BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A national non-profit representing Muslim Americans is furious at a major advertising company.
The ad company has pulled billboards on major highways calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Local Muslim leaders feel they’re being censored and that their First Amendment rights are being violated. They are considering taking legal action and said they’ve been in contact with lawyers.
Last week, the Muslim Public Affairs Council paid for ads to be put up on billboards on the 33 and the 190 in Buffalo. The ads say “Ceasefire now #Gaza.”
“We felt that it was the least we can do as people of faith and people who are peace loving is to call for a ceasefire,” said Husam Ghanim, a community activist.
But Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the digital billboards removed the ads on Monday, stunning local Muslim and Jewish leaders.
“To be shutdown like this just to put up a peaceful message of demanding a ceasefire from the major power players in this field this is devastating,” Ghanim said.
Derek Seidman is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace.
“I frankly think it’s a disgrace that Lamar made the decision to take it down,” Seidman said. “Ceasefire now is not a marginal demand, it’s not a radical demand it’s the growing global consensus.”
In an email shared with News 4 — Lamar Advertising said the decision has been made not to accept any advertising relating to the conflict in Gaza because Lamar has received calls and complaints from all sides across the country. The Muslim Public Affairs Council said this is the first time they heard of this.
“I personally went to the office signed the contract and they immediately put up the billboard there was no hesitation,” said Khalid Qazi, former president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of WNY.
Their hope right now is that Lamar Advertising reverses course and puts back up the message of peace.
Lamar Advertising said it has reimbursed the Muslim Public Affairs Council $2,700 for days the ads were not shown. The ads were supposed to be up through Sunday. News 4 has reached out directly to Lamar Advertising but we have not heard back.
“We’re not looking for reimbursement, we’re looking for our First Amendment rights,” Qazi said. “I would certainly hope that they will take their decision back and do the right thing because we’re not talking about any violence.”
Meanwhile, a rally for peace is being held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Niagara Square in Buffalo.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.