Court Rules Being Muslim is Not Political
American Muslims Applaud Court Decision to Run NYC Subway Ads
Today, the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled in favor of Vaguely Qualified Productions (VQP), reversing the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) decision to refuse to run comedic ads about American Muslims.
In June, Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit on behalf of VQP challenging the MTA refusal to run the ads. 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’re thrilled that the judge in this case recognized that our Muslim background was not a political issue,” said Dean Obeidallah. “Like so many other comedians, we can continue performing and make people laugh by using our personal lives and experiences as fodder for our shows.”
The court ruled “The text of the messages…is not ‘prominently or predominantly political’ – unless we have reached the unhappy moment in this country where the mere mention of one of the three Abrahamic faiths is ‘prominently or predominantly political’ simply because that faith is Islam.”
“Shutting down a couple of American Muslim comedians from spreading delightfulness on the subway? That never made sense,” said Negin Farsad. “This has been a victory of reason and freedom of speech over ridiculousness. MTA subway posters just got way more hilarious and 100% more Muslim.”
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.
“The court decision upholds our claim that sharing humor and stories by and about American Muslims educates the public about the Muslim community and should not be considered political speech,” said Glenn Katon, Legal Director at Muslim Advocates. “We applaud the court’s decision to allow the ads to run in the MTA system.”
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.
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 https://muslimadvocates.org and follow @muslimadvocates.