US Muslims hope new billboards reclaim Islam’s message

Mail.com

BOSTON (AP) — Dozens of billboards with Muslim themes are sprouting nationwide, proclaiming what organizers say is the true message of Islam and its prophet, Muhammad: peace and justice, not extremism and violent jihad.

The New York-based Islamic Circle of North America has erected 100 billboards over the summer that feature statements such as: “Muhammad believed in peace, social justice, women’s rights” and “Muhammad always taught love, not hate; peace, not violence.” Also listed are a website and a phone number people can call for more information.  

They are in cities including Boston; New York; Phoenix; San Diego; El Paso and Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Cleveland; Las Vegas; Milwaukee; North Bergen, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Denver; and Calgary, Alberta.

The group’s president, Naeem Baig, said the idea for the campaign arose after January attacks in Paris by Islamist militants on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store killed 17 people, plus the three attackers.

The perpetrators wrongfully understood the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Baig said, and the American Muslim community wanted to reclaim the message. As for whether the campaign would face a tougher audience in Boston, with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings still fresh in many people’s minds, Baig said: “That’s the whole point of the campaign; there are extremists in all communities.”

Muslim brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carried out the attack at the marathon finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. Prosecutors said the bombings were intended to punish the U.S. for its wars in Muslim countries.

“As a Muslims, it hurts me when I see someone abusing my faith, abusing the teachings of the prophet,” Baig said. He sees those who resort to violence “as people who are lost, who have no direction in their life, people who have their own challenges in their life, who are using faith as an excuse.”

Bilal Siddiqui, a college student who volunteers for ICNA in Boston, said some callers vent and “spew hatred.” But after speaking to a knowledgeable person on the hotline, “oftentimes their approach becomes softer and they’re more keen to learn more,” he said.

Wilherm Edward, a non-Muslim who works at an auto parts store situated near one of the three Boston billboards, said he thinks the campaign is a great idea. Edward’s line of work, he said, exposes him to people from all walks of life, including Muslims.

“All the ones I’ve seen, they’re all good people,” he said. While praising the billboard campaign as a “laudable effort,” the leader of Boston’s biggest mosque said his institution prefers to take a different approach.

“We feel our actions speak louder than words,” said Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. The group aims to live the faith’s values through its food pantry and its work on affordable housing and criminal justice, Vali said.

“People appreciate your being real a lot more than the messaging and marketing,” Vali added. “I think the way we change people’s hearts is through our actions and deeds.”

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4 thoughts on “US Muslims hope new billboards reclaim Islam’s message

  1. Too little, too late.

    Bush, Cheney, and the American politicians did too good a job on a too-low IQ nation…

    Beside, most of the ‘extremists’ are OUR guys!

  2. Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing…

    but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)” (Translation is from the Noble Quran) The verse prior to this (190) refers to “fighting for the cause of Allah those who fight you” leading some to believe that the entire passage refers to a defensive war in which Muslims are defending their homes and families. The historical context of this passage is not defensive warfare, however, since Muhammad and his Muslims had just relocated to Medina and were not under attack by their Meccan adversaries. In fact, the verses urge offensive warfare, in that Muslims are to drive Meccans out of their own city (which they later did). Verse 190 thus means to fight those who offer resistance to Allah’s rule (ie. Muslim conquest). The use of the word “persecution” by some Muslim translators is disingenuous (the actual Arabic words for persecution – “idtihad” – and oppression – a variation of “z-l-m” – do not appear in the verse). The word used instead, “fitna”, can mean disbelief, or the disorder that results from unbelief or temptation. This is certainly what is meant in this context since the violence is explicitly commissioned “until religion is for Allah” – ie. unbelievers desist in their unbelief.

    Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”

    Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” Not only does this verse establish that violence can be virtuous, but it also contradicts the myth that fighting is intended only in self-defense, since the audience was obviously not under attack at the time. From the Hadith, we know that this verse was narrated at a time that Muhammad was actually trying to motivate his people into raiding merchant caravans for loot.

    Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

    Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”. This speaks directly of polytheists, yet it also includes Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be ‘joining companions to Allah’).

    Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” The martyrs of Islam are unlike the early Christians, who were led meekly to the slaughter. These Muslims are killed in battle as they attempt to inflict death and destruction for the cause of Allah. This is the theological basis for today’s suicide bombers.

    Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”

    Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
    Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward ” This passage criticizes “peaceful” Muslims who do not join in the violence, letting them know that they are less worthy in Allah’s eyes. It also demolishes the modern myth that “Jihad” doesn’t mean holy war in the Quran, but rather a spiritual struggle. Not only is this Arabic word (mujahiduna) used in this passage, but it is clearly not referring to anything spiritual, since the physically disabled are given exemption. (The Hadith reveals the context of the passage to be in response to a blind man’s protest that he is unable to engage in Jihad, which would not make sense if it meant an internal struggle). According to the verse, Allah will allow the disabled into Paradise, but will provide a larger reward to those who are able to kill others in his cause.

    Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…” Is pursuing an injured and retreating enemy really an act of self-defense?

    Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.

  3. “Muhammad always taught love, not hate; peace, not violence.”

    Blatant lie. I’ve read the Quran from cover to cover, as well as researched the ‘prophet’, and I can’t consider anyone who claims to be godly who is not only a pedophile, but stole another man’s wife as well.

    Sorry if you read this, Jamal, but that’s my truth. Nothing personal against you.

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