NYC anti-Islam subway ads lead to pink spray paint showdown

Prominent Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy, author of FP's May/June cover story, was arrested on Tuesday in New York City and jailed overnight following a scuffle over American Freedom Defense Initiative leader Pamela Geller's anti-Islam subway ads. In a video shot by the New York Post, Eltahawy is seen defacing one of the ads with a can of pink spray paint, until Pamela Hall, a supporter of Geller's initiative, throws herself into the line of fire.

"Mona, do you have the right to do this?" Hall yells.

"I think this is freedom of expression," Eltahawy counters before letting loose with her brightly colored weapon of choice.

Things continue in this vein until NYPD officers intervene and promptly handcuff an indignant Eltahawy, who is clad in a coat almost the same shade as her paint.

"This is what happens when you nonviolently protest in America!" she shouts to the gathering crowd.

Eltahawy was later charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti, and possession of a graffiti instrument, all misdemeanors.

Geller's ads, which read "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man" and conclude with "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad," have been the cause of a legal and political firestorm in recent weeks. In late August, a federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transit Authority couldn't prevent the ads from being posted. This order was unaffected by the spate of violent anti-American protests over the anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims" currently taking place across the globe.

"Our hands are tied," Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, told the New York Times. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision on Sept. 21, saying that Americans often have to tolerate things they find offensive because of the First Amendment.

Geller later blogged her version of the pink spray paint spat, calling Eltahawy a "thug" and correctly predicting that "This criminal behavior and fascism will be lauded in Leftist circles." The flurry of celebratory tweets from Eltahawy's many Twitter followers following her arrest would seem to confirm Geller's fears.

Today, only the squat silhouette of a woman outlined in pink serves as a reminder of the confrontation, but Eltahawy's arrest has become something of a social media legend, inspiring the hashtags #freemona and #proudsavage as well as an online parody.

"As an US citizen I know that non-violent civil disobedience is one of many ways to fight racism," Eltahawy later tweeted.

If only Gandhi had thought of acquiring a can of pink spray paint.



The most ridiculous anti-Japan boycotts

In addition to flagship brands like Mitsubishi, and Nissan, who have been hit by boycotts and vandalism in the midst of the tensions over the Senkaku islands, there have also been some more surprising victims of the fallout:

Haruki Murakami: Asahi Shimbun reports that the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication has strongly suggested that booksellers refrain from releasing and selling books related to Japan, including the author's bestselling 1Q84

Medicine: According to Kyodo News, "Japanese pharmaceutical companies have reported a sharp increase in the return of pharmaceutical products from Chinese hospitals."

Chinese-made laptops:  Who cares where it was made, if it has a Japanese logo on it? The manager of a Sony laptop store in Shanghai tells the AP,  "We sold more than 100 last month, while in these 13 days in September, we sold fewer than 10... We all know these products are made in China, but with a Japanese brand, but it's just the way it is."

Chinese-owned sushi joints: According to the Wall Street Journal, "Online critics of the anti-Japanese push have pointed at China-owned businesses like sushi joints that have to put pro-China signs in their windows."

Classical piano: Chinese piano phenom Yundi Li has had to cancel a planned Japanese tour, featuring a program of Beethoven sonatas, after being "advised" by the Chinese government.

Skinny jeans: Japanese casual apparel chain Uniqlo was forced to close 42 of its stores in China during the initial demonstrations. When one Shanghai branch oulet, it put up a sign in the window, reading, “We support the claim that the Senkaku islands are inherently China’s territory”. Because heaven forbid you get some historical revisionism with your cashmere pullover. 

Not all brands are suffering. Chinese loyalists of high-end cosmetics giant Shiseido don't seemed too interested in switching their brand.

It also remains unclear what these tensions will mean for China's favorite Japanese celebrity, porn star Sora Aoi, who boasts more than 13 million followers on Weibo. Her online appeals for Chinese-Japanese friendship amid the dispute don't seem to have alienated her fans too much. As a sign waved at a recent anti-Japanese demonstration read, “the Diaoyu islands belong to China; Sora Aoi belongs to the world.”  

Update: We should note that this goes both ways. Japan's Sendai Zoo is now boycotting a pair of giant pandas.