NEW YORK // Almost seven years after the September 11 attacks, Islam remains a sticky subject, with the latest point of controversy being a planned Islamic poster campaign on the subway.
The advertisements drew angry condemnation from those alleging the sponsors were linked to terrorism, but the group behind them said they were aimed at combating ignorance.
The campaign will run in September to coincide with Ramadan. The New York Post tabloid newspaper ran headlines saying “Jihad Train” and “Train-ing day for jihadists”.
The main sponsor behind the campaign is the Islamic Circle of North America, a non-profit outreach and social services group, whose founder, Tariq Amanullah, was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11.
“He spent all his free time trying to build bridges, and this controversy is an insult to his memory,” said Azeem Khan, an Islamic Circle spokesman.
The posters will feature key words about Islam, such as “Head Scarf?” or “Prophet Mohammed?” with “You deserve to know” alongside the website address WhyIslam.org and a toll-free telephone number staffed by volunteers to answer questions about the religion.
“Due to the presence of much negativity and Islamophobia, the general public has the daunting task of sifting through uninformed and biased sources before they can find reliable sources,” said an Islamic Circle press release.
“We are providing an opportunity to anyone who has questions to have them answered by informed Muslims.”
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said the campaign was permitted under United States law. The first amendment of the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech and religion.
“If you were to advocate becoming a Muslim, I assume the first amendment would protect you,” he said. . . .
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) praised Mr Bloomberg and the transit authority for supporting free speech rights.
“Unfortunately, guilt by association, smears, fear-mongering and anti-Muslim bias have been used by those attempting to block this positive and educational ad campaign,” said Aliya Latif, Cair’s civil rights director.