Controversy ad on city bus

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and the San Francisco Bay Area Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently launched their own campaign last year and earlier this year, each focusing on similar issues, yet it’s interesting to see the approach they took.

The AFDI ran ads on Muni buses last August and if you use the bus, live/work in the city, or go there for whatever reason, then you’re sure to have run into them this year or last. An AFDI ad from last year read, ‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man’ and underneath them was written ‘support Israel’ and ‘defeat Jihad.’

It’s an advertisement that is designed in poor taste and ill-designed. If they were looking for ways to support Israel, clearly this isn’t the way to do it. Why? It plays on a world view that is black and white when the world isn’t so. This is especially highlighted with the use of the word ‘civilized’ and ‘savage’ and pause for a moment to consider their meaning.

The word ‘civilized’ and ‘savage’ implies the U.S. or at least western culture is actually civilized when it’s not completely so. Turn on the TV or watch any reality show and all you’re likely to see is a clear lack of any civilized behavior whether from the people participating or been featured. In fact, you may as well say that we’re all savages rather than civilized men and women.

In response to this advertisement, the San Francisco Bay Area Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) began at the start of this year their own campaign to educate people about the meaning of the word ‘Jihad’. Any dictionary will tell it doesn’t only mean holy war, but also an individual striving for spiritual self-perfection.

The end finishes with the caught phrases “What’s yours?”

And now the AFDI is on the move with another campaign, only this time targeting the treatment of homosexuals under Islamic doctrine. And unsurprising it has caused problems as various people have had a number of reactions from thinking it was anti-Islamic to not caring at all about it.

The advertisements feature quotes from famous/well known figures of the Islamic faith and from the political arena and finishes with the same caught phrases as the CAIR advertisements. The only real addition that the AFDI did to the caught phrase was ‘That’s his Jihad.’

Anyone with half a brain can figure out the point of the catch phrases isn’t to ask what religious crusade you’re on, it’s asking what your own personal crusade is whether it’s religious or not. It also brings up another point.

The meaning of words can change over time, take for example the word ‘gay.’ Its meaning has changed over the past century or two. At this point, if you were to ask anyone what the meaning of the word is, few would point that it also means ‘happy.’ This is especially made worse by its use in the media to refer to homosexuality even if they aren’t to blame. So it may well be that the word ‘Jihad’ is heading down the same path.

Which makes sense in what the CAIR is trying to do with their own ad campaign, to get people to see that there is more than one meaning to the word and especially to counter act the use of the ‘Jihad’ in the news media even if they are using the word the right way.

No doubt, there is a point in raising awareness of the problems that homosexuals experience under Islam by running controversial ads on buses in San Francisco but in addition of raising awareness, it also paints everyone who follows Islam as anti-homosexual when not all of them are.

So at the end of the day, remember to look beyond the words and know the meaning behind the word or else the word ‘Jihad’ may well go the same way as the word ‘gay’ with the other meaning of the word becoming buried under a history of ignorance.

Keep in mind that when you see the ad, just ignore it. All it does is cause controversy to make people aware of the issue. Nothing more.