A Tampa newspaper has reported on highway billboards as the latest part of an advertising campaign by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a group closely tied to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report:
The billboard sits along the eastbound side of Interstate 4, just west of McIntosh Road. But unlike other signs hawking fast food joints, gas stations or amusement parks, this one poses a spiritual query: “Purpose of Life? 877-WHY-ISLAM?…” If you call the number you’ll reach an office in Somerset, N.J. run by the Islamic Circle of North America, a Muslim advocacy group based in Jamaica, N.Y. Once on the line, callers can ask just about anything. The signs with catchy phrases and images is part of a national campaign by the nonprofit group to promote discussion about Islam and debunk stereotypes about Muslims. For Ramadan, they wrapped Chicago city buses with WhyIslam signs and put up ads on New York City subway cars, which sparked some controversy. Last week, 24 billboards went up in 18 cities, including Orlando, Portland, Ore., and San Antonio, Texas. Many of them were in cities that do not have large Muslim populations.”….At the group’s New Jersey offices, Jawad Ahmed, leads the volunteers that take the calls generated by the billboards. He estimates they field an average of 500 calls a month. On some months, particularly after strong advertising campaigns, more than 1,000 calls pour in, Ahmed said. Florida ranks third behind New Jersey and New York among the states that call into the national hotline, he said. High interest from the Sunshine State might reflect ICNA’s heavy marketing efforts in Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami. The organization does not yet track calls by the cities from which they are placed. Ahmed tries to keep track informally by memorizing area codes. Most often, callers ask about the Prophet Mohammed, the supposed oppression of Muslim women, and the basic tenants of Islam. A fair amount call to rant.
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a less well-known part of the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S., generally thought to be closely tied to the Jamaat-e-Islami organization of Southeast Asia, itself known to be allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. ICNA is particularly close to the Muslim American Society and the two organizations have been holding joint annual conventions for many years. Previous posts have discussed similar ad campaigns in Chicago , Seattle and New York. The New York campaign drew national media attention when it was reported that Siraj Wahajj, an American Islamic convert associated with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was behind the New York campaign.