Big, bold and eye-catching. Three billboards have gone up in the metro: The Islamic Circle of North America putting up two in Tampa, one in Pinellas. CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says there’s one goal.
“The message behind these billboards is that people should take the opportunity to learn about the American-Muslim community and see what Islam is about rather than what it isn’t, and hopefully it will start a dialogue which our community needs these days,” said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR.
After the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, some Americans have become suspicious of Muslims. Some have even turned violent.
“It’s only when you take things out of context or engage in double standards that people have fear and hate, so we hope that they will keep an open mind and learn about their fellow Muslim-American neighbors,” said Shibly.
But suspicion runs deep. The internet is full of warnings from both vetted and unvetted sources including the Daily Caller, a conservative online website that published a damning article about the Islamic Circle. We showed it to CAIR.
The article claims the Islamic Circle advocates a radical agenda, and that the mother of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook was an active member.
“This is exactly what was done to the Jewish groups in Germany before the Holocaust. They would take a few things like one person attended a meeting and he said something or quoted someone else and that’s why all Jews are bad and that’s why the whole organization is bad,” said Shibly.
CAIR understands the concerns and is glad these questions are being asked. It’s exactly what they want because through information comes understanding, and they’re hoping everybody can find some.