Muslim ads on county buses drive Jewish group to protest

Muslim group says reference to Abraham, Moses and Jesus not intended to offend, but Americans Against Hate activist says message is misleading

Controversial bus

One of the county’s 290-bus fleet is seen here in the downtown area near the main bus terminal. The ad says: “ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.” (Sun Sentinel/Lou Toman / January 14, 2009)

There’s a new front in the conflict between Jew and Muslim: Broward County buses.

Fifty of the county’s 290-bus fleet have been chugging around area streets for the past several weeks with a message that might seem more oblique than inflammatory. Black letters on a white backdrop proclaim, “ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.”

The $60,000 ad was paid for by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We owe it to our fellow Americans to let them know that Islam stands for peace,” said Altaf Ali, director of CAIR’s South Florida chapter. “Muslims are here and Muslims are part and parcel of the United States.”

But the words have inspired opposition from a group called Americans Against Hate, led by Jewish activist Joe Kaufman. The group says the ad is misleading because it implies that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim.

“That’s offensive to both Jews and Christians,” said Kaufman, a resident of Coral Springs.

County officials have rejected Kaufman’s request they remove the ads. Now he plans a rally outside County Hall at noon Friday.

“We want to send a message right to the commission that it’s not right to legitimize this organization,” he said.

Both CAIR and AAH accuse each other of being affiliated with terrorists.

Kaufman notes the U.S. Department of Justice labeled CAIR an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a Dallas case which last November saw five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity, convicted of providing more than $12 million in support to the Hamas terrorist organization.

Ali, who lives in Pembroke Pines, counters that Kaufman is affiliated with the Kahanist Movement founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated removing all Muslims from Israel.

Because of its terrorist activities, the group was banned in Israel and its U.S. assets were frozen.

Kaufman writes for the right-leaning Web publication Front Page Magazine, and once called for nuclear attacks on Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Since founding Americans Against Hate as a terrorism watchdog group, he wrote that “pure merciless force” was the only way to deal with Muslims.

“He’s a man who advocates for killing,” Ali said.

Ali said the ad accurately describes Abraham, Moses and Jesus. “A Muslim is anyone who submits their will to God,” he said. “By that definition Abraham and all the prophets are Muslim because they submitted their will to God.”

As to CAIR’s alleged ties to Hamas, Ali said: “There is no credible evidence that that is true. Unindicted means unindicted.”

Kaufman remains unconvinced. “They are an organization that’s connected to the terrorist group Hamas,” he said.

Broward County Transit spokeswoman Phyllis Berry said the county accepted CAIR’s message because it didn’t violate guidelines against ads that demean religions. The county also accepts ads from Christian churches, and courts have designated buses as “public forums” where free speech rights apply.

The ads will run through Jan. 26, but may be the last of their kind on county buses.

“We have restrictions on cigarettes and adult entertainment, and we should eliminate religious ads hereafter,” County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Staff Writer Scott Wyman contributed to this report.

Robert Nolin can be reached at rnolin@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4525.

Dozens in Fort Lauderdale protest Islamic bus ads
Doug Phillips | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
January 16, 2009

Joe Kaufman and The Americans Against Hate rallied at noon Friday in front of County Hall in Ft. Lauderdale to protest the county allowing the Council on American-Islamic Relations to palce an ad on 50 county buses saying Islam is the way of life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. (For the Sun Sentinel/Ginny Dixon / January 16, 2009)

FORT LAUDERDALE – About 60 people turned out for a noontime rally today outside County Hall to show their opposition to transit buses carrying advertising that they say implies that religious figures Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim.

“We’re hoping the counties of Broward and Miami Dade will remove the signage from the buses,” said rally organizer Joe Kaufman, a Coral Springs resident and Jewish activist who heads a group called Americans Against Hate.

The transit buses in question carry advertising paid for by the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR) and read “ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.”

CAIR’s South Florida chapter director, Altaf Ali, says a Muslim is anyone who submits their will to God and by that definition, “Abraham and all the prophets are Muslim.”
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