Move aside pro-atheist and Christian bus ads. A new ad targeting former Muslims has joined the religious bus ad campaigns in New York City.
Some 30 city buses began in mid-May to display an ad that reads: "Leaving Islam? Fatwa on your head? Is your family threatening you?" The ad directs people to the website www.refugefromislam.com.
Opponents of the ad say it promotes an anti-Muslim message and seeks to draw people away from the faith.
But supporters of the campaign say it is meeting a real need to provide resources for Muslims who want to leave the faith.
"As an ex-Muslim I know a lot of converts who are persecuted for leaving Islam," wrote Sabatina James, a prominent Muslim background believer living in Germany, to The Christian Post. She is living under police protection because of death threats on her life for leaving Islam. James has moved 16 times since 2001 to avoid physical harm from Muslim family members and friends.
"Thousands of converts are being tortured and killed every year," she stated. "The campaign is not only applying religious freedom but is very necessary for us ex-Muslims."
In her bestselling book My Fight for Faith and Freedom, James shares how she had no one to turn to after her family learned that she had converted to Christianity. In a recent interview with The Christian Post, James said when Muslims make a decision to follow Jesus Christ they do so knowing they will be persecuted by their family.
Pamela Geller, the conservative activist behind the bus ad, said the campaign is not meant to offend Muslims but to support those who have already made the decision on their own.
"It's not targeted at practicing Muslims," said Geller, who heads the organization Stop Islamization of America, to The Associated Press. "It doesn't say 'leave,' it says 'leaving' with a question mark."
The same ad can be seen on the side of dozens of Miami buses. It started appearing in late April but was temporarily pulled by the Miami-Dade Transit to reconsider if it is offensive to Islam. The ads were later reinstalled on Miami buses.
But in Detroit, where there is a large Muslim community, the ad is meeting greater obstacles. The Detroit-area transportation authority refused to allow the ad to appear on its buses.
The Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation on behalf of the ad's sponsors. The plaintiffs maintain that the transportation agency violated the rights of free speech and the Equal Protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution.
"In Detroit, government officials grant atheists the right to express a view that God does not exist, not worrying about offending Christians," said TMLC senior trial counsel Robert Muise. "Yet, these same politically correct officials censor speech that might offend Muslims. Such blatant discrimination is offensive, and it violates our Constitution."
The "Leaving Islam?" ad on New York City buses is scheduled to run for about a month.