While at first glance the message behind The Muslims Are Coming! might seem racist, xenophobic and derogatory, the film, produced by New York-based Vaguely Qualified Productions, is satirical and could really only offend those who still don’t realize that The Onion does not report real news. But it seems that the MTA might not be in on the joke, because it has banned six subway advertisements for the film, leading Vaguely Qualified to file a lawsuit against the MTA for what the production company believes to be violations of its First Amendment rights, reports Reuters.
The documentary seeks to combat misrepresentations of Muslims in American mass-media, and while its contents can be truly silly at times, it hinges on the very real climate of paranoia that seized America post-9/11, and which continues today. The film’s website reads: “Islam has been duly tarnished by the mainstream media and the series approach to repairing the political wedge hasn’t worked. Whether it’s the mosque at Ground Zero, the perceived threat of Sharia Law, the NYPD surveillance of Muslim groups, or heated discussions of Muslims during presidential elections, the idea that Islam is somehow antithetical to American culture just won’t go away.”
To that end, the documentary seeks to “change the discourse,” by “reaching out to middle-America.” It seeks to combine carnivalesque “Ask a Muslim” booths in different city centers with serious commentary from the likes of Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow.
New York’s MTA isn’t really down for their cause, however. The MTA has been banning politically charged content from pervading subway platforms recently, and sees Vaguely Qualified’s ads as more problematic than constructive and enabling of dialogue.
Reuters reports that Vaguely Qualified’s suit was filed only six days after a the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a right-wing group openly hostile to Muslims, had ads of their own banned by the MTA.
US District Judge John Koeltl banned the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s ads under the pretense that “no law requires public transit agencies to accept political advertisements as a matter of course”—no matter how funny they are.
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