Advertisements promoting Islam will be placed in New York City subway cars for one month beginning in September. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that the organizers of the ad campaign say they hope the ads will clarify some misunderstandings about the Muslim religion.
The subway ad campaign, sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America, will roll out on September 15 in 1,000 subway cars through out New York City's subway system.
The ads are simple and graphic, using phrases about Islam, such as "Head Scarf" or "Islam?" The ads then direct riders to a website or to a telephone hotline to obtain more information about Islam.
Azeem Khan, the Assistant Secretary General of the Islamic Circle of North America, said the promotional campaign was timed to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan. He said the idea is to begin a dialogue with Americans about the Islamic religion.
"Hopefully it will erase some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam. It will give people an avenue to reach someone. Everyone doesn't have a Muslim neighbor or Muslim co-worker or Muslim friend, even. So for those individuals especially they will find an opportunity to speak to a real life Muslim who will represent their faith better than anyone else," he said.
Even before its debut, the ad campaign has met with some controversy because one of its sponsors, Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj, was a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. One New York lawmaker, U.S Representative Peter King, has urged New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads.
Azeem dismisses criticism of the imam, who was the first Muslim to lead a prayer before the U.S. House of Representatives. "He's not controversial to the Muslim community or to anyone who knows him. He came out of the 60's era. He's one of the foremost leaders of Muslims in America. Anyone who knows about the work he's done in Brooklyn, cleaning up the area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is a very rough neighborhood. He got the drug dealers out of there, he increased economic viability. So all these accusations that are out there against him are totally false," he said.
The Islamic Circle of North America is paying $48,000 for the month-long promotion. The group said a second promotional campaign is in the works.