Press Releases

District Attorney, Board President Chiu, and City Leaders Denounce Islamophobic MUNI Ads

SFBA-Presser(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 03/12/2013) — Yesterday, the Asian Law Caucus, the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) and members of the American Muslim community joined San Francisco city leaders to condemn Islamophobia and the newest round of anti-Muslim hate ads placed on MUNI buses. District Attorney George Gascón, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and Supervisors John Avalos, London Breed, Malia Cohen, Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, Norman Yee held a press conference to denounce Islamophobic and racist advertisements by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) scheduled to run on MUNI buses beginning yesterday morning.

District Attorney George Gascón said: “When any community in San Francisco is attacked, it affects all of us. I and the city leaders standing with me today are exercising our speech rights in condemning these ads and standing with the Arab and Muslim communities of San Francisco.”

“Hate has no place in our City,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “San Francisco is a city that celebrates its diversity and hateful speech and discrimination against our Arab and Muslim communities will never be tolerated.”

Board President David Chiu said: “As a former civil rights attorney, I'm proud to stand with our Arab and Muslim American families to send a united message that San Francisco embraces diversity and tolerance, not hate and bigotry.”

“San Francisco leaders have responded to these hateful advertisements: our city respects free speech, but stands with our Arab and Muslim communities in condemning Islamophobia and racist speech,” said Nasrina Bargzie, Staff Attorney at Asian Law Caucus.

“Our city officials have truly shown leadership in standing up to bigotry,” said Zahra Billoo, CAIR-SFBA Executive Director. “Today, we are sending a strong message to the world about what it means for a society to commit to inclusiveness and equality.”

AFDI's founder Pamela Geller has been designated an anti-Muslim hate extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In August of 2012, San Franciscans were outraged over AFDI advertisements on MUNI that referred to Arabs and Muslims as “savages.” Around the same time period during which this first round of advertisements circulated on MUNI buses, Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities experienced 10 high profile incidents of hate violence across the country including arson, vandalisms and attacks targeting individuals. Arab and Muslim community leaders say the new advertisements are even more offensive as they wrongly suggest that all Muslims are defined by extremism and violence, and baselessly target Arab and Muslim San Franciscans who make invaluable contributions to the city's life and culture.

Supervisor David Chiu is introducing a resolution to condemn the Islamophobic and racist MUNI Ads at today's Board of Supervisors meeting. In response, and at the request of 75 organizations and 35 leaders who spoke out following the first round of ads in August, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority will dedicate the proceeds from the offensive advertisements to fund a city-wide study on the impact of discrimination on Arab and Muslim communities.

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation's first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law Caucus is a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

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CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo, 626.252.0885, E-Mail: zbilloo@cair.com; Asian Law Caucus Staff Attorney Nasrina Bargzie, 925.330.1163, E-Mail: nasrinab@asianlawcaucus.org; DA Gascón's Office Representative Stephanie Ong Stillman, 415.553.1167 or 415.740.5134, E-Mail: stephanie.ong.stillman@sfgov.org

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