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NYC Subway Ads for Islam Draw Fire

July 23, 2008 05:32 PM
by Josh Katz
A New York City subway advertising campaign to promote Islam has generated controversy, with one member of Congress urging the MTA to halt its implementation.

30-Second Summary

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The Islamic Circle of North America, a grassroots organization, is the leading sponsor of a campaign to line 1,000 New York City subway cars with ads beginning in September, during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The black-and-white ads would display key words such as “Head Scarf?” or “Prophet Muhammad?” followed by the phrase “You deserve to know,” and a prompt to call a hotline and visit the Web site WhyIslam.org.

The purpose of the campaign is to explain some of the mischaracterizations of Islam in the post-9/11 United States.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wants the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to cease the campaign, not because of its message but because of one of the people promoting it.

Siraj Wahhaj, the imam of a Brooklyn mosque, is supporting the effort and appears in a YouTube video stressing its importance. Although he was the first Muslim to lead a prayer in the House of Representatives in 1991, Wahhaj was also a character witness in the case against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the convicted orchestrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was also named on the list of “170 potential unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 bombing case.”

Mayor Bloomberg disagreed with King’s opinion on the ads, saying, “If you were to advocate becoming a Muslim, I assume the First Amendment would protect you.”

Almost as controversial as the advertisements was the New York Post’s article about them, which carried the headline “Train-ing Day For Jihadists,” included the phrase “G-had train.”

Headline Link: ‘Islam Subway Ads Cause Stir in New York’

Video: The subway campaign

Analysis: The New York Post article; interview with Wahhaj

Reference: Islamic Circle of North America; YouDeserveToKnow.org; guide to Islam

Related Topic: Another controversial ad campaign

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