Sign of the times: After five complaints were made, a working group including councillor Karen Stintz has decided to allow this advertisement to remain in the Kennedy subway station.
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TORONTO - A Muslim advertisement stating “There is no god but Allah” has started a vigorous debate amongst TTC riders and sparked a review from the Toronto Transit Commission Advertising Commission Group.
After five complaints were made, a working group including councillor Karen Stintz has decided to allow the advertisement to remain in the Kennedy subway station.
“The decision to reject or accept an ad isn’t decided by whether someone takes offence to it or not,” said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. “It doesn’t violate the Human Rights Code. We can’t reject an ad because it espouses one view on religion.”
According to the Islam Info Centre, the ad -- posted in January -- is aimed at raising religious awareness.
“The main purpose of posting it was to raise awareness of Islam,” said Mohammad Obaidullah, of the centre.
They have not received any complaints directly. In fact, he said they have been receiving many more visitors inquiring about the religion.
Obaidullah said the ad is not intended to be offensive.
“Of course our aim is never to convert people. They have the choice to accept it or reject it.”
But many disagree.
Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said it is offensive to all non-Muslims.
“Recognize that in a public space, this is an offensive ad to all non-Muslims,” he said. “It’s saying all other faiths are illegitimate.”
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, does not agree with the ad, either.
“This is what is called the declaration of belief. It basically reads ‘There is no god but God,’” he said.
But the Muslim group translated part of the text into English, and left “Allah,” an Islam word for god, as is.
“It looks as if they’re putting God against Allah and it’s very devious and dangerous to do this,” said Fatah. “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.”
Fatah said he does not understand why this would be posted in a public space.
“I don’t think such advertisements have place in the public transit system where there are multiple faiths,” he said. “It seems to me they’re saying ‘You have to notice us.’ It’s marking out their territory.”
McVety said his concern is not where the ad is placed, but the privileges these Muslims are receiving.
“I think we must have free speech not only in public spaces but also in government spaces,” he said. “Christians are not allowed to put up such an ad in any government space; they are repeatedly rejected.”
McVety called Muslims a “super class of citizens” who receive better treatment than any other religion.
“We must have equal treatment of equal people under the law, not different classes that have different privileges,” he said.
In response to this controversial ad, McVety is currently preparing a Christian advertisement he will be submitting to Karen Stintz.
The ad will read, “Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.” He expects the TTC will approve it, as they approved the Muslim one.