An Egyptian-born US columnist was arrested on Tuesday for spray-painting an advertisement at a New York City subway station equating Muslim radicals with savages.
Mona Eltahawy, 45, of New York, was arrested on charges including criminal mischief and making graffiti, police said. Her arrest was captured on video by a New York Post camera crew and posted online.
Eltahawy is a women’s rights defender and lecturer on the role of social media in the Arab world. She calls herself a liberal Muslim who has spoken publicly against violent Islamic groups. She was seen in the video spraying pink paint on the ad, while another woman tried to block her.
“This is non-violent protest, see this America,” Eltahawy said in the video as police officers were arresting her. “I’m an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate.”
Eltahawy has not returned a phone message seeking comment on her arrest.
The ads — reading, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” — went up in 10 subway stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York initially refused to run blogger Pamela Geller’s ad, saying it was “demeaning.” However, a federal judge ruled in July that it is protected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech.
Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and publisher of a blog called Atlas Shrugs, has said she is not concerned that her ad could spark protests like the ones against the depiction of Muslims in the low-budget video Innocence of Muslims. Violence linked to the movie has left dozens in seven countries dead, including the US ambassador to Libya.
The ad was plastered on San Francisco city buses in recent weeks, prompting some people to deface the ads and remove some of the words, including “jihad.”
Geller said the subway ads cost about US$6,000. The MTA said they will be up for a month.