By Elizabeth Daley
(Reuters) - An ad campaign featuring an image of Adolf Hitler and linking Islam to Nazism could soon appear on Philadelphia-area buses after a court ruling this week that forces the regional transit authority to accept the campaign.
The ad's sponsor, political blogger Pamela Geller, said on Friday she was pleased by a ruling by Philadelphia District Court Judge Mitchell Goldberg that a rejection of the ads would violate her First Amendment right of free speech.
"Jew-haters have been running anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ads on buses for years. We are responding," she said in an email.
Geller is the founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an anti-Muslim hate group.
The advertisement, which has already run in the transit systems of other U.S. cities, reads: “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran."
It contains a picture of the Nazi dictator meeting with a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in the 1920s and 1930s. The caption reads: “Adolf Hitler and his staunch ally, the leader of the Muslim world, Haj Amin al-Husseini.”
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Geller may have a constitutional right to "be a bigot" but her "intolerance" was harmful.
“People of good will just need to get together and marginalize her type of anti-Muslim hatred,” he said.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority is still trying to decide whether to appeal the ruling, said spokeswoman Jerri Williams.
She said the agency thought the ad may offend some customers, and Geller's organization was unwilling to make changes to satisfy the transit agency's reservations.
Geller said her organization spent $750,000 to run similar ads in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Washington - and in San Francisco, where the city's transit system ran its own ads to counter the blogger's message. The Philadelphia campaign would cost $100,000, she said.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley in Pittsburgh; Editing by Frank McGurty and Mohammad Zargham)