Prominent American Muslim imam associated with criminal terrorist acts
during CNN American morning segment Tuesday, July 22.


[ ... ]

CHETRY: Well, it's not the message but the messenger that's causing
quite a debate over a new ad campaign that's set to go up here in New
York City's subways. The posters will try to fight negative stereotypes
about Islam during the morning commute. But it's the man behind the idea
that's raising some eyebrows.

Mary Snow has more on the plan to educate city commuters that could go
off the rails -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, a group promoting Islam is
trying something new. It's targeting New York's roughly five million
daily subway riders with ads. But it's the face promoting those ads
that's prompting discussion that organizers are trying to erase.


SNOW (voice-over): Q: Head scarf? Q: Islam?

These subway ads are designed to battle negative images of Islam. They
aren't even put up yet but they've already sparked this "New York Post"
headline "Jihad Train." "The Post" story focuses not so much on the
message as the messenger, an imam who's now promoting the project to
spread awareness about Islam to millions of subway riders.


IMAM SIRAJ WAHHAJ, AL-TAQWA MOSQUE: Imagine them seeing the word
Muhammad. Imagine them seeing the word Islam. Imagine them seeing the
word hijab.


SNOW: Imam Siraj Wahhaj draws attention because he's among 170
unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case.
And he served as a character witness to the man convicted of being the
mastermind of that bombing, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (ph).

IMAM SIRAJ WAHHAJ, AL-TAQWA MOSQUE: The context of me being a character
witness for Sheikh Abdel-Rahman (ph) is what we knew about him before
the incident.

SNOW: A former U.S. prosecutor in the case says while Wahhaj was on a
list of unindicted co-conspirators, he was never charged.

list is probably an interesting footnote to people. I get asked about it
every couple of years when some story or another about Wahhaj comes up.
But I, you know, I think it's -- the list is a tempest in a teapot.

SNOW: Wahhaj says while he may be a controversial figure, he was also
the first Muslim to lead a prayer before the session of the House of
Representatives in 1991. But he admits there are things he said he
regrets, such as calling the FBI and CIA terrorists.

WAHHAJ: What I was saying is that no, not that all of the FBI are
terrorists or the CIA are terrorists. But there are some elements in
there. So if you want to accuse some Muslims, OK. These Muslims did
that. But don't undermine the entire faith. That's really the message.


SNOW: The group behind the ads, the Islamic Circle of North America,
says it welcomes the imam's promotion of their campaign. They say he is
often portrayed the same way Islam is portrayed. The ads are slated to
go up in 1,000 subway cars in September to coincide with Ramadan -- John
and Kiran. CHETRY: All right. That was Mary Snow for us. And again, she
says these ads are scheduled to go up in subway cars. The MTA looking to
make about $48,000 out of that ad campaign.

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