Horrified by anti-Islamic Muni ads

  • by Daniel Redman
  • Wednesday March 20, 2013
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The anti-Islamic ads seen in recent days on Muni buses<br>have provoked criticism from many in San Francisco, including LGBT leaders.<br>(Photo: Rick Gerharter)<br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
The anti-Islamic ads seen in recent days on Muni buses
have provoked criticism from many in San Francisco, including LGBT leaders.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)

We, the undersigned, are members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in the city of San Francisco. The LGBT community is a vibrant patchwork of many communities, and this includes LGBT people in the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities.

Like many, we are horrified by the hateful signs posted on city buses attacking our Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian neighbors. The purpose of the signs is clear: to use racist and vicious language to tell Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian people that they are less than human, that they are not welcome, and to support violence and hatred against them. These signs are symptomatic of an atmosphere of prejudice across the country that we must all fight.

We've seen the results of this dangerous rhetoric. Hate crimes against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian people remain at a decade high. A racist gunman attacked a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year and brutally murdered six people. Muslim students form the largest category of religious discrimination cases handled by the Department of Justice's education division. A recent newspaper article stated, "in today's hateful climate, a sense of fear pervades ... fear of violence, bigotry, and hate that might cost [people] their lives."

Against the forces of hate, we must stand even stronger in solidarity. In our own LGBT communities we refuse to forget our own history facing hateful speech and the terrible consequences of that speech.

For decades, LGBT people have faced violence and discrimination because of rhetoric that painted us as less than human and as a threat. Anita Bryant's "Save the Children" campaign painted us as sexual predators. The fight to exclude LGBT people from the military argued that we posed a threat to national security. Our opponents demonize our families �" in all their various shapes and sizes �" and cast the mere right to be a parent or partner as a threat.

That rhetoric has brutal consequences. There were 1,500 hate crimes last year against LGBTQ people across the country. Names like Tyra Hunter, Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither, and Brandy Martell ring in our ears.

Hateful speech gives permission and justification for violent actions. And hateful signs targeting Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian people do the same thing.

Harvey Milk �" the city's first gay supervisor �" had a guiding philosophy as an activist. It was that all social justice movements are interconnected and that the fight for LGBTQ equality could not be pursued in a vacuum. In a 1979 speech rallying people to fight off the Briggs initiative that would have thrown LGBT teachers out of the public schools, he called on his audience not just to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation, but to proclaim �" in his words �" "No more racism, no more sexism, no more ageism, no more hatred. No more."

If these hateful signs prompt us to a more fervent embrace of that goal, we will have truly defeated their purpose.


Daniel Redman is the legal issues workgroup chair of the San Francisco LGBT Aging Policy Task Force (title for identification purposes only). Co-signers include San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón; Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener; Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center; Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Rebecca Prozan, director of community relations for the district attorney's office; and Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (title for identification purposes only).