MTA Not Pleased 'Muslims Are Coming!' Ads Are Coming

"The Muslims Are Coming!" co-creators Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad. The Muslims Are Coming!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has issued a strong reaction to a Wednesday court ruling that it must allow ads for a film titled The Muslims Are Coming! On Friday, it said that while the judge termed the ads "mere humorous statements that American Muslims are 'just like other Americans,'" the MTA "disagrees" and "will continue to strive to apply its new advertising standards fairly and uniformly."

"Luckily, it's not up to the MTA to decide who Americans are," says Negin Farsad, co-creator of The Muslims Are Coming!, which follows Muslim-American comedians as they tour Middle America, trying to combat Islamophobia. "They clearly take issue with the judge likening us to any other American."

"It shows just how much we need the legal system to protect us in these cases," she continues. "I'm really stunned that as an agency that services New York City so well in so many cases, that they are so wrong on this issue."

After a nearly six-month back-and-forth over everything from word usage to font size, Farsad says, the MTA approved the ads and scheduled them to run in April and May. But then weeks later, after adopting a new advertising policy prohibiting political messages, the MTA reversed its decision, determining that the posters were political. The rejection prompted the film's production company to sue the MTA in June.

Two posters from The Muslims are Coming! ad campaign. The Muslims are Coming!

On Wednesday, the judge ruled against the MTA, calling it "utterly unreasonable" for the MTA to conclude, without having clearly articulated its advertisement standards, that the word "Muslims" is inherently political. But the MTA disagrees. An MTA spokesman tells Newsweek:

The MTA is continuing to review yesterday's decision in Vaguely Qualified Productions v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA is pleased that the court re-affirmed several points of critical importance. First, it confirmed that "transit authorities are entitled to enact advertising policies that restrict political speech." Second, it confirmed that the MTA's review of ads under its current advertising policy are subject to a reasonable and viewpoint neutral standard.

The MTA had initially approved, under its former advertising standards, the Muslims are Coming ads, whose sponsors had explained were both responding to ads posted earlier by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and promoting a movie. But after adopting a new advertising policy prohibiting political ads, the MTA determined that the Muslims are Coming ads were political. The court, however, has now concluded that the ads are more appropriately characterized as mere humorous statements that American Muslims are "just like other Americans." Though the MTA disagrees, MTA will continue to strive to apply its new advertising standards fairly and uniformly.

"The judge...pointed out that we were treated very differently than other clients [who] were getting political posters through this system without much scrutiny," says Farsad. "But we were scrutinized heavily, down to font. To me that goes to show that the MTA had felt that unlike other Americans, we deserved that extra scrutiny. And this statement just further clarifies that."

With a series of anti-Muslim rallies planned for Saturday at mosques and other Islamic sites around the country, The Muslims Are Coming! co- creator Dean Obeidallah suggests the time is right for the ads to run. "The message of the film is needed more now than when we released given the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment," says Obeidallah.

According to an MTA spokesman, the MTA is continuing to review the court's decision, suggesting it may appeal.

"I want the MTA to know, even though they lost, we can work together, and I still love me some F train," says Farsad. "We're just gonna make that train ride a little funnier."

"If they don't appeal, then the ads will be up in 140 subway stations in the near future, but not sure if that is a few weeks or a month or more," adds Obeidallah. "I hope this victory encourages not just people in our community but any group who feels like their rights have been trampled on."