WHITE PLAINS — Holding up signs protesting Islamophobia and bigotry, a coalition of religious leaders, elected officials and community activists have rallied to denounce anti-Muslim ads posted at railroad stations throughout New York Westchester County.
"Every established Jewish, Arab and Christian organization against defamation and bigotry has spoken out against these ads," Howard Horowitz, a New Rochelle native who was one of six people to speak during a press conference, told White Plains Patch.
“We are hoping to bring it to the streets of White Plains.”
Gathering religious leaders, officials, community activists and residents, protesters took to the streets of White Plains Thursday, expressing their solidarity with the Muslim community.
The rally was called to protest controversial billboards posted in Westchester train stations which was condemned as "hate speech" from "political opportunists".
The rally began at the corner of Main St. and Mamaroneck Ave. as protesters held signs sayings "stop anti-Muslim bigotry" and "unity not Islamiphobia for 9/11".
Posted in August, the billboards at the forefront of the debate state that 19,250 deadly Islamic attacks have taken place worldwide since Sept. 11, 2001.
They then state, "It's not Islamophobia, it's Islamorealism."
The ads in question were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an umbrella organization of the Stop Islamization of America (SION) group.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is currently reviewing its policy on non-commercial viewpoint advertisements, but stated last month it does not endorse the content of these, or any other advertisement.
Paul Feiner, Greenburgh's town supervisor, suggested the MTA place disclaimers on the billboards while donating proceeds to anti-violence groups.
"I don't think the Metro-North should profit from the ads," he said.
"They are making a lot of money even if they say they don't like the ads."
The new ads were condemned by US Muslims as inciting anti-Muslim bigotry.
"This discrimination against Muslims is taking a new turn when it comes to a place like Chappaqua," Khusro Elley, a US Muslim Chappaqua resident, told The Patch.
Elley added that the signs create hate when people should be rallying against it.
"The Muslims are frightened, they feel under the microscope."
Others said the advertisements at railroads set a bad precedent.
"We are a role model in the rest of the world, I think we need to show the rest of the world what tolerance, peace and unity is," said Farzana Habib Levy, of Greenwich, CT.
"We are a diverse country, we are a painting of different colors."
Priscilla Read, a Tarrytown native who helped organize the rally, has been distributing a letter asking people to join a coalition in support of Muslims.
"The bigotry and hate that this ad directs at Muslims and Islam is totally unacceptable in Westchester or anywhere else," she said.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim sentiments sharply grew in the United States over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California said that Islamophobia is on the rise in the US.
Related Links:Questioning Loyalty of US Muslims
US Mosque Fight Turns Into War on Islam
Muslims Seen ‘Threat’ to America
‘Islamist Infiltration’ Enrages Americans
US Court Allows Anti-Islam Ads