A Toronto subway ad posted by a radical Islamist group and announcing to riders “There is no God but Allah", has infuriated area residents, but officials say the ad does not violate the Human Rights Code.
Christians vowed to post their own "Jesus is the Way” ad, while the Jewish Defense League complained that the Muslim ad is sponsored by a group whose website links to other sites, one of which features a speaker who has said “every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
The ads were placed in several subway stations by the Walk-in Islamic Infocentre, according to the Cnews website, which links to radical Islam’s “worst of the worst” sites, said Defense League member Meir Weinstein.
"The sign is grossly offensive, but the most important part is ... when you look at the organization behind it, and who they are linked to ... (it is) the worst of the worst," he said.
One link on the center’s website refers to the Islamic Research Foundation, whose director, Dr. Zakir Naik, reportedly was banned in 2010 from speaking in Britain and Toronto.
In a previous video-taped lecture, he aligned himself with the late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"If (Osama bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him ... If he is terrorizing a terrorist, if he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him," Naik said. “Every Muslim should be a terrorist."
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) rejected complaints about the Islamic Center, reasoning that the advertisements themselves do not link to websites.
"The TTC does acknowledge that some advertisers may cause controversy, and that there will be those who oppose a given ad or message associated with that advertiser," said TTC spokesman Brad Ross. "But provided an ad itself does not violate TTC policy or Canadian law, removing or rejecting an ad because it is controversial or gives offence to some is not reason enough to reject an ad.
"The decision to reject or accept an ad isn't decided by whether someone takes offense to it or not. It doesn't violate the Human Rights Code. We can't reject an ad because it espouses one view on religion."
The Islam Info Centre said that "the main purpose of posting it was to raise awareness of Islam. Of course, our aim is never to convert people. They have the choice to accept it or reject it."
The Canada Family Action Coalition countered, “This is an offensive ad to all non-Muslims. It's saying all other faiths are illegitimate." Even Canadian Muslim Congress founder objected to the poster, explaining, "It obviously offends people to whom it seems it's an insult to their beliefs in their God. It's saying your god is not the right god, mine is."