The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority tried to ban the ad on the grounds that it was demeaning. But a federal judge ruled recently that the message is protected under the First Amendment.
Nevertheless, it is likely to provoke a debate over how far the First Amendment right extends in a city with a large Muslim population.
Mainstream Jewish groups call the ad “offensive and inflammatory,” and many New Yorkers worry that it might provoke a violent reaction.
“I understand free speech, but on a visceral level you feel like you have a bull’s eye on your back,” says Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch University and a subway rider. “I just tweeted that I don’t want to be a victim of Muslim rage.”
The ads are coming at a time of high tensions over the anti-Muslim YouTube video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was seen as insulting the Prophet Mohammed and which led to a surge of anti-American violence in the Arab world. The US ambassador to Libya was among four Americans killed in an attack in Benghazi.