Authorities should tolerate an initiative to place ads about Islam in New York subway cars, said a Christian theologian with expertise in Islamic strategies.
Several Muslim groups, including main sponsor Islamic Circle of North America, are supporting a campaign to feature 1,000 ads promoting Islam in New York's subway trains in September to coincide with the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. The ads feature phrases associated with Islam such as "Head Scarf?" or "Prophet Muhammad?" and the phrase "You deserve to know" along with the Web site address WhyIslam.org, according to CNN.
Critics of the ads have accused its backers of having ties with terrorists, and urged the Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads.
But Dr. William Wagner, author of the book How Islam Plans to Change the World and president of Olivet University International in San Francisco, believes the American principles of freedom of religion and innocent until proven guilty give a "broad level of protection" to the Islamic groups that want to run the ads.
"I think that they have this right," said Wagner, who was an International Mission Board missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention for 31 years in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, to The Christian Post. "In America we must tolerate these acts even if this would never be accepted in Islamic societies."
But he quickly switched gears and expressed concerns about Muslims becoming increasingly more aggressive in drawing Americans to their faith.
During the last 20 years, the scholar on Islamic strategies noted that Muslims have been studying Christian mission methods and have become "very effective" in applying most of these techniques.
"In fact, they have become very effective missionaries for Islam in the Western World," Wagner stated. "We will see much more of this in the future."
He added that some Islamic leaders proclaim that the whole world will be Muslim by the year 2080.
"This advertising blitz is only one of an expected barrage of missionary advertising in the future," Wagner said.
Regarding the allegation of the ad sponsors being linked to terrorists, Wagner responded that this is to be expected. Based on his studies of Islam in America, he contends it is "very difficult" to completely separate Muslim groups from terrorists, especially groups with more aggressive Muslim missionaries.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, has urged the Metropolitan Transit Authority to not run the ads because of what he believes to be its connection to terrorists.
Siraj Wahhaj, imam of a Brooklyn mosque, is among the backers of the ad campaign. Wahhaj was a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. He was also on a list of 170 potential unindicted co-conspirators for the bombing.
"I have no problem with the ad itself, but I have a very, very real problem with those behind it," King said to CNN.
Wahhaj, however, defended himself saying that he knew Abdel-Rahman as a "scholar in Islam" and "a great reciter of the Quran."
"People try to make the connection as if I'm endorsing some bad deeds that [were] done by Sheik Abdel-Rahman," he said. "That had nothing to do with it."
The Islamic advertising campaign is scheduled to run for a month and costs about $48,000.