Toronto Transit Commission Runs Muslim Ad… and Hindus Complain

The Toronto Transit Commission has put up a lot of religious/non-religious ads over the past few years. They approved the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign’s ad, reading “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

More recently, they approved an ad from a Christian group in which a child with drug-abusing parents was advised to pray instead of seeking useful help.

Now, they’ve allowed this ad from a Muslim group:

The proper response to that is to say, “Well, they were right up until the fifth word…”

And then you move on.

The wrong response is to listen to what the leader of the group Canadian Hindu Advocacy is saying:

Banerjee claimed the ads are hurtful to Hindus and his group will be handing out anti-Muslim flyers outside the TTC.

“This ad has to be pulled because it is offensive to Hindus,” he said. “The TTC must recognize all religious groups.”

Umm… yes, the TTC must recognize all religious groups. They must allow pro-religious and anti-religious ads to go up (within reason) as long as the groups pay the fees. That’s what their own rules say they must do. Just because you don’t like what an ad says doesn’t mean it has to be pulled.

Canadian Hindu Advocacy, whose website hasn’t been updated since (I presume) 1994, can pay for their own ads if they want. That’s what all the other groups did.

To their credit, the TTC isn’t budging. They’re not taking the Muslims’ ad down.

That’s not stopping the Christian groups from offering more dimwitted advice, though:

David Harrison, president of the Bus Stop Bible Group, also has a problem with the ad.

He said that a small edit to the Muslim ad, such as putting “We believe” at the beginning, would suffice, adding that he supports the fact that every group is entitled to its own opinion.

Right… because Christian ads *never* reek of absolute certainty…

The TTC has two choices — they can accept or reject all religious ads. They’ve chosen the first option and it looks like they’re sticking to it, even if that means some crazy ads get through the filter. As long as they keep that open door policy going, I doubt they’ll face any opposition from atheists. We’ll pay the money and get our own ads up. But the moment TTC censors one group’s views at the expense of all the others, we’ll be ready to challenge them.

(via Godless Poutine)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Atheist Jess

    Sigh….amazing how something that is supposed to bring people together actually causes conflict and tears communities apart. I say no religious advertising. Period. 

  • Ned Farrar

    I forget who it was who said that in a perfect world there would only need to be two laws:

    1.) Do not injure or annoy others.
    2.) Do not yourself be too easily injured or annoyed.

    It is not particularly polite to post an ad in a public space informing all who read it that they are condemned to hellfire and damnation unless they agree with the poster … but then this is what most religions say, and it is hard to see how this Muslim ad is any more or less offensive than the multitude of Christian ads I have seen on walls and buses and even on TV, so I do not know why any Hindu group would regard it as uniquely targeted to insult them. Perhaps I am missing some subtext here?

    Still, it seems to me that this is moving into the being “too easily injured or annoyed” category. Either we ban religious advertizing outright, or we learn to deal with the fact that not everyone will agree with us about things we may believe in strongly. Now deal with it, folks! And then move on. I’m sure there is an ad touting hair gel somewhere that will offend the bald guys among us, and I think it’s their turn!

    • rhodent

       “I do not know why any Hindu group would regard it as uniquely targeted to insult them.  Perhaps I am missing some subtext here?”

      Relations between Muslims and Hindus on the Indian subcontinent have been particularly strained ever since the Partition of India in 1947 (I’m not saying there was no tension before, but the Partition exacerbated matters considerably).  I took a look at the CHA’s website, and it’s pretty clear they have an axe to grind with Muslims (currently the top of the page has in very large letters “Poorly qualified immigrants from Pakistan and MidEast destroy professional reputation of Hindus”, and farther down the page there’s reference to “Before Islamic and British invaders destroyed the civilization” [my emphasis]).

      Remember the joke a while back about how atheists could put up a billboard with a cute kitten and the message “Atheists: We love kittens!” and some Christians would complain?  I suspect a Muslim group could put up a similar ad in the Toronto subways and CHA would protest it.

      • ron ban

        Too bad stories dont get updated here. This Muslim group is connected to al Qaeda terrorists http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/17/jewish-group-alleges-ttc-ads-linked-to-pro-terrorism-muslim-speaker

        We dont mind religious ads placed by true religions but fascist ads placed by neo Nazis and al qaeda sympathizers tends to get our knickers in a knot. AS IT SHOULD for all real Canadians!

        The JDL and CANADIAN HINDU ADVOCACY will get these ads removed, bu any means necesssary.

        • rhodent

          “Religious ads placed by true religions”?  I’d ask what you mean by that, except that a) given your admitted connections* to CHA it’s pretty damn obvious what you mean, and b) I don’t really want to her anything else from you.

          And by the way, I read the article, and it mentions zero evidence of your claim that the Muslim group is connected to al Qaeda terrorists.  It mentions that the CHA (which, as already noted, clearly has an ace to grind with Muslims) and Jewish Defense League (which I am less familiar with, but I certainly can’t rule out them having an axe to grind, either) accuse the Muslim group of having these connections, but gives no evidence other than questionable links to people who may support al Qaeda’s aims but who themselves do not appear to be connected to it.  In short, you’re using the standard troll tactic of making an unsupported claim, and “proving” it by giving a link that doesn’t actually support the claim you say it supports.  End result?  Your credibility is now gone, and I’m going to ignore you now.  (Don’t bother providing more links to “prove” your case, by the way.  You’ve already wasted my time once with that; you won’t waste my time with it again.)  Hopefully everyone else reading this will do the same.

          *To anyone else reading this wondering why I say ron ban has “admitted connections to CHA”, check out his other posts.  He signs several posts “Vishwanath Kumar, CANADIAN HINDU ADVOCACY” and “Jaydeep Modi, CANADIAN HINDU ADVOCACY”

          • ron ban

            I dont post links for the sake of F*&chheads like YOU. The initial article had not uncovered the links to fundamentalists, a later Toronto Sun article covered that. AND HERE IS the link, I AM NOT POSTING links to convince a bigot who has already made up his mind (LIKE YOU) this is for more reasonable people: so i dont give a d*mn whether you look at the links or not, the fact that you even refuse to look at links proves there is no talking to you, you are an asshole with his mind already made up, your kind of bigot shoudnt even be allowed to post or discuss anything since you are narrow minded:

            http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/17/jewish-group-alleges-ttc-ads-linked-to-pro-terrorism-muslim-speaker

  • Xeon2000

    So when will David Harrison of Bus Stop Bible Group inform Charles McVety of Canada Christian College that Christian ads should include the disclaimer “We believe…” at the top?

    • Caustic Agnostic

      Silly Xeon2000, Christians don’t have to put “We believe…” at the top of any of their ads because clearly anything that comes from them is 100% accurate.  There was a memo, I believe it was sent out from Westboro Baptist Church.  ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlmccurley78 Melissa McCurley

    The only ‘harmful’ of the three mentioned ads is the one promoting prayer over actual help for drug abusing parents, but I’m not ‘offended’ by any of them.

  • Nicole Youngman

    This is actually very odd on a number of levels. This Hindu group looks more like a thinly-disguised anti-Muslim and anti-(Muslim)-immigrant organization–have a look at the other articles on their page. Hindus are generally much more tolerant by definition, given that they are both monotheistic and polytheistic (all their deities are different aspects of Brahman) and actively encourage people to worship whatever deities they are drawn to and to follow their own path.

    • Stev84

      Hindus and Muslims don’t always get along peacefully in India…

      • Nicole Youngman

        Exactly–which is why I think there’s more going on here. 

    • ron ban

      Hindus are tolerant towards real religions but NOT towards fascist ideologies masquerading as religion.

      When Hindu rishis stated that all religions are equal and equally valid, it was earlier than 500 BC, they were referring to the religions that existed in that day: ie Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism.

      They WERE NOT TALKING ABOUT Islam, which hatched in 700 AD. Or Nazism, which sprang into existence in the 1920s.

      Tolerate REAL RELIGIONS, folks, not fascist ideologies! 

      NO TOLERANCE for HITLER, no tolerance for MUHAMMAD.

      Hinduism does NOT say tolerate Hitler or Pol Pot or Muhammad.

  • Reginald Selkirk

     The TTC has two choices — they can accept or reject all religious ads…

    Keep in mind that Toronto is not in the USA. While Canada does also have a fondness for separation of church and state, laws and their application may not be identical to those you are familiar with.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I’m aware. I believe that’s going by their own rules, not American law.

    • Ibis3

      We do have laws (and a constitution) which prohibit discrimination on
      the grounds of religion, so Hemant is right. The TTC can either accept
      ads no matter what religion is being promoted or it can make a policy
      that accepts no religious ads whatsoever.

    • Bryan

       Unlike the US, Canada does not have a constitutionally-set “non-establishment” clause; i.e. the government is not explicitly prevented from creating laws along faith lines.  However, the equality statements in our constitution effectively act as a non-establishment clause; any law that gave preference to a particular religion or religions POV would be unconstitutional.

      While I no longer live in TO, I’m happy to see that the TTC gets at least one thing right – although for the ridership, having advertising being the one thing the TTC gets right isn’t exactly comforting. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532665943 Leoal Nelson

    Well, I think every religion should put up an ad to counteract the other ads that offend it. Then it would be fun because the whole subway could be filled by ads for different religions, all saying the same thing. A little exposure to other viewpoints never hurt anybody. However, ads aimed at women generally do.

  • Heintje_K

    Seriously, someone has to research for a way to help religious people grow thicker skin. That will certainly win them a Nobel-prize

    • Cdunphy

      If they did they’d be atheists

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Christians have had largely uncontroversial access to public forums like this for a long time. With increasing diversity, and increasing awareness of expression rights, we’re going to see more and more non-Christian signs like this. It’s a good thing… not so much for the expression, but because enough people might get sick of it that most religious ads and other forms of expression may be limited in the public forum- a good thing, in my opinion.

    • A Morris

      I think Leoal Nelson above, and C Peterson here are advocating a good approach. Lets have every religion place their ad in the same area so that everyone can see the diversity of conflicting beliefs. The competition for new believers would be overwhelming.  And of course, the ads for rationalist organizations should be placed at the beginning and end of the displays.

    • Zeggman

      The best likely outcome will be that people exposed to diverse religious views will come to realize that their own are more “personal preference” than “universal truth.”

      If people didn’t “get sick of” and limit ads for beverages and personal injury attorneys, it’s unlikely that religious ads will be the ones that push them over the edge.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        We’ll see. I suspect people are a lot more tolerant of other ads than they are of religious ones. So the most likely outcome may be more bans on religious advertising. But I wouldn’t complain if the result was less public advertising in general. There are likely to be all sorts of interesting legal questions that come up if ads for specific things are banned, but not for other things.

        It does send an interesting message if the only banned ads are for booze, cigarettes, and religion!

  • CanadianNihilist

    I think the TTC  is doing a great job. In the all or nothing approach to religious/non religious adds I prefer to see all differing opinions fairly represented.

    It’s a shame most of the USA can’t get the concept of it right though.

  • http://twitter.com/appropinquabat Alexa

    Oh heavens, the Christian advice! The quote on the ad is an English translation of the shahada, which is an important declaration of belief for Muslims. (It’s what you say when you officially convert to Islam, basically.) I don’t think they should have to alter that so as to not offend any members of other faiths, because, believe me, it’s not like other religions are sensitive to other people’s beliefs with their ads.

  • Will Ross

    “Discover Islam in 85 languages” – clearly going for the better educated niche market…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The TTC has two choices — they can accept or reject all religious ads.

    I used to agree with many people who think it would be better to reject all such ads. In the US, the policy is generally supposed to be all-or-nothing for religious and/or holiday displays in or in front of government buildings, and I was generally favoring just keep it all out.

    But now I’m beginning to wonder maybe, just maybe,  it’s better to bring it on! More! MORE! MORE! Let public places become a chaotic, clamorous zoo of bickering sects, sub-sects and sub-sub-sects, all saying increasingly silly things, trivializing themselves, desensitizing everyone in the cacophonous barrage of deity-selling capitalism, like stumbling through a third-world open air market with merchants hawking their own melons at the top of their lungs while decrying the inferiority of their competitors’ melons,  until people want nothing to do with any of it. The subject of religion in general will cause fingers to rub foreheads, nursing headaches, the interest will dry up, the funding will dry up, and it will all flatten out and lie down onto the yellowing pages of history books.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532665943 Leoal Nelson

      That’s what I meant to say. But you did a better job. 

    • A Morris

      Well said – worthy of quoting.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      In such an environment, do people become desensitized or do they become hypersensitized to these nonsecular messages? Either way, it’s probably a good thing, but the short term situation could be very different.

  • Master8882

    The Qur’an says: “Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement
    between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we
    shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none

    of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away,
    then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto
    Him).” [The Qur’an, 3:64].

    The Qur’an says: “Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement
    of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the
    majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He
    determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is.” [The Qur’an,
    19:34-36]

    “The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child,
    when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is
    Aware of all things?” [The Qur’an, 6:101].

    Islam teaches that all humans are innocent at birth (i.e. born sinless)
    and they become sinful only when they consciously commit a sin:

    “Every soul is held in pledge for what it earned.” [The Qur’an 74:38],

    “On the Day when every soul will come pleading for itself, and every
    soul will be repaid what it did, and they will not be wronged.” [The
    Qur’an, 16:111],

    “Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever
    goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray: nor can the bearer
    of a burden bear the burden of another, nor do We chastise until We
    raise a messenger” [The Qur’an, 17:15]

  • Master8882

    God(Allah) created Adam and Eve and from them both, He created all
    humanity, in order to guide humanity to the straight path, He has sent
    revelation and Divine books and sent prophets, starting with prophet
    Ibrahim and ending with Moses (Torah), Jesus(Gospel) and Last and final
    messenger Muhammad PPAUH (Quran).

    Islam means submission and surrender your will to the will of God who

    created heavens and earth, day and night, life and death,. The only and

    only true God (in Arabic Allah) who is the sustainer of Allah that exist

    and the most powerful, most merciful and most compassionate.

    We Invite all people to worship the one and only true God and avoid
    worshiping other things, Jesus was a great and mighty messenger of God
    but He was never God or divine, God(Allah) is Not the third of three in
    Trinity. this is a message for all sincere human beings and sincere
    Christians as a continuation to their faith is to believe in the prophet
    Muhammad PPAUH and take the divine revelation in the Quran as a
    guidance for life and embrace the religion of Islam to achieve peace of
    heart and mind.

    May God(Allah) guide all of us to the straight path…


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