Beau Zimmer, WTSP
TAMPA, Florida— There’s a new billboard up along I-275 in Tampa that may appear to be a campaign sign for Donald Trump.
“When you drive by really quick it looks like Making America Great… a Donald Trump sign,” said local business owner Paul Asimiadis.
But the billboard located along the east side of the interstate at the Sligh Avenue exit wasn’t purchased by the Trump campaign or the Republican Party, but instead The Islamic Community of Tampa.
“Making America great doesn’t mean we all have to be the same. No, it’s the diversity that makes us so great,” said Aida Mackic of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is one of the organizations helping sponsor the sign locally. She says the billboard, which includes a toll-free number and the WhyIslam.org website, is not an attempt to convert people to Islam, but rather a source of information for people who may have questions or concerns.
“A lot of the employees will see co-workers praying, so it’s a question they may not feel comfortable posing to that person,” said Mackic. “In this way it opens a neutral setting for them to approach it.”
A newly released report shows between 2014 and 2016 there was a 500 percent increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims.
“There is a lot of fear with all the terrorism and ISIS going on, but at the same time there are a good bunch of Muslim also,” said Asimiadis, who runs a gas station with his brother near the billboard.
“I do see the idea of cutting down the fears that people have. If they could do something to cut down on violence, sure I’m all for it.”