WINNER TAKES ALLAH
MTA’S ISLAM AD FUROR
By JEREMY OLSHAN
Last updated: 8:22 am
July 22, 2008
Posted: 3:30 am
July 22, 2008
Elected officials and straphangers called on the MTA yesterday to pull the Islamic subway-ad campaign being promoted by a controversial Brooklyn imam whom federal officials have linked to acts of terrorism.
The push to promote Islam on the rails this September, in a $48,000 ad campaign sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America, was reported in The Post yesterday.
“I strongly believe the MTA should pull the ads,” said Rep. Peter King (R-LI), a ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee. “They are especially shameful because the ads will be running during the seventh anniversary of September 11, and because the subways are considered a primary target of terrorists.”
Although the group says the ads – which will coincide with the holy month of Ramadan – aim to educate non-Muslims and reach out to those interested in joining the faith, many are incensed that Imam Siraj Wahhaj was chosen as the pitchman in a YouTube video for “The Subway Project.”
In 1995, federal officials named Wahhaj an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to blow up city landmarks, although he was never formally charged.
A former member of the Nation of Islam, Wahhaj also served as a character witness in the trial of convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, and has said that he hopes one day all Americans are “persuaded” to become Muslims.
MTA officials said the ads are protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Mayor Bloomberg agreed.
“If you were to advocate becoming a Muslim, I assume the First Amendment would protect you,” he said. The content of the ads themselves is not offensive or suggestive of violence or terrorism, officials said. They merely refer those interested in learning more about Islam to call (877) WHY-ISLAM or visit whyislam.org.
Azzem Khan, assistant secretary general of the Islamic Circle, defended Wahhaj.
“Siraj Wahhaj is a fine American and is respected by Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” he said