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HART Did Not Reject Diversity, It Followed The Rule Of Law

August 8, 2013

Islamic Shari'ah

Earlier this year the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Tampa attempted to place advertising on the city’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) buses.  These ads were an attempt to redefine the meaning of the Islamic word “jihad” with quotes such as:

“My jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule” or “My jihad is to build bridges through friendship.”

1375723287-cair-myjihad_bus-campaign-fitness-620x383-1These ads can currently be seen on public buses in San Francisco and Chicago, and in D.C. Metro stations, as shown here.

The HART board voted against running the ads due to the policy of the agency, which states in Section 810.10 (4) Prohibitions: The following types of advertising are prohibited in and on all vehicles and/or property: (d) advertisements that primarily promote a religious faith or religious organization.

Not to be content with the decision and respectful of the law, CAIR representatives attempted to work with HART management and submitted a revised ad that makes no mention of the word jihad and which shows a group of Muslims next to the CAIR name and logo along with the phrase: “Embracing diversity at work.  Defending Civil Rights in the Community.”

Upon discovering that CAIR was attempting to convince the HART board to run their ads, this reporter decided to attend the meeting and personally speak to the board.  I was not aware of how their ads were going to be changed, so I researched the current use of the word “jihad” by speaking with an Egyptian acquaintance living in Cairo.  I asked if the word is used today the way they wanted to use it in their advertising.  He said absolutely not, that it is an old word and it means “struggle,” but it is not used this way in modern Muslim society.

Only I and one other member of the public addressed the board.  I related the fact that the word jihad is not used the way they want to use it on the ads, and that it was a disingenuous attempt to redefine the word and make it less controversial.

I also stated that the policy of the board is not to accept any advertising of a religious nature or that promotes a particular faith or organization.  The way the law is stated, they cannot accept this advertising.

HART board member John Melendez also stated he believed that the Florida State statutes prohibit them from accepting advertising from religious groups or organizations.

I also requested they look at their policy and perhaps rewrite it to align more with how the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) has written their advertising policy, which clearly states:  “The subject matter of all on-bus advertising shall be limited to speech which proposed solely a commercial transaction.”

HART’s attorney David Smith explained that whatever they decided needed to be consistent, non-arbitrary, and non-capricious. He also said whether they voted to approve or not approve the ads, there could still be a First Amendment legal challenge from CAIR.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe stated there is a place for this message, but the language of HART’s policy is clear and this ad would violate the policy.

Commissioner Murman questioned how riders and operators might feel with this ad on their buses and their policy must be rational and consistent.

In the vote the ads were rejected, with only Commissioner Beckner and Chair Fran Davin dissenting.  Commissioner Kevin Beckner expressed his disgust with the vote, saying there is a small group in this community that seeks to diminish the Muslim community and once again we have rejected diversity.

No Mr. Beckner, we did not reject diversity.  We followed the rule of law.

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About laura997

Ordinary citizen concerned with the direction our country is headed.

View all posts by laura997

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