The controversial Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) has announced that they will be putting up 100 pro-Islam, pro-Muhammad billboards in cities across the nation, including New York.

The billboards feature a website and telephone number for the WhyIslam program, a group dedicated to providing “accurate information” and dispelling “popular stereotypes” about Islam.

Via Business Insider:

New billboards in Boston, New York, San Diego and other cities proclaim what their Muslim backers say is the true message of Islam: peace and justice, not extremism and violent jihad.

The New York-based Islamic Circle of North America has erected 100 new billboards over the summer in those cities as well as in Phoenix, El Paso, Texas, Memphis, Tennessee, Cleveland and elsewhere.

They feature statements such as: “Muhammad believed in peace, social justice, women’s rights” and “Muhammad always taught love, not hate; peace, not violence.”

The group’s President, Naeem Baig, said they simply want to reclaim the message of Islam after it had been tainted by such events as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

The WhyIslam campaign however, has controversy of its own.  The group’s former chair, Amir Mertaban, referred to Hamas terrorists as freedom fighters who have ‘done a lot of good’ in Palestine, and he refused to denounce the group.

In 2008, WhyIslam ran a series of Muslim subway ads, promoted by a Brooklyn imam whom federal officials had linked to a plot to blow up city landmarks.   That Brooklyn imam is Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The WhyIslam message is run under the umbrella of the ICNA, which promotes some very controversial ideas by some very controversial individuals.  Various reports show that the ICNA has a prolific resume, including:

  • Supporting the imposition of sharia law.
  • Having ties to the terrorist organization, Hamas.
  • Demonstrating deep ties to the fundamentalist Pakistani political party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
  • Expressing support for individuals such as the Ayatollah Khomeini and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.
  • Maintaining close ties to international groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, whose motto reads:  Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
  • Presenting Anwar al-Awlaki as a guest speaker alongside Siraj Wahhaj at a co-sponsored convention.  Awlaki had been connected with three of the 9/11 hijackers, and had praised the murderous rampage by the Fort Hood shooter that took 14 lives, and the failed attempt by the Christmas Day bomber to kill 278 innocent people.

It should be noted that the ICNA released a statement denouncing Awlaki’s views – nearly eight years later – but noting that at the time of his appearance, he had not been accused of any extremist ties, and that he had only started making radical lectures after being detained in 2007.

This is, of course, a flat-out falsehood.  In fact, here’s a bit of what was already known regarding Awlaki at the time of his ICNA appearance:

  • In 1996, he encouraged a student at his mosque to fight jihad, prompting an elder to confront him, eventually leading to his departure.
  • In 1998 and 1999, served as Vice President of a charity founded by Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, an associate of Osama bin Laden and a man designated by the U.S. government as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’.
  • The F.B.I. first took notice of Awlaki in 1999 based on his relationship with militants and his role in running a ‘front organization to funnel money to terrorists’.
  • The 9/11 Commission had shown that F.B.I. investigators were divided over Awlaki’s involvement in the terrorist attacks, but had expressed concern over his role as spiritual advisor to two of the hijackers, with one detective saying he believed Awlaki ‘was at the center of the 9/11 story’.

Awlaki, who had inspired many to acts of terror, was killed in an American drone strike in 2011.

Here is some more background reading about the key players at the ICNA.