One day after a new batch of anti-Islam advertisements went up on New York City subways and buses, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials are responding to Arab and Muslim activists’ outrage, saying there isn’t much they can do about the matter. 

The ads are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an “active anti-Muslim group.”

MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz addressed the matter in an e-mail to Al Jazeera. “We review every viewpoint ad under the standards, but a series of court rulings have made clear that our hands are largely tied.”

AFDI says that the ads are protected under the First Amendment. But Hoda Elshishtawy, a national policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council hopes that the broader public will see the hate behind the messages. “They absolutely have the right to put up this hateful message because of the First Amendment,” she said. “It’s disgusting the way they choose to wrongfully represent a religion. Obviously the group is just out there to promote their own hate and their own twisted view of how they view Islam and Muslims,” Elishishtawy told Al Jazeera.