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July 23rd, 2008
08:45 AM ET

Firestorm over a campaign to understand Islam

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/07/22/islam.ads/art.islamad.cnn.jpg caption="The ads feature key words about Islam on one side and the words 'You deserve to know' on the other."]
Mary Snow
CNN Correspondent

A campaign to promote better understanding of Islam using ads in New York City subway cars has sparked controversy, with one tabloid paper calling it "Jihad Train" and a congressman saying the campaign should be stopped before it starts.

Really?

We wanted to check with the source of that controversy - an imam promoting the campaign who had also served as a character witness for Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind sheik convicted of being mastermind behind the 1993 plot to blow up the World Trade Center.

This imam, Siraj Wahhaj, was named as one of 170 unindicted co-conspirators in the plot. And he allegedly called the FBI and CIA the "real terrorists."

So, what's this man doing, claiming to promote "understanding?"

We went to ask him.

Just walking into the Masjid at-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, my photojournalists and I were greeted with suspicion, even though two mosque members escorted us inside.

The mosque would look like any other unidentified brick building if not for a small sign hanging over the entrance. A gate runs alongside the building, dividing the sidewalk from an entrance for worshippers.

Once inside, we are taken to see Imam Wahhaj, who founded the mosque. He's sitting behind a desk, surrounded by books, and offers a big smile as he welcomes us into his office. Still, he makes it clear he has reservations about talking with us - wary of how he'll be portrayed after seeing himself called "Terror imam" in the local tabloid.

But Imam Wahhaj tells me has agreed to talk because he believes in the plan to put ads in 1000 New York subway cars in September to coincide with Ramadan. The ads are aimed at promoting Islam and erasing negative images.

The project is sponsered not by Wahhaj, or by his mosque, but by the Islamic Circle of North America. Wahhaj isn't involved in organizing the campaign. He says he took it upon himself to do a videotape promoting it , and that's what sparked the controversy.

Imam Wahhaj says he wants to focus on the positives of the Muslim religion. But he concedes he can understand why some people might consider him controversial.

Despite being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center plot, and speaking on behalf of mastermind Sheik Rahman, Wahhaj notes he's never been criminally charged and says he's never been approached by the FBI. He says he now regrets some controversial statements, and admits he's toned down his rhetoric.

But my question to him was: are you the right person to promote this campaign given the negative attention you can draw? After all, the whole purpose of the campaign is to teach people about Islam and dispel myths that the religion promotes violence.

The ads are stark black and white posters asking about words associated with the Muslim religion, such as "Head Scarf?" or "Prophet Muhammad?" Those simple questions are followed by the words: "You deserve to know" and a phone number you can call for more information.

About 5 million people ride the subway every day. The ads are aimed at grabbing their attention. But even before the ads are out, attention is focused on a promoter with ties to a sheik put away for life on terrorism charges.

Without hesitating, Wahhaj insists he is the right person to promote this campaign, says he was wrongly accused and asks, “does that mean I can't stand for something?” He points out work he's done in his community, and the fact that he was the first Muslim chosen to lead a session of the House of Representatives in 1991.

I asked a spokesman for the Islamic Circle of North America how the organization felt about the attention Wahhaj brought to the campaign and whether it was a distraction. Did he stand by Wahhaj's promotion? "Yes." The spokesman explained the controversy over Wahhaj is a perfect microcosm of the way Islam and its members are misrepresented.

Maybe so. But now new York Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican is asking the agency that runs the subways to reject the ads. He says he has no problem with the ads themselves, but has a real problem with Wahhaj, whom he called a "known Islamic extremist."

So, yes, the ads have prompted discussion, but not what organizers envisioned. Unless the subway system gives into Congressman King's demand, millions of New York subway riders will have an opportunity to determine where that dicussion goes from here.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Islam • Religion
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Paula

    Jesus was not populer or liked by his goverment and condemned to death by his own people, most would agree. His pure mother covered her whole body and head as a sign of her purity and devotion to her Lord. Think about it!

    July 24, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  2. Abukar S

    Hello guys,

    Is this congressman saying that we don't want people to get information about Islam?

    If that is not the case, why is he rejecting the add? I really don't get it!

    Anyway, thanks to those who want to educate people about Islam!!

    Thanks

    July 24, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Fred

    So much for free speech huh? We always claim that Muslims don't believe in free speech...etc and a bunch of other nonsense. If you ask me... this issue shows how hypocritical some Americans can be.

    If you're ignorant about Islam or spreading hate... this add may be targeted to you. So call the number or checkout the website and educate yourself.

    July 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  4. AF

    Hello everyone,
    The posters should go up. What are we afraid of? Learning is always something that will benefit us. The posters encourage learning about the religion of Islam. There is no political agenda. It is something that will bring us closer by mutual understanding. So yes, I would definitely support the cause.
    Houston, TX

    July 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Teresa

    Being a convert to Islam now for many years and doing some volunteer work for WhyIslam – I just want to comment that Muslims are not permitted to "convert" people. Unlike many other religious practices that go door to door – we are not permitted to do this. It is our belief that when one converts or reverts back to Islam, it is 100% God's will. WhyIslam is around to answer questions only about Islam, not to convert.
    If any Islamic organization is spreading hatred, then it is not a true Islamic organization.. it is more than likely a Political organization. If you look at the history of any type of violent act, you will find that most people will commit an act of violence and then need someone to "blame" for this act – therefore, if God is a good entity, why would anyone blame a henious act on God or their religion – it usually has a political undertone and is being blamed on God and/or another country, economics, etc.
    I wish all religions would have something like WhyIslam – because we should all be learning from each other, not arguing. There are not enough God-Loving, God-Fearing people in this world, so us that do Love, Fear, Live our Lives for God need to support each other no what our religious practices are.
    Thank you for letting me write whats on my mind – Cooper – I think that you are a really awesome reporter and appear so open-minded – I am surprised that your blog has so much written against the Ads.
    Ma Salaama (Much Peace) – Teresa

    July 24, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  6. vinny

    This is a good thing to do, it should help us Americans understand what is islam all about. and clear all the misconceptions. we must be fair and just toward islam.
    for example, we can not judge christianity on the basis of some christians action or saying, for example, Hitler, molosivsh, mosoleni, and many others (i do not want to mention) are christian, they were evil leaders, my point is we can not judge based on few bad apples.
    thanks
    vinnyb

    July 24, 2008 at 1:02 pm |
  7. M Ilyas

    I don't see any thing wrong with this ad, they asking people to explore islam through their web site whyislam.org. It's alway better to learn or understand any religion from its follower than media or its opponents.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:05 pm |
  8. Sana Shariff

    As salaam wa alaikum, (peace be upon you)

    My dear brothers and sisters, I hope this reaches all of you in the best of health and with an open state of mind, amen. I am an American Muslim, I grew up and was raised in California, when I found out about the campaign I was very pleased. I believe this campaign was long overdue I mean come on do we ever hear anything positive about Islam in the media? Let me answer that for you NO we don't. I know everyone believes that we were responsible for 9/11 what the truth is only Allah (God) knows and due to the media our middle names have been replaced by terrorists. For one it’s not fair and it’s not just. when a judge makes his decision he hears both the defendant’s and plaintive side of the story, evaluates the evidence and then makes his judgment, as you can see and hear the media has made their point so it’s only fair for us to try and make ours, were not telling people to convert to Islam were only trying to clear up the misconceptions and give people the real facts about Islam and as a human being everyone has that right to make a statement so, the next time you see a Muslim around and trust me you will, please don’t look the other way as if we’re not there, instead ask yourself what do u really know about that person or Islam, because let’s be honest here you can’t hate a person without getting to know them, who they are and what there about so if you have questions or comments PLEASE ASK US! we won’t bite I promise, at the end of the day when it’s all said and done were all human God gave us a brain so let’s use it before its gone and he also gave us a heart so let us open up and let people in before it goes cold.
    Thank you all for your time and efforts.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  9. Bin-Yamin

    Undoubtedly, we have sensitive people in this versatile American Society who notice almost every subtle or major activity around, and react according to their commitment to the outcome or impact of effort. Mr. King seems to be one of the committed individual of the community. His effort must be with the good intention to the community. But as it goes that "There’s no such thing as bad Publicity". Our multi faith community needs more to know about Mr. Siraj Wahaj. The writer in his excellent effort to cover the story seems to cut short the info about the person behind the add promotion. Most of the article covers the personality then the agenda. This seems to be the gist of the story.
    Anyhow, I read a nice comment in one of the post about the try to out reach to the public from Muslim community. I agree most of us feel that the community doesn't do enough to out reach to the public to denounce or clarify violent and destructive actions initiated by Muslim around the world.
    I presume this campaign give our society a chance to understand more about the Muslims and Islam.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:24 am |
  10. Firdaws

    It's good to understand Islam from the horse's mouth since I have nothing to do in the train/bus. Peter King wanted me to be a fool, so he can be elected next term. This is American that people will pay attention when you make a scene. I don't have time to read. Media is my teacher. Thanks CNN!

    July 24, 2008 at 10:44 am |
  11. Maureen

    Woooooooooooooooooooooow so even when some Christian organizations are being found to sexually molest instead of FEED the children in their commercials that they run at nauseum.... no congressman, or senator, or even little old lady is out there asking them not to run their ads

    And the Imam is NOT the focus, the center, or even the creator of the ad campaign.... so what's the deal with them?

    I guess DW hasn't been paying attention to the news lately.... America has got to STOP pointing the finger overseas when it comes to the treatment of women.... I can't even turn on the news without hearing yet ANOTHER story of some wife/girlfriend, usually pregnant, missing or found dead at the hands of her good ole american man..... get real DW spousal abuse, and abuse of women adn children in general, is a global social epidemic ...lets not be delusional

    Anywho....the posters should go up... as a matter of fact, I'm feeling like I should become a proud sponsor of one....

    July 24, 2008 at 9:55 am |
  12. Rashid....Fairfax, VA.

    I am a practicing Muslim, born and raised in America. I also spent two years in Pakistan studying the Quran, and two years in Atlanta, Ga. studying Islam. I have never witnessed any type of violence against women, or extreme terrorism amongst Muslims. The most I have ever encountered was some crazy old guy at the mosque complaining about his childhood back home. I have even heard Siraj Wahhajj speak, once or twice, and I never heard any type of extremist point of views from him. All I can say, from my point of view, is that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism pretty much convey the same message. It's just that people see Muslims as what they are portrayed on television. I think this is what this project was all about. I think it is an attempt to portray Muslims like me, rather than what is being shown in the media today.

    July 24, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  13. Haroon Moghul

    This article is typical of the weaknesses which drag down mainstream media; it is founded on conjecture, hype and insinuations, absent any actual evidence, investigation or meaningfulness. It seems that all the work this journalist did involved his going to a mosque and describing in very dramatic terms how he met the imam in his office. (This is not a movie.)

    To wit: Wahhaj is a character witness for a convicted terrorist; what does that, in actual fact, make Wahhaj? And he is an "unindicted co-conspirator"? The term is legally nonsensical, as it implies that a person is being accused of some criminal activity yet there is not enough evidence to even indict the person. That strikes me, and I am not a lawyer, as constitutionally and democratically absurd. But if Mr. Cooper wants to provide us with a NY Post-style hollow cry of fear, he should investigate Representative King with the same nuance. Previously, we knew Mr. King had no interest in minority rights, now we see he has a flexible interpretation of the First Amendment.

    The issue here is freedom of speech. The problem here is that an elected representative is campaigning to restrict that freedom. Is that not a more alarming and more deserving issue?

    July 24, 2008 at 8:41 am |
  14. sarah

    I am an American and a Muslim. My mom is Christian and My father is Muslim and i have always been taught from a young age to appreciate and celebrate how diverse we are as a people. Whenever i travel i always tell people how wonderful it is to live in America and and that each person has the right to practice their own religion.

    I never get offended if i see Christian or Jewish ads. These ads about Islam are educational in order to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam in order to bring us together as a community. my religion has shaped me into someone who can be of service to humanity and only hope for the best for my country as well as the world.

    For God's sake people, this is New York city, the most diverse and creative city in the world! We have a lot of growing up to do if people are going to get offended on somethings that's supposed to educate them. If anything Muslims are the ones who are offended b/c you keep calling them terrorists when the majority of them are not.

    There are extremists in all religions. That does not mean everyone associated with that religion is a terrorist b/c the actions of a few. No one labeled Christians as terrorists when Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building building in Oklahoma and don't you dare forget that Muslim firefighters and police as well as Muslims working in the twin towers also died on that dreadful day.

    July 24, 2008 at 6:41 am |
  15. Rashid Hameed

    With all the negative attention Imam Wahhaj is already drawing from this campaign, the tabloid papers printing ridiculous headlines well before the campaign start date, and a bunch of people including a Republican congressman criticizing prematurely, I think these are the very reasons why this campaign should go forward at full speed.

    The misconceptions, ignorance, and the lack of understanding of Islam is not uncommon here in the United States and it certainly not helps after 9/11. And thats why people react the way I have mentioned in my opening statement. By going forward with this campaign, I think many of the unanswered questions can certainly be answered which will eventually help alleviate the negative reaction that we sometimes see.

    After all, "Ignorance is not always a bliss"

    July 24, 2008 at 4:10 am |
  16. Marlie:

    So what exactly is wrong with trying to help stop religious and racial intolerance? Reading the blogs and listening to the MSM propaganda every day, any help is better than nothing.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:53 am |
  17. Ilhana, Bosnia

    I see these ads to be very good in educating people about Islam. Empasis on educating, since the message is of that, not some plot to turn Christians into Muslims etc. as some would like to think it would do, just to justify their own narrow views.

    This is just the right time to do it, since many Americans still fear at the thought of e.g. Barack Obama possibly being a Muslim. My uncle lives in FL for more than ten years now, and after 9/11 it wasn't so easy living there. Just because there are some extremists out there who do just the opposite of what Islam is all about (tolerance of other religions among other things), under the guise of Islam, doesn't mean we're all like that. I have best friends who are of different religions, but we enjoy discovering different approaches and finding what is unique. Also, I'm paraphrasing a line from the Bible: Ye who is without sin, cast the first stone! Religion is a set of beliefs, not a omnipotent shield against making mistakes.

    A response to some negative comments here: this is really exactly why these ads should be put up. Isn't America a land of tolerance? These ads are not promoting religion itself so the people would suddenly start abandoning their own and embrace this one, but to promote understanding of it.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:50 am |
  18. Sean

    I don't see what the big deal is. Is Congressman Peter King really so insecure that he can't stand to see these ads on a train?

    What's to be afraid of, even if he doesn't like them they are only ads and they do not harm anyone. The way it looks to me, these ads are merely a form of outreach from the Muslim community. Isn't it funny that when the Muslim community doesn't reach out to its neighbors enough, it is heavily criticzed and yet when it does attempt to reach out it is STILL heavily criticized?

    Furthermore, few non-Muslims even have any idea who Siraj Wahhaj is and fewer still will make any connection whatsoever between him and these ads.

    Hence, the Siraj Wahhaj connection is a bogus attempt by King to cover up and hide his ideology of blatant bigotry and hate.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:41 am |
  19. Syed Jamaluddin

    Islam, the religion of approximately 7 million Americans, promotes peace, prayer, humility as well as social, communal and family values. However, despite the many similarities and values shared with other faiths, such as Christianity and Judaism, Islam remains the most misunderstood religion in America.

    Ignorance is recognized as a major source for the hatred and violence that exists in today’s world. By eliminating ignorance, we can help create a more peaceful and tolerant environment where we can understand and appreciate each others’ faith. During Ramadan, when over 1 billion Muslims fast worldwide, many questions may arise about Islam and the subway ads are a way to direct people to obtaining basic information.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:12 am |
  20. Eesa

    it looks to me like a harmless effort to inform people about Islam, not necesarily to 'convert' people, since one of Islam's teachings is that no one person can convert, its only up to God, but it looks like its just meant to inform people so that the stigma can be removed and we can better understand and live with each other in peace

    I think its pretty transparent that certain individuals are out to sabotage the whole project because of their own agendas and they've found a scapegoat who has very little affiliation with the project...., this is quite absurd as the whole organization is non political and just involved in informing people, where is there terrorism involved anywhere, where is the threat, whose being harmed? you don't have to call the toll free number.

    islam is about worshipping the Creator and humbly submitting oneself to him for the betterment of this world and the next–where is the harm in informing people about that?

    the only problems people have are with the MUSLIMS, but don't look to the muslim look to Islam, do I look to pedophile priests to look to catholicism, do i look to Timothy Mcvey for christianity, this is what this project is about, about ISLAM, not muslims.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:55 am |
  21. Zahra

    Peace be with you,

    I think the negativity surrounding this campaign should not be a hindrance to the efforts of American Muslims who would like to educate their neighbors in a peaceful way about their faith. There is nothing constitutionally, morally or civilly wrong with this campaign and trying to cloud this balanced effort with claims that Imam Siraj Wahhaj of all people, a truly honorable man who stands up for justice in NYC and has helped at-risk youth of non-Muslim and Muslim communities, has connections to terrorists is nothing more than ad hominem rhetoric.

    As a Muslim, I am proud to be a Muslim AND American simultaneously. I am born and raised in this country and would like the opportunity to reach out to my neighbors and be content in my own shoes with my identity.

    It is truly saddening to see commenters like DW generalize the actions of a few misinformed Muslim extremists and label the entire Muslim population of the world with such hatred. This campaign's goal is exactly to promote understanding, dialogue and tolerance, a goal shared by Islam and many of the Muslims and Americans in our country today.

    I hope all Americans will stand up for the First Amendment and stand up for plain ol' decency and support this effort, just like any average Muslim American would support the efforts of his or her neighbor practicing their rights and adhering to their religion.

    Peace.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:27 am |
  22. Hatem

    The ads are sponsored by ICNA which is a national Muslim organization across US and Canada. This is a well established organization and it has many good muslims as members.

    The goal is to give people a brief idea about Islam and this is part of a large project that ICNA has been doing for the last few years. In fact many Americans has came forward to ICNA members and asked them to be more active in the media to explain the Islamic religion since there has been a lot of confusion about it.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:24 am |
  23. Bassel

    I believe that everyone deserves to better understand what Islam is really about and to clear up all the miconceptions about the religion. Being ignorant and not realizing that all Muslims are not terrorists will not get us anywhere.The ads are promoting peace and understading between one another, not violence. This campaign sounds terrific. The people have a right to know.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:07 am |
  24. Ali

    Salaam (May peace and blessings of ALLAH be upon you),

    There are major misconceptions (like some mentioned by sidney crain above) about Islam in today's world should be cleared up. I don't also blame people for hating us muslims today and the reason behind this is that many of us muslims do not practice Islam the way it was taught (by example) by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

    I think it's a much needed campaign and we should have more such communication so that people can understand Islam and muslims better. And mind you, it's equally important for muslims as we need to learn improve ourselves first.

    And for all my Christian friends – we have great love and respect Jesus (Peace be upon him), in someone does not know that 🙂

    Peace-

    July 24, 2008 at 1:46 am |
  25. swarsi

    "Unless the subway system gives into Congressman King’s demand, millions of New York subway riders will have an opportunity to determine where that dicussion goes from here."

    I agree with you and as you said in your last lines in the article quoted above, we should make sure that people like King (Congressman) should not be allowed to succeed in thier attempt to blind everyone.

    Does Mr. King think that we Americans are five year old todlers who can make the difference between right and wrong. We don't need someone to tell us what should we see and what not. It is our right to know and listen and see anything that we want to from any source.

    I want these guys to tell me what their religion is and what they stand for. I want to make my informed decision after knowing every possible aspect.

    Please stop this censorship Mr. King, we proud Americans deserve to know uncensored information. Do not take this opportunity away from us.

    Thanks

    July 24, 2008 at 1:42 am |
  26. greg N.C.

    I agree with some, I personally do not care about islam or muslims for that fact. Here in America we are free or was free to speak our minds and practice our belifts. We need to get off of the polictical correctness stuff and get back to saying what we believe.
    America was founded on christianity not islam, we speak english not arabic, spanish, french chinese etc, we speak english and that should be all. The Untied States is a melton pot, which means every one should melt into the same "AMERICANS"

    July 24, 2008 at 1:14 am |
  27. Saad

    The most misunderstood faith that is practiced by over 1.5 billion in the world is Islam. In an age when popular stereotypes of Muslims
    'Jihad' 'hijab (veil)' 'infidels' 'Quran' 'anti-Semitic' 'abstain from pork and Alcohol' 'Polygamy' are undermining a faith and an entire civilization, explaining and clarifying their religion is a moral obligation on Muslims. WhyIslam.org hopes to fulfill this obligation through this compilation of answers to the most common concerns about Islam.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:34 am |
  28. Buland

    The idea is very simple and straightforward and i.e "Spread the right message and let people know that we want Peace". The meaning of word "Islam" is Peace.

    if people think that "Letting people know about the true message of islam" is a bad idea than its a different ball game but on the other hand its a very good bridge to come across and learn about each others.

    This is an educated country where almost everyone has patience to listen others and criticize only if someone is doing/saying wrong. So, rather than simply criticizing, one should try to get the idea behind it. I am sure, if they will get the true message(that it is only to elaborate people about Islam) , they definitely will not have any complains about it

    In the end, I would really thankful to those who made this campaign successful by exposing their thoughts.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:18 am |
  29. Ijaz

    Islam is religionand name of Islam is chosen by God meaning is PEACE. American people can learn more about religion by calling WHYISLAM.ORG

    Moreover it is good opportunity to learn that what is real Islam.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  30. Padem

    Greetings of Peace:

    I appreciate the fair-minded (if skeptical) tone of Anderson Cooper's blog which differs from the tabloid hateful misrepresentations and many other ill-informed rants in the blogosphere. These most right-wing folks sell stereotypes of Muslims that would no longer be allowed (so overtly) for other minorities. Some of the writers commenting here also speak this cartoon language of nativism and hate.

    During the last few years we have seen continued tabloid attacks on Muslim leaders in the USA which is so counter productive towards building relationships and safer communities. Yes this educational ad campaign is a public service– and it is also on line with the ads that Christian and Jewish groups have run on the subway. Muslims have the right to do this as well as other faith groups.

    There have been muslims here for hundreds of years and there are so many links with Christianity and Judaism that some scholars all our tradition the "Islamojudeochristain tradition." In any case, there is not essential clash between our faiths, only between people who have competing interests–that is politics. Let that debate and discussion take place nonviolently!

    Over 600,000 Muslims live in the NYC area. Muslims travel on the subway every day (as well as drive taxis :)) and we too fear terrorism as much as the next guy. We Muslims are diverse and should not be judged by extremist movements. We need to be known & better understood. Why do some people want to prevent that?

    That is a real question. We should be asking just why the tabloids choose to attack our leaders, not merely criticize them but call them "terror imam" and so forth. Teh strength of this country is taht it can accommodate diversity.

    therefore we hope we will nto see the local MTA cave in to these extremist demands to cancel the ad campaign. We remain profoundly disappointed that last year the Department fo Education (and our mayor) caved in to right wing pressure and forced out a wonderful Principal of what teh New York Post called a "Jihad Academy== ie an Arabic Language public School. The real story is tabloid extremism and the consistently intolerant politics of Peter King.

    Padem
    Queens NY

    July 23, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  31. Tahir Zulfiqar

    I came to US from Pakistan in 1991 for my Masters. Even though born muslim I understood Islamic ideology when I was teen. When I studied Islam my life changed. Now I had the a purpose in life to spread the message of Islam and serve humanity. It brings love among followers and respect for other religions. When I arrived in LA airport the first words I heard from an American woman was Assalam-o-Alakum. It changed my heart for US as a country. The more I come to know Americans people (excluding majority of politician) the more I loved them and more I had thirst to tell this great message of God to them. This is the most precious item I have

    But then I saw a heavy propaganda machine which is spreading only negatives about Islam. Many people have blamed Islam for the mistakes of illetrate and extremist muslim. Most of these muslim are born muslim but dont understand true message of this beautiful reliogion of Islam.

    Now few groups muslims or non muslims have given a bad name to Islam in US with their unwise acts. I understand in this storm against this beautiful religion Islam, which is also the final message of God from his prophet Mohammad is indeed difficult to look at positivly. But these kind of compaigns to understand Islam will remove grave concerns and help to bring communities together and look at its true message. If US would be able to get the true message of Islam then I am positive that if this great nation of America, its teens, youngsters and wise people would love it. Let accept this compain to understand Islam so US can embrace its actual message and beauty. As a muslim and a US resident I know Americans deserves this compaign.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  32. Syed

    I would like to thank the media for making the $50,000 ad campaign into a $500,000 ad campaign by sensationalizing the issue 🙂

    July 23, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  33. Armaan

    Also, upon what grounds is Congressman Peter King attempting to justify his efforts to censor this perfectly legal expression of free speech? Just a final though...

    -Armaan

    July 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  34. Armaan

    I must admit, I know very little about Mr. Wahhaj, but I hope that any negative sentiments surrounding him will not taint the image of this effort, which I believe was organized with good intentions. In such a dangerously polarized world, such efforts should be encouraged, not censored. Ignorance and misinformation inevitably leads to fear, and fear leads to hatred. The subway advertisements, thus, are an admirable method of clearing up the manufactured misconceptions surrounding the religion of Islam and its 1.4 billion followers.

    -Armaan
    California

    July 23, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  35. Hassen

    I'm surprised that such a simple and uncontroversial set of advertisements are getting so much attention. Actually, I'm not that surprised but it still amazes me how ignorant and close-minded some people can be.

    The ads merely supply people with resources to learn the Muslim perspective on controversial issues about Islam, which are rarely represented by Muslims in the media. So, why shouldn't Muslims be allowed to provide a website or phone number where people interested in hearing the often neglected Muslim perspective can do so?

    Some people get it and are seeing this for the simple uncontroversial issue that it is, though there's always those others who have this 'Islamophobia' and are compelled to strike down any effort to explain what Islam is and provide for better understanding.

    Peace

    July 23, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  36. Mohammad

    I think that the campaign will help give all American's a better understanding of Islam. It is a good tool to clear up a lot misconceptions about the religon.

    July 23, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  37. Betty

    Form what I think, we really dont know what true Islam or its preachings are. We, and the media always judges Islam by some of its followers. Well, if the world would start judging christianity on the basis of some rogue christians, that would not be right...isnt it? Thus, we should give a chance to all us americans to know what really islam preaches and what its core principles are. I think that the subway adverts are really a good idea. We should give the muslims a chance to clear misconceptions about Islam.

    BC.(from CA)

    July 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  38. Abdullah

    I find the exploitation of Imam Siraj Wahhaj offensive.

    His advertisements are nothing more than what Mormons and Catholics have been doing for years.

    As the first Muslim cleric to pray at the opening of the House of Representatives, he is a source of pride for New Yorkers.

    Wahhaj has never been indicted in any terrorist activity, and his advertisements for people to embrace Islam do not deserve to be condemned as part of a "Jihad Train" as the NY Post portrayed him.

    He is simply the prayer leader of an important mosque in Brooklyn.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  39. obaid sididqui

    I think this ad campaign will help to understand Muslims as they understand there religion themselves.

    There are billions of Muslims living in this word all blinded by this religion of believing in one God and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They work, sleep, laugh and believe in the universal values of what is good and what is bad. It is a sinister to believe all of them as terrorists but unfortunately this stereotype is prevalent in our society.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  40. SF Kid

    Its funny how the people that consider themselves to be the most tolerant are the most hateful in their speech (see the above comments). Probably same people rolling with Klan in the 60s.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  41. Subhan Tariq

    Who is driving taxis? Muslims. Also, Muslims have assimilated, we speak English and are AMERICANS. It is this kind of ignorance that is the main reason for the ads. These ads are to correct negative sentiments about Islam.

    -Subhan Tariq

    July 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  42. S. Ridde

    Whats the big deal, how else are we going to learn about each other and grow as a country. That's what the US is all about.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  43. DW

    If I lived in NYC, I'd boycott the subway system and take a taxi instead. I don't care one bit about Islam or Muslim's for that matter. They brutalize their women, shun progressive thinking, and force their sons into bomb making at the age of 5. Everywhere there are Muslim's, there is violence. Muslim's do not care about America or it's values, they only want to destroy us. PEOPLE WAKE UP! Assimilate or leave, because I refuse to tolerate Islamic principles.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  44. sidney crain

    Islam is the only religion that says "God is great," right before they cut your head off. Wherever there are Muslims in the world there is no peace. Constant riots, murders and tension against Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and even among themselves. Most of these atrocities are not reported in the US press be it in Africa, Indonesia or the middle east. Only 1% of the population of Pakistan is Christian. Ever wonder why? They live in a ghetto and are subject to murder and prosecution daily. I think the world only know too much about Islam. The one thing you will never get from Muslims is salaam!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  45. David Brown

    I think having this campaign is a excellent idea. In a time where we preach for acceptance and human rights, having people unveil the mystery of a seemingly taboo religion can only inspire trust and confidence in a long practiced religion, and ultimately remove the blinds of ignorance from peoples eyes about the true meaning of what it is like to be an Islamic person.
    Thanks Mary, Great Story!

    July 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  46. Becky, PA

    I think more people should learn about the muslim religion. I admit I was pretty clueless on it myself, but I started reading in to it. It is important to show people that not all muslims are terrorists, and they aren't going to try to make all christians into muslims. If people were more educated about then I believe that christians and muslims could live together peacefully.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:27 am |
  47. Annie Kate

    The campaign in and of itself is good and should benefit people who are interested in learning more about Islam. I can see the reservations about the man promoting it in NYC though where I'm sure the scars of 9/11 will remain raw for decades. I also sympathize with the promoter who would like to stand for something – a goal a lot of us share. But I'm afraid that this is the wrong time for him to be promoting this and if he truly wants to advance knowledge and understanding of his religion he should let someone else do the promoting – otherwise, no one may listen.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 23, 2008 at 10:33 am |
  48. GregO

    When is America going to wake up and start being proud of the English language and American heritage instead of trying to bend to everyone elses culture and language? This country was founded on Christian principles and values and the English language. It's great to be tolerant of other cultures but if people have come here legally to live they need to learn our language as their primary language or face the consequences of not being able to communicate. This country should not bend to foreign influences and immigrants legal or not. WE [Americans] are losing our identity through the Hispanic invasion of illegal immigrants when they come here and dont speak English and try to bring their culture to America. As the left would say we are occupiers of Iraq, Illegal Mexicans are occupiers of the United States. In order for the U.S. to survive we need to save our borders, language and culture.

    July 23, 2008 at 9:50 am |
  49. deborah, OH

    What?? Thanks for the info, Mary. It will be interesting to see where this goes!

    July 23, 2008 at 9:48 am |
  50. Cindy

    If the ad campaign is really to get people to better understand the Muslim religion and it's people or to show that they aren't all terrorists or bad then I have no problem with it. But if it has an underlying current of hate or trying to spread hate then it needs to be stopped.

    Cindy...Ga.

    July 23, 2008 at 9:15 am |
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