Obama spiritual adviser Jim Wallis of Sojourners has condemned a pro-Israel ad in the New York subway system-describing jihadists as "savages" -- an ad that has divided NYC and resulted in a high profile arrest of a Muslim activist who spray painted graffiti on one of the ads.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners said of the campaign, "When Jesus said, 'Love your neighbor as yourself' he didn't add stipulations. He didn't offer any extra addendums or added qualifiers. Christians around the world need to put that into action as often as we can, especially where we see hatred like this."
"Everyone – regardless of race, religion, or creed – deserves to feel welcomed and safe when riding public transit in America," said Wallis. "With tensions across the world at an all-time high, the Christian community is doing what it can to promote non-violence in their own backyard, and this addition of subway ads to an ongoing billboard campaign only reinforces the Christian call to peace."
The ad in New York that has generated the controversy reads: "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
The ad campaign posted in New York City was only put up after a federal judge ruled the transit agency's prohibition against such ads were a violation of the First Amendment.
The ruckus began when Mona Eltahawy, who describes herself as a "liberal Muslim," attempted to spray paint over one of the ads before Pamela Hall, a Manhattan mother, tried to intervene and stop Eltahawy.
"If you don't want paint, you should get out of my way," Eltahawy said before spraying Hall and shouting a profane comment at her.
Prior to her trip to the Times Square subway station, Eltahawy tweeted: "Meetings done; pink spray paint time. #ProudSavage." She was charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti and possession of a graffiti instrument. Eltahawy was also held overnight in jail.
The controversial ad that is called "demeaning" by some groups was developed and promoted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its leaders, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.
In an interview in Salon, Geller said she expected some of the ads to be defaced but also noted that hundreds of anti-Israel ads have been posted throughout the country and not one of them was defaced.
"The defacement is a metaphor for the entire national conversation on these issues. Hundreds and hundreds of anti-Israel posters ran all over the country. Not one was defaced," said Geller. "One anti-jihad poster goes up, and it's defaced within an hour, while its creator faces defamation, smears and libel. Mona Eltahawy, a Muslim writer who was herself assaulted in Egypt by people she called 'beasts,' took a can of spray paint to our ad and assaulted a pro-freedom blogger, Pamela Hall, who tried to stop her."
"Islamic supremacists and leftist thugs criminally defaced these ads within an hour. This is a physical manifestation of the way the entire conversation, or lack thereof, always goes: anyone who speaks about jihad and Sharia is attacked, defamed, destroyed -- just like these ads. This is exactly what's happening in the media regarding jihad coverage in general."
Eltahawy, who in previous interviews has referred to herself as an activist, has appeared on MSNBC and CNN to make her case.
But not only are activists defending any attacks or criticism of Islam, on Wednesday Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi rejected America's free speech platform by stating that insults to the Islamic prophet Muhammad cannot be brushed aside.
"The obscenities that I have referred to that were recently released as part of an organized campaign against Islamic sanctities are unacceptable," Morsi said, referring to the YouTube video, "Innocence of Muslims," that the Obama administration tried to blame on the violence in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three others.
The White House was later forced to conclude that the attacks on the embassy compound in Libya were indeed a premeditated attack on the U.S.
"We reject this. We cannot accept it," Morsi said. "We will not allow anyone to do this by word or deed."
Attorneys for the American Freedom Law Center filed the suit on behalf of AFDI and is defending their client's right to purchase the ads.
"In light of the Obama administration's abject weakness in the face of savage attacks against U.S. personnel through coordinated violence directed at American sovereignty embodied by our embassies and consulates in the Muslim Middle East, the court's ruling in favor of our cherished First Amendment right to criticize violence driven by Islam's law of Sharia sends a message to our enemies around the world and here at home: Americans will not be cowed into silence," said David Yerushalmi, AFLC senior legal counsel.