July 19, 2010; Source: Metrol | City buses have long been rolling advertisements for movies, department and specialty stores, radio and television stations, theatrical productions, clothing, cars—you name it. It’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to these billboards on wheels any more than to any other kind of advertising. That is, unless the subject is religion.
Metropolitan Transportation Association board member Andrew Albert doesn’t think New York City buses should carry any kind of advertising for religious organizations. His concerns come as some 90 of the city’s buses are carrying ads designed to dispel misunderstanding of Islam. Paid for by Muslims for Peace, the ads read, “Love for all. Hatred for none. 1-800-Y-Islam.”
Worrying that advertising for religious groups and beliefs could “offend,” Albert says it’s easier to draw the line at not running any of these kinds of messages. Otherwise, he says, “If you run one, you must run them all.” That religious advertising can upset, even offend, is to be expected. Recently for example, some buses carried ads with the question, “Fatwa on your head? Leaving Islam. RefugefromIslam.com.” A Muslim bus driver, who objected to the ads, asked the transportation authority to take them down.
Unlike the current ads that try to project a positive image of Islam, the anti-Muslim ads were paid for by a group called Stop Islamization of America and, according to earlier news reports, were directed to individuals said to be “fearful of leaving the faith.” Unless others hop on board with Albert’s request, religious bus advertising is likely to keep rolling along, giving New Yorkers something else to talk about—or not.—Bruce Trachtenberg