Monday, July 21, 2008

Pro-Islamic Ads Coming to New York City Subways: There's a Real Danger Here, of Becoming Informed

You'll probably be seeing these ads this September, if you use New York City's subways:






(from FOXNews, used without permission)

Informative, Low-Key, Tasteful: What's the Problem?

The ad campaign, called The Subway Project, looks very straightforward and sensible. Just one catch. One of the people promoting it has alleged connections to the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center.

With Friends Like This...

An American-born convert to Islam, Siraj Wahhaj, has a video on YouTube, telling about Islam and The Subway Project. That video is embedded farther down in this post. Siraj Wahhaj was also suspected, investigated, but not indicted, of being involved in the 1993 New York World Trade Center bombing. Siraj Wahhaj did testify at the trial of the "blind sheik," Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Suspecting Siraj Wahhaj made some sense. He's an imam, and apparently has preached this, about America: "In time, this so-called democracy will crumble, and there will be nothing, and the only thing that will remain will be Islam," words that, after dust had settled from a massive explosion, were bound to attract attention.

It's anyone's guess, why Siraj Wahhaj posted that video on YouTube. The Islamic Circle of North America, who are launching The Subway Project, didn't ask him to 'help' them, and have said so. His connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing doesn't help the ad campaign look mainstream, and neither does imam Wahhaj's assertion that the FBI and CIA are the "real terrorists."

In fact, The Islamic Circle asked him not to promote their campaign.

Here's that video:

(Update July 23, 2008)
The video, "The Subway Project - Coming To The NYC Subway This Ramadhan!," is no longer available in blog posts. "Embedding disabled by request" is what the YouTube page says. It is, however, still viewable from YouTube (2:55).

It's Some Kind of Islamic Plot, Right?

Some bloggers definitely think so. Samples:
  • "Radical Imam Siraj Wahhaj & the Islamic Circle of North America are the ringleaders behind this latest Islamic propaganda."
  • "Terrorists Recruiting" on NYC Subway System / MUSLIM SUBWAY ADS HAVE TERROR TIE-IN"
I'm not so sure. I seriously doubt that New York City's MTA is run by terrorist stooges, fools, or fifth columnists. Here's what a news report said:
  • "Radical Imam Promotes Pro-Islamic Ad Campaign to Run on New York Subways"
    FOXNews (July 21, 2008)
    • "Aaron Donovan, spokesman for the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority, confirmed to FOXNews.com that the Islamic Circle had signed a contract to run the ads on 1,000 subway cars during the month of Ramadan.
    • "When asked if the MTA knew of Wahhaj's background before signing the contract, Donovan declined to comment on the imam specifically.
    • " 'As part of the process, we review the ad and go to the Web site to make sure there is no inappropriate content and decided in this case there was not,' he said."
I took a look at the website, whyislam.org/, myself, and didn't find anything particularly terroristic about it. I suppose it could be argued that Why Islam? is trying to lull Americans into a false sense of security. I don't think so, though.

Additions to the blogroll

After reading about Why Islam? and the ICNA, I decided to add both outfit's websites to the blogroll:

Islamic Circle of North America
"The goal of ICNA shall be to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT) through the struggle of Iqamat-ud-Deen (establishment of the Islamic system of life) as spelled out in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)"

Why Islam?
Featuring "articles, books etc on Islam and comparative religion. ... This project has been initiated by volunteers from ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America). ... Islam does not expect the individual to suspend her faculties of reason and logic. On the contrary, it exhorts every individual to sincerely ponder over Creation and to free her mind from the shackles of false idols and ideologies. With this in mind, the WhyIslam project strives to bring reason and logic to the discourse on Islam."

The blogroll entries will be a bit condensed.

Why Post About The Subway Project?

I think that one of the problems facing America is ignorance of just what Islam is. The Subway Project seems aimed at reducing that level of ignorance. I still believe that there is reason to believe that "Islam is a peaceful religion," and see Indonesia as an example of how Islam and the Information Age can get along.

I am not a Muslim, but I think I may understand how Muslims sometimes feel in America. I converted to Catholicism as an adult, partly as a result of trying to find out what made Catholicism so bad. I'm very much aware of how ignorance of an identifiable group of people can be associated with fear and loathing of that group - and how knowledge of such a group very seldom is.

Considering that groups like Al Qaeda claim that they're defending Islam, I think it's a good idea to learn more about what Islam actually is.

(Update July 23, 2008)

Another post about The Subway Project in this blog: "The Subway Project and 'Why Islam?' - Terrorists in the Subways! Or, Not" (July 23, 2008)

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
In the news (Updated July 23, 2008):

16 comments:

Azeem said...

Thanks for taking the time out to post your honest feelings and research.

I wanted to point out a very interesting point which came up today.

On July 21st, 2008 When asked about the inclusion of Imam Siraj Wahhaj on the list of 170 unindicted co-conspirators Former US federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said on CNNs situation room "I think the list is probably an interesting footnote to people. I get asked about it every couple of years when some story or another about Wahhaj comes up. I think the list is a tempest in a teapot."

Tempest in a teapot means "a situation where people get very angry or worried about something that is not important" (According to idioms.Thefreedictionary.Com)

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Azeem,

Thanks for the additional information. I'm not surprised that McCarthy made that statement. Imam Wahhaj was investigated - for logical reasons - not indicted, and in fact gave testimony at the 1995(?) hearings. (It's probably a good idea to define 'tempest in a teapot' - I haven't heard that phrase used in a few decades.)

Even if imam Wahhaj is an Islamic Jeremiah Wright, or worse, the only connection that he has with The Subway Project is the one he created, by promoting it.

ICNA certainly didn't want his help.

ender said...

nice post, norski. i like how you rationally present both sides and then give your opinion.

having grown up catholic - in texas, no less - i was constantly coming across people who had very wrong impressions about my religion - and i also knew a few extremists who twisted the religion i knew into something closer to those wrong impressions. that's given me a lot of sympathy for a lot of different religions which also get misinterpreted.

thanks for posting about this.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

ender,

Thanks for the good words - and you're quite welcome.

And, about the "...few extremists who twisted the religion i knew..." - very true. "With friends like these, who needs enemies" may apply there.

Roger said...

The subway is part of the public transportation system. Why isn't the hardcore separation of church and state crowd throwing a bed wetting fit over religion being promoted in a public space. Oh wait, I forgot, it's Islam, and if they make a stink about it, they'll be called biggots.

Ian said...

Didn't Peter King support the IRA? The Irish Republican Army is a terrorist group, right? That makes King a hypocrite. Or maybe just a racist...

Girl said...

I find this post truly interesting.

Brigid said...

Well, technically the ads are for an information site on a topic of cultural interest. Yes, it happens to be a religion, but the group running the web site do claim not to be actively promoting the religion, just providing information for greater understanding. So I think it's fine being on the MTA.

Besides, I'm really don't think much of the current interpretation of 'separation of church and state.'

violetteb said...

Thanks for your post, found it at BlogCatalog. I had heard someone's version of this news story and apparently they gleened the information that they thought was the real story.

When are American's going to separate Islam from extremests? Like we don't have enough examples of fundementalists in our own religions.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Roger,

It's hard to shake the impression that there's a double standard here.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Ian,

I suspect that you're referring to the Peter King who's a New York Congressman.

Aside from being in New York State, what does Mr. King have to do with this?

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Girl,

Thanks. That's the idea.

The Subway Project is stirring up quite a stink - which is curious, considering how monumentally low-key and reasonable it is.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

The people running Why Islam? say that they're purely informational - and are careful to not suggest conversion.

However, I believe that they hope that people will not only come to understand Islam, but to embrace it.

It must seem odd, for a devout Catholic like me to be discussing an Islamic site like this. Or not so odd. I'm aware of the poem attributed to Martin Niemoller. There are quite a few 'real' versions - some of them quite politically correct. It's the one that starts "When Hitler attacked the Jews, I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.... "

Terrorists 'defending' their flavor of Islam are a very real problem these days. But there's reason to believe that Islam itself is not the problem.

About the 'separation of church and state' - that's a whole different topic, part of the 'freedom from religion' cultural phenomenon.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

violetteb,

When are American's going to distinguish between Islam as a whole and extreme versions of Islam?

I don't know that it's just Americans who have that difficulty. Remember Fitna?

And, about "our own religions." - I'm an American myself, and share Minnesota with quite a number of Muslims. Islam is one of our own religions. (More about this in another post.)

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

violetteb,

Understanding that your question was rhetorical, I'll suggest this: The crazies never will accept Islam, or Christianity, or any other belief that isn't their own.

I'm hopeful that efforts like Why Islam? will, in time, make a difference.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Ian,

I found what I believe is the Peter King reference. You might be surprised at what a low profile New York politics has outside of the Big Apple and the Empire State.

Congressman P.K. sounds interesting, in this connection. I may be back with a post.

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Blogroll

Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.