August 10th, 2010
06:16 PM ET

New York bus ad opposing planned ground zero mosque approved

From CNN's Julie Cannold:

An ad opposing a planned mosque near ground zero will soon appear on some New York City buses after getting the green light from the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The controversial ad features a photo of one of the hijacked jets flying into the burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, along with a drawing of a high-rise building with an Islamic crescent and the label "WTC Mega Mosque." The ad, emblazoned with the words, "Why There?" was initially rejected by the transportation authority.

The group that created the ad, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, sued the authority last week for censorship and obstruction of free speech.

The transportation authority approved the ad on Monday and released a statement saying, "While the MTA does not endorse the views expressed in this or other ads that appear on the transit system, the ad...was accepted after its review under MTA's advertising guidelines and governing legal standards."

Pamela Geller, executive director of the group that created the ad, said, "It's an issue of free speech. I mean, what is the principle of free speech? It's to protect all ideas, not just the good ones, not just the ones that everybody likes, but all ideas."

Geller said the main message of the ad is to express concern with the choice of location for the proposed mosque, not to oppose mosques in general. As to controversy that the ad has generated, she said, "Why is there an issue with the actual image of the attack, but not of a 15-story mega-mosque looking down on ground zero? I don't understand that at all."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which supports the planned mosque, expressed concern over the motivation of the ad and the effect it will have.

CAIR released a statement saying, "While American Muslims support free expression, we maintain the right to question the motives of the group behind the bigoted bus ads opposing the planned community center near Ground Zero. Anti-Muslim fanatics...are exploiting the tragedy of 9/11 to spread hate and fear. That kind of divisive tactic is not only insensitive to New Yorkers, it risks threatening the safety of an entire religious minority."

According to the transportation authority, the ad, which cost $8,000 to place on buses, will appear on 26 buses and will run for four weeks, starting some time next week.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • New York • United States

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.