Da'wa Ads in the West
by Daniel Pipes
For starters, the Islamic Circle of North America plans and Siraj Wahhaj, a Brooklyn imam, plan to place ads during the month of Ramadan on 1,000 of the New York City subway system's roughly 6,200 cars at a a cost of about $48,000. Each ad will feature a black panel on the left and a white panel on the right. The left poses questions such as "Q: Islam?" "Q: Prophet Muhammad?" or "Q: Head Scarf?" and the right replies with "A: You deserve to know, 877-WHY-ISLAM or www.WhyIslam.org."
In a letter to Metropolitan Transit Authority officials, U.S. Rep. Peter King (Republican of New York) wrote "I have no problem with the ad itself, but I have a very, very real problem with those behind it," a reference to ICNA and Wahhaj. King described him as "a known Islamic extremist" who would be gaining "credibility and stature" through the bus promotion. King called on the MTA "not to have these ads, not to go forward with them, and I don't see this as a free speech issue at all."
Sep. 15, 2008 update: Some ten members of the Seattle chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America paid nearly $5,000 to sponsor 6 ads on the outside of Metro buses and about 25 on the inside of them. The text on the outside ads reads: "Q: Islam? A: You deserve to know, 877-WHY-ISLAM or www.WhyIslam.org." One of the funders, Bilal Aijazi, a software developer, says the ads, which are scheduled to run until November, are meant to stir conversation and steer people toward information on Islam. "We feel often Muslims don't have a voice. This is just a way to present the community with a source of information about Islam that comes from Muslims themselves."
Jan. 15, 2009 update: For the controversy over ads in Broward Country, Florida, proclaiming "ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad," see my weblog entry "CAIR claims Abraham, Moses, and Jesus for Islam"
Feb. 19, 2009 update: A previously unknown group, the Islamic Circle of the Bay Area, has taken out advertising on about 170 "Muni" buses and 10 cable cars in the San Francisco area with a text that states that Islam is "The message of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad."
Mar. 4, 2009 update: "Zombie" took pictures of the San Francisco buses, including one that proclaims "ISLAM, Submission to God, 1-877-WhyIslam www.WhyIslam.org." Zombie notes that there has been "nary a peep of comment or protest about these ubiquitous in-your-face ads" from denizens of what is "famously amongst the most secular and non-religious cities in the nation."
Mar. 20, 2009 update: A correspondent sent me a picture of a billboard just taken on Interstate 76 mile near Carlisle, Pennslyvania, as mile marker 225. It states across the top "Compassion ● Morality ● Spirituality ● Success," shows a picture of a mosque, offers "Free Literature," and advertises the usual "1-877-WhyIslam www.WhyIslam.org."
June 27, 2009 update: CreepingSharia.com reports that WhyIslam is placing a series of ads on busses in Washington, D.C., with text like "Why are so many people like you becoming Muslim?"
July 15, 2009 update: The Anti-Defamation League notes about the Islamic Circle of North America that
Sep. 11, 2009 update: "Why Islam" ads have arrived, courtesy of ICNA, in San Jose, Santa Clara and Concord, California, offering the 1-877-WHY-ISLAM hot line and free Korans. One billboard, placed along Interstate Highway 880 at Brokaw Road in San Jose, states that Islam follows the teachings of "Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad." Other billboards are in Spanish. The campaign consists in all of 4 large highway billboards in San Jose and Concord, 8 bus-stop ads and posters in San Jose and Santa Clara, and 35 bus ads. The effort began Aug. 31 and runs four weeks. The ads bring in about 1,000 calls to the hot line and about the same number of e-mails to WhyIslam.org.
Dec. 15, 2009 update: The Minnesota chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America will shortly unveil billboards that call Islam ""The way of life of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, & Muhammad," "ISLAM – Got Questions, Get Answers." It offers "Free Quran & Literature" and offers the website GainPeace.com and the telephone number 800-662-ISLAM. In a prepared statement, the campaign's organizers explain:
Apr. 4, 2012 update: As approved by the Toronto Transit Commission Advertising Commission Group: ""There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is His Messenger."
Dec. 18, 2012 update: Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has started a "MyJihad" campaign on Chicago buses to soften the word jihad. One ad (pictured) reads "My Jihad is not to judge people by their cover. What's yours?" Another reads "My Jihad is to build friendships across the aisle. What's yours?"
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