"Fatwa on your head?" the ads ask. "Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!"
A group called "Stop Islamization of America" is financing the ads on public transportation in San Francisco, New York and Miami, The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.
The ads counter ones run by a Muslim group that say, "The way of life of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam. Got questions? Get answers."
The group's executive director, conservative blogger Pamela Geller, told the online newspaper in an e-mail response to questions that the ads are "a defense of religious freedom." Geller, who has gone to court or threatened litigation to get the ads on buses in some cities, said their primary intention is "to help ex-Muslims who are in trouble" and "raise awareness of the threat that apostates live under even in the West."
The Monitor said some religious rights groups maintain the ads run by Geller's group are meant to incite fear about the followers of Islam.
"In this post-9/11 world … it's almost like there's some political and spiritual currency to be gained by being anti-Islamic," Steve Spreitzer, programs director for Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, an interfaith group in Detroit, told the newspaper.
Geller's ads tout the Web site RefugeFromIslam.com, which contends Muslim Americans who "long to be free" of their religion are in danger of being killed, an allegation Muslim rights groups and religious leaders deny.
In the San Francisco area, an ecumenical array of more than 125 religious leaders signed a statement this month denouncing the ads as "Islamophobic." The ads, they said, "promote fear of Muslim Americans."