INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Muslims have reacted to a hateful billboard sharing a message against Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, and have accused its curators of spreading hate, and demanded its immediate removal.
“It is a horrible billboard. I’m outraged by it, but saddened at the same time … and I would like to know who is behind it,” Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, told IndyStar on Monday, June 5.
“It seems very cowardly to me. If you have some kind of stance, you should want to stand up next to your statement. I didn’t think there was any room for hate in our city. This billboard tells me otherwise.
“This kind of rhetoric just furthers division in our state and makes a neighbor question a neighbor, just like I am today.”
The controversial billboard popped up last Friday in Indianapolis on I-465 near the Washington Street exit.
Featuring the words “The Perfect Man”, apparently in reference to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the billboard followed by a list of attributes including “rapist” and “slave owner.”
The billboard gives no indication who paid for it, save for the word “Truthophobes” – an Australian group dedicated to publishing anti-Islamic materials.
Indiana representative Andre Carson said he believes the billboard is untrue and that the billboard’s author takes Islamic text and history out of context “just like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Klan do to religious texts to justify their bigotry.”
Faryal Khatri, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis-based Islamic Society of North America, says not only is the billboard not true, it is hurtful to her as a practicing Muslim.
To Khatri, the most disappointing aspect of the sign is that it could incite hate crimes toward Muslims or people perceived to be Muslim.
Carson told IndyStar that he is disappointed that people have decided to use their free speech protections as a platform “to spread hateful, vile things that are divisive to people.”
“I think there’s a way to debate and be socratic without being disrespectful or undermining people and causing a sense of isolation.”
Last month, a 35 year-old white supremacist stabbed two men to death and injured another who were defending two Muslim girls on a light rail train in Portland, Ore. In court, the attacker, Jeremy Joseph Christian, called the act “patriotism.”
Last week, a Muslim woman in Columbus, Ohio, was beaten in an alleged hate crime, where according to the victim, the alleged attacker reportedly screamed “you all will be shipped back to Africa” prior to the beating.
Shahid said the billboard doesn’t bear any company name, indicating that it is privately owned.
“It’s just a group of cowards who are not even ready to put their name behind it,” Shahid said as she expressed the pain she felt to see this billboard in the midst of Ramadan.
“It is very hard … and I would like to find the people who are behind this and talk to the them about who came up with these, and it seems appropriate to use this term, alternative facts.
“Muslims represent about 3 percent of our state’s population. The fact is that most people have never met a Muslim, and there are so many misconceptions and so many divisions, and this kind of hate furthers those divisions.”