How do you respond to a $100,000 campaign of hateful, anti-Muslim ads in the New York City bus and subway system? Do you deface them? Do you stand in front of each poster yelling at passersby “Don’t look at this poster!”? Do you shutter yourself at home for a month and order Pad Thai until the posters are gone? No—you launch the Fighting-Bigotry-with-Delightful-Posters Campaign, of course.
At least that’s what we did. You see, last fall a certain anti-Muslim bigot spent $100,000 to put up posters all over the New York City transit system. The posters were rabidly anti-Muslim, and to add further insult to injury, they were particularly unattractive and poorly designed. If you’re going to be bigoted, at least choose a better font.
We don’t want to mention this certain bigot’s name because she desperately seeks attention, but suffice it to say she was denounced by the Anti-Defamation League for “consistently vilifying the Islamic faith” and labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the leaders of the “anti-Muslim movement.” She is also praised for her work by a Neo-Nazi gentleman who goes by the moniker “skinjob88” (88 is Neo-Nazi speak for Heil Hitler). Those are some impressive credits!
The big question is, who spends $100,000 to demonize any minority group?! You really, really have to hate a group of people to spend that much money. You could be sipping a mojito in your own Caribbean bungalow for the cost of that hate.
Never mind the money; poster-based bigotry in a place as diverse as New York City makes no sense, especially on subway platforms. Subways are the great salad bowl of the American body politic. You’ve got New Yorkers of every race, religion, and sexual orientation, New Yorkers who dare to wear flip-flops, who still use hard-copy day planners, and even Libertarians. It is genuine diversity, crammed into moving subway cars, and it is spectacular.
In response to those hateful ads, here’s what we decided to do. Instead of (in the great tradition of poster defacement) drawing mustaches and/or penises on them, we reached out to the Internet to help raise $15,000—the minimum ad buy for New York City subways. We decided our ads would be ridiculous, totally loving, and/or (hopefully) hilarious. We raised money from Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, Buddhists—we suspect a Wiccan even donated money. We learned that beyond all the hate-tweeting and digital-shaming, in a quiet corner of the Internet there are big-hearted people who put money where their love is.
So, come Tuesday, April 28, there will be 144 posters in 140 subway stations across New York City—posters that will make people love the pants out of Muslims. Okay, pants might stay on but the posters will present an uplifting, funny, and absurd side of Muslims that we rarely ever see in the media.
And we don’t have one poster replicated 144 times. Oh no. A few months back we designed 13 posters, put them on our website and invited people to vote for their top six choices. It was just like American Idol, if American Idol was about funny posters… and Muslims.
So what do these posters say? Are they funny for everyone or just Muslims? If you see all six of them will you automatically convert to Islam? (Yes, you will. But don’t worry, turkey bacon is better for you.)
Here are a few examples: One poster states in big block letters “Muslims Hate Terrorism!” But in smaller print below is a long list of other things Muslims also hate like, “people who tell you they went to an Ivy League within 10 seconds of meeting them, people who clip their finger nails in public, kale”—the list goes on and on.
Another poster shares “The Ugly Truth About Muslims,” which is mostly that they have “great frittata recipes.” It’s true. Another poster offers real facts about Muslims like 1) Muslims invented Justin Timberlake 2) adult Muslims can do more pushups than baby Muslims, and 3) Muslims invented the concept of a hospital. All of them probably true!
Now for those of you who are really into anti-Muslim posters, do not fret. That Certain Bigot who spent $100,000 in the fall has also put up ads in other cities like Philadelphia (you know, the City of Brotherly Love) and that right-wing bigotry hot spot, San Francisco. What’s worse, she just won a lawsuit this week allowing her to put up more anti-Muslim posters in New York City subways.
And we don’t bemoan her right to do it—we’re huge fans of the First Amendment.
But we want to make these kinds of hateful images less culturally acceptable. We could really use your help, good reader, with our Fighting-Bigotry-with-Delightful-Posters Campaign. If you live in New York City, or are planning to visit the Big Apple in the next month while our posters are still up, take a photo when you see them. (Here's the list of subway stops where you can check out the posters) Share those pictures on social media with the hashtag #MuslimsAreComing. We want help getting the word out. We want help proving that comedy and love can beat the crap out of hate.
So why not ignore that Certain Bigot’s posters and check out ours? Besides, if you’re stuck on a subway platform staring at posters, wouldn’t you rather be laughing? Hate just doesn’t have the same entertainment value!
Dean Obeidallah is regular Daily Beast contributor. Negin Farsad is a comedian, filmmaker & TEDFellow. @NeginFarsad