Islam Subway Ads Cause Stir in New York

July 22, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: CNN

Ads promoting Islam are to be placed on New York subway cars in September, but a U.S. congressman finds people sponsoring the messages unacceptable.

"I have no problem with the ad itself, but I have a very, very real problem with those behind it," Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said Tuesday. He is urging the Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads.

The campaign is to feature ads on 1,000 of the subway system's roughly 6,200 cars. The main sponsor is a grassroots organization, Islamic Circle of North America.

The ads, simple black-and-white panels, will feature key words or phrases about Islam on one side of the panel such as "Head Scarf?" or "Prophet Muhammad?" and the words "You deserve to know" along with the Web site address on the other side.

"The idea is to evoke certain thoughts in the mind-set of the person who is looking at the ads and get them to a point where they can reflect upon certain words that one could define as hot words or key words that get thrown around a lot but are not necessarily defined in the most proper context," said New York University's Imam Khalid Latif, a cleric who is promoting the project in a YouTube video created by the Islamic Circle.

Another of the backers of the advertising campaign -- which will launch in September to coincide with the monthlong Islamic holiday of Ramadan -- is Siraj Wahhaj, imam of a Brooklyn mosque.

Wahhaj was the first Muslim to lead a prayer before the House of Representatives, but King objects to him because he was a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.