic group known as the American Freedom Defense Initiative won a court case over the summer defending the posters as free speech. They include the slogan “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man,” surrounded by images of the Star of David. Some Muslim activists, including Egyptian-American commentator Mona Eltahawy, urged their supporters to deface the posters. But defacing public property is illegal, and is the wrong way to fight back.