Fatima Khan, (617) 216-7089, [email protected]
American Muslims Sue for Right to Place Ads in NYC Subways
Lawsuit Challenges Metropolitan Transportation Authority for Unfairly Barring Comedians’ Advertisements
June 25, 2015, New York City—Today, Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit on behalf of Vaguely Qualified Productions (VQP), in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan challenging the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) refusal to run comedic ads about American Muslims. The ads, created by Muslim comedians Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad, use humor to talk about American Muslims. While the MTA initially approved VQP’s ads to run on the New York City subways, it later revoked the approval, citing new policies that restrict “disputed” political speech.
“We make a living as comedians and thought it was important to use our craft to talk about our community,” said Dean Obeidallah. “These ads are positive and our goal is to make people laugh while they simultaneously learn a little bit about Muslims. I think the people of New York will appreciate these ads and hope the court will grant us permission to run them.”
The lawsuit argues that under current MTA policies, VQP’s ads are commercial and not prohibited “disputed” political content. VQP, through Obeidallah and Farsad, created a film titled “The Muslims Are Coming!,” and are founders of a running comedy tour of the same name, which features a diverse group of American Muslim comedians. Similar to the ads, “The Muslims Are Coming!” uses humor to show that Muslims are ordinary people.
“Our performances and these ads come at a time where anti-Muslim hate is at a record high,” said Negin Farsad. “The MTA should allow us to use our voices to create funny, positive messages about ourselves and our communities. To be frank, I thought it was high time people knew how great we are at making frittatas and how much we hate kitten ears on cell phone cases. It’s part of our story.”
“The MTA has barred these comedians from running ads that clearly fall within the scope of permissible content for transit ads,” said Muslim Advocates Legal Director Glenn Katon. “It can’t be ‘disputed’ that Muslims are human beings and these ads simply use humor to make that point.”
Latham & Watkins LLP and Muslim Advocates serve as co-counsel in the lawsuit filed on behalf of VQP, which is an award-winning video production company based in New York, NY. VQP makes viral video campaigns, TV and web shows, as well as narrative and documentary features, and specializes in comedy.
Read a copy of the complaint.
Learn more about this lawsuit
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Through high impact lawsuits, policy advocacy, and community education, Muslim Advocates serves as a resource to empower communities and ensures that the American Muslim community is heard by the courts and leaders at the highest level of government. Visit Muslim Advocates at www.muslimadvocates.org and follow @muslimadvocates.