Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — today’s “shout it from the rooftops” is “advertise it on the bus” — the wars of sound-bite religion, plus special extra, the perils of dehumanization ]


I am pretty sure that when Sojourners puts up an ad saying Love your Muslim neighbors” (above, right) it’s a religiously motivated act with political implications, but not quite so sure when Pamela Geller puts up an ad that’s certainly anti-Hamas and likely anti-Muslim (below), whether to consider it religiously or politically motivated: the two things aren’t always easily untangled.


But hey, at least in Portland according to this AP article, the Pamela Geller ads were posted in response to this one, which I’d tend to characterize as politically motivated, with a plausible religious undercurrent:


Of course, there are other maps.. including this one, from American Trial Attorneys in Defense of Israel:


Okay, I’ve been on about ads as a medium for religious dispute for a while now [1, 2], and frankly I don’t know why we need seminaries in Oxford, Qom or Dharamsala if all you need to know about a religion can be found on the side of a bus…

But it does get confusing, eh?

For instance, when Mona Eltahawy defaces one of Pamela Geller’s ads, is she erasing freedom of speech, or hate speech — or freedom of hate speech?


Look, here are a series of ads that CAIR has just put out, using the term “jihad” in a way that’s both a legitimate meaning of the term within Islam and compatible with western democratic ideals:


And here are Pamela Geller’s reworkings of the same series of ads, using the term “jihad” in a way that’s both a legitimate meaning of the term within Islam and entirely incompatible with western democratic ideals.

The thing is, there’s an enormous spectrum of beliefs and nuances of belief within Islam, and even within Salafism…

And buses and subway ads aren’t the go-to places to understand that spectrum.


But they’re worth watching to get a sense of how the public is being swayed.

Ironic, isn’t it, that as the New York Times reports, Erika Menendez told the cops:

I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers.

Hindu, Muslim, Sikh..


For what it’s worth, Sojourners could have posted an ad that said, Love your enemies rather than Love your neighbor — both are equally biblical:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Matthew 5. 43-44

But then, that’s a bit long for an advertisement, isn’t it?


Somewhere between Christ‘s command “Love your enemy” and Sun Tzu‘s “Know your enemy” we can surely find a place for “Honor your enemy” — and that, it turns out, may be of considerable importance. Describing the work of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Lin, Mehlman and Abney write in their Greenwall Foundation report, Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy:

Grossman has interviewed many US veterans of the Vietnam War. Not all of his subjects, however, were those with lingering psychological trauma. Grossman found that some of the men he interviewed had never truly achieved emotional distance from their former foes, and seemed to be the better for it. These men expressed admiration for Vietnamese culture. Some had even married Vietnamese women. They appeared to be leading happy and productive post-war lives. In contrast, those who persisted in viewing the Vietnamese as “less than animals” were unable to leave the war behind them.

That, more generally, may be key to understanding why demonizing Islam and Muslims is such a bad idea. In Grossman’s own words:

It can be easy to unleash this genie of racial and ethnic hatred in order to facilitate killing in time of war. It can be more difficult to keep the cork in the bottle and completely restrain it. Once it is out, and the war is over, the genie is not easily put back in the bottle. Such hatred lingers over the decades, even centuries, as can be seen today in Lebanon and what was once Yugoslavia.