Controversial ‘anti-Muslim’ New York bus ad pulls Foley image

The American Freedom Defense Initiative agreed to remove the image of a kneeling James Foley at the request of his family

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A picture of U.S. journalist James Foley moments before his murder at the hands of extremists in Syria has been pulled from a New York ad campaign criticized as anti-Muslim.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative agreed to remove the image of a kneeling Foley, dressed in orange, at the request of his family who said it would cause “profound distress.”

The AFDI launched its $100,000 ad campaign in the New York transit system on Monday in what it said would show “the uselessness of the distinction between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ Muslims.”

The ad identified British rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary as the extremist who killed Foley, although media reports suggest that Britain no longer believes he is a suspect in Foley’s death.

A picture of Bary in his former guise as an amateur rapper in London is juxtaposed next to a masked figure standing over Foley with the caption: “Yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline.”

But the Foleys’ lawyer wrote to AFDI co-founder, writer and activist Pamela Geller, asking her to withdraw the advertisement and saying that their son had great respect for Islam.

“The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat,” read a copy of the letter.

“This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr Foley’s reporting and his beliefs,” it added.

Geller’s lawyer David Yerushalmi told AFP that the picture had been removed and substituted with a picture of a masked militant holding a severed head, which Bary reportedly posted online days before Foley’s death.

The face of the victim has been digitalized.

But Yerushalmi warned that some of the ads might still go out by transit personnel, although the campaign in San Francisco would be delayed to ensure none of the offending pictures run.

He said Geller understands the pain of the Foleys as a mother, as someone whose extended family was murdered by the Nazis and as the friend of Israelis “brutally affected by Islamic terrorism.”

“Neither she nor AFDI wish to add to that pain, even if only tangentially,” he wrote to the Foleys’ lawyer in a letter that Geller posted online.

Advocacy groups, faith leaders and New York mayor Bill de Blasio had already criticized the ad campaign as inflammatory and anti-Muslim.

“So many Muslims now flocking to the Middle East were previously ‘moderate.’ It is when they become devout that they engage in a bloody and vicious holy war,” Geller wrote on her blog.

The head of the FBI said last week that the United States had identified the masked militant who murdered Foley and fellow U.S. freelance journalist Steven Sotloff in Syria.

He declined to release the name nor the nationality of the suspect. Militants announced Foley’s death on August 19.