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Washington subway bans Muhammad ads

The local transport authority in the US capital has prohibited all 'issue' ads after an anti-Islamization group tried to place one depicting a cartoon of Muhammad. The move follows a similar ban in New York.

The Washington transit authority blocked all "issue-oriented" advertising on Thursday following a request to run an ad featuring a cartoon depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. A spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said the decision follows a unanimous vote to ban political, religious and advocacy ads through the end of 2015.

The ad in question was the winner of a contest that

came under attack in Texas

last month, where two suspected Islamist gunmen began shooting at the participants before being shot dead by a traffic policeman.

"You can't draw me!" says a bearded, sword-wielding Muhammad in the ad, next to a cartoonist clutching a pencil and replying: "That's why I draw you."

'Rewarding terror'

Pamela Geller, whose American Freedom Defense Initiative staged the contest, called the WMATA decision a defeat for freedom of speech. "This is an end run around the First Amendment," she wrote on her website.

Pamela Geller answers questions from reporters

Geller decried the "tyranny" of a group that doesn't allow itself to be criticized in an interview on Thursday.

The WMATA was "rewarding terror with submission," Geller's statement continued, adding: "These cowards may claim they are making people safer, but I submit to you the opposite. They are making it far more dangerous for Americans everywhere."

"There is nothing violent in the cartoon," she declared in an interview on Thursday.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative has been listed as "an anti-Muslim hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a progressive civil rights watchdog.

The decision in the US capital follows a similar decision in New York in April. New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority voted to prohibit all politically oriented ads after

losing a legal battle over an ad

that stated "Hamas Kills Jews."

es/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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