The Toronto Transit Commission is refusing to take down a controversial Muslim ad ? despite a demand from several religious organizations and more than 80 public complaints ? as it doesn’t violate any of its policies, the Ontario human rights code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The ad, which has been posted in four subway stations since January, states: “There is no god but Allah (and) Muhammad is His messenger.” It was sponsored by the Islamic Infocentre in Toronto, which signed a 12-month contract with the TTC ? a contract that still stands.
“Religious and faith-based advertising is allowed,” said Brad Ross, executive director of corporate communications at the TTC. “If people disagree with the message, they need to take that up with the advertisers themselves.”
According to the Islamic Infocentre’s website, they attribute the “inadvertent misunderstanding” of the ad to their decision not to translate “Allah” ? a word that is not specific to any religion ? whereas if it were translated, it would read “One God.”
The Infocentre has announced it will not remove the ad, although its does plan to update it with a “relevant quote” from the Qur’an, which reads: “Your God is but One . . . the Merciful, the Compassionate.”
“We are trying to give a message that we believe is true, and it is up to our Canadian friends to decide whether they accept it or neglect it,” Mohammed Obaidullah of the Islamic Infocentre said Monday.
The number of public complaints to the TTC prompted an automatic review by its advertising review working group, which is made up of three city councillors. The ad passed the secondary review.
But, some religious groups remain unsatisfied.
“This is a direct contravention of Hindu belief,” said Ron Banerjee, director of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group. “Their message is not a good one.”
He also questioned the TTC’s ad standards and accused the transit authority of being “pro-islamist.”
David Harrison, president of the Bus Stop Bible Group, also has a problem with the ad.
He said that a small edit to the Muslim ad, such as putting “We believe” at the beginning, would suffice, adding that he supports the fact that every group is entitled to its own opinion.
A good example of that, he said, was when the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign added the word “probably” into one of their ads, which now reads: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”