Statement Regarding the Anti-Muslim Billboard from CIC and the Indianapolis community
The Center for Interfaith Cooperation condemns incivility in all its forms
The Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) condemns the billboard posted along I-465. Its message is hateful, inaccurate, and incites anti-Muslim sentiments. This billboard is a symptom of the increasing incivility toward Muslims and many other groups. These actions degrade our society, negatively affecting the possibility of open dialogue and genuine understanding among people of all different beliefs and traditions.
As proud Americans, and as members of Central Indiana’s diverse faith communities, we embrace a heritage that honors diversity and respects pluralism. We therefore call upon all Hoosiers to denounce mean-spirited discourse that foments fear, suspicion and hate. Moreover, we implore our neighbors to invest their religious passions in building bridges of understanding by taking the time to meet and know people from other faith communities.
In a statement, CIC Executive Director Charlie Wiles said:
“There are so many ways for Hoosiers to increase their own religious literacy by pursuing a deeper understanding of our religious landscape. I encourage people to visit our website, www.CenterForIinterfaithCooperation.org, to learn about dozens of local events that promote interfaith dialogue, service, engagement and celebration. Participation in any one of these opportunities helps strengthen the fabric of our rich and diverse religious community.”
* Signed by Jane Gehlhausen, CIC Board Chair, Charlie Wiles, CIC Executive Director, and supported by the CIC Board of Directors, who are members of faith communities in Central Indiana, including: Baha’i, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Episcopal, Evangelical, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Presbyterian (USA), Sikh, Unitarian, and United Church of Christ.
Other statements from the Central Indiana community about the billboard
American Friends Service Committee — Indiana and Jewish Voice for Peace
Statement Opposing Anti-Muslim Billboard from AFSC and JVP-Indiana
June 8, 2017
American Friends Service Committee — Indiana and Jewish Voice for Peace — Indiana invite all people of good will to join us in opposing the I-465 billboard that makes offensive claims about the Prophet Muhammad. We ask that all Hoosiers dedicated to religious tolerance and coexistence call the owner of the billboard, Mr. Don Woodsmall at (866) 968-4373, and politely ask him to take it down.
Anti-Muslim bigots have demeaned Islam’s Prophet since medieval times. They do not seek to stir important intellectual debate about the actual historical figure, Muhammad b. Abdullah (d. 632 CE), but rather to insult Muslims. By attempting to portray Prophet Muhammad as a monster, the billboard stokes fear and anger toward his followers, and further pollutes an environment in which Muslim Americans are physically assaulted and abused. The rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the past two years has contributed to an unprecedented number of physical attacks and other assaults on the life, liberty, and property of Muslim Americans.
During this Islamic month of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, we stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who admire, respect, and love Muhammad.
We know that Muslim Hoosiers are more than willing to discuss and debate claims about and criticism of the Prophet Muhammad, and we encourage honest dialogue about all religious figures. But trying to judge ancient and medieval figures by modern standards in order to criticize an entire global community of 1.8 billion practitioners is neither a responsible nor honest argument. The group behind this billboard appears uninterested in a real conversation: because it wishes to offend and hurt Muslims, it threatens us all, and it seeks to diminish our cherished right of religious liberty.
In the face of such threats, we pledge that we will embrace and fortify one another across our religious differences. We will be a light of peace and a force for justice in the face of rank Islamophobia.
Al Salam Foundation
Al Salam Foundation is appalled by, and condemns the divisive, disrespectful billboard “Perfect Man” posted on I-465. We encourage religious fervor be leveraged in building meaningful relationships among different faith groups and not be used to stoke bigotry and hatred. Al Salam Foundation demands that the offensive text displays on the billboard be removed and replaced with words of coexistence and peace.
Ashhar Madni, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jewish tradition recognizes the vast power of words to create or destroy. The Jewish sages of old likened “the evil tongue” to murder. The right to free speech in America does not give license to the dissemination of hatred.
We call for the billboard’s immediate removal. We stand in solidarity and friendship with our Hoosier sisters and brothers who are Muslim. And we will continue to promote tolerance, understanding and good will among all the faith communities in our state.
Indiana Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, chair, Indianapolis
Rabbi Shellie Goldman, co-chair, Indianapolis
Rabbi Brian Besser, Bloomington
Rabbi Philip Cohen, West Lafayette
Rabbi Stanley Halpern, Carmel
Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan, Fort Wayne
Rabbi Gary Mazo, Evansville
Rabbi Faedra Weiss, Indianapolis
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Indianapolis
Rabbi Dennis Sasso, Indianapolis
Rabbi Marla Joy Subeck Spanjer, Fort Wayne
Rabbi Paula Winnig, Indianapolis
Indiana Catholic Conference
The Catholic Church promotes the friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. The Church in Indiana joins Pope Francis in his wish, ‘that dialogue between us should help build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced!” We join our brothers and sisters in denouncing all actions and words that divide and misrepresent our neighbors.
Glenn Tebbe, Executive Director
Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)
The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) was sickened to learn about the anonymously posted billboard along I-465 targeting the Muslim community and its faith. This hateful demonstration during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan only serves to increase hate, fear and intolerance in our community. Displays such as these do more than just offend; they make Muslims feel unwelcome and unsafe in our country.
Jewish tradition recognizes the power of words to either create or destroy. Free speech is a fundamental right upon which our nation was founded, but fear-mongering and hate speech that intimidate and threaten members of diverse communities should not be tolerated.
The Jewish community reaffirms our commitment to working with the Muslim community to combat Islamophobia and bigotry in all its forms. We pledge to continue our pursuit of peace and justice by building relationships with members of all faith communities in order to promote the understanding of – and respect for – all people throughout our state.
JCRC is the public affairs and community relations arm of the organized Jewish community.
JCRC builds consensus on public affairs issues, and translates these positions into community action with the broader community, public officials, and other faith and ethnic communities.
JCRC focuses on Israel advocacy, and acts in coalition with other groups advocating civil rights and social & economic justice.
www.indyjcrc.org ~ 317.926.2935
Indianapolis Muslim Community Association (IMCA) Condemns Hateful Rhetoric
Promoted by “Perfect Man” Indianapolis Highway 465 Billboard
Indianapolis, June 8, 2017
The Indianapolis Muslim Community Association (IMCA), located near downtown Indianapolis condemns the hateful rhetoric promoted by the highway 465 “Perfect Man” billboard. The Muslim community of Indianapolis is deeply concerned about the type of message this sends to the American public–that the right to free speech can be abused to promote hate speech, discriminatory words and actions. The billboard is inflammatory and incites violence against Muslims. Indeed, between 2014-2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation data indicates that violence against Muslims increased by 67%.
“We are deeply concerned about the type of message that this billboard sends to the American public–that it is okay to vilify people simply because of their faith. As residents of this city and peaceful practitioners of the religion of Islam, we do not welcome this type of bigotry–against any protected class or group of citizens,” states Dr. Eyas Raddad, chair of the IMCA Governing Board.
The IMCA is the longest existing Muslim community of Indiana and includes a mosque, Kindergarten–12th grade school and weekend school. We are proud to be the most racially and socioeconomically diverse Muslim community of the greater Indianapolis. We welcome any Hoosier to visit our campus and learn more about our community.
Chair of the IMCA Board: Dr. Eyas Raddad
ISNA Finds “Perfect Man” Billboard Posted in Indianapolis to be Divisive
(Plainfield, IN 6/7/17) The Islamic Society of North America finds the “Perfect Man” billboard posted on I-465, a main highway in Indianapolis, IN, to be divisive and contradictory to Hoosier values. The vile message of the billboard is an inaccurate, offensive depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and a fear-mongering tactic targeting the Indianapolis Muslim community.
During this holy month of Ramadan, we encourage community members to attend an iftar, breaking of the fast, meal at a local mosque or with their Muslim neighbors to learn about Islam. The Center for Interfaith Cooperation’s website has several upcoming opportunities to foster religious understanding and cooperation.
In a statement, ISNA President Azhar Azeez said:
“We are grateful for the support of the religious community of Central Indiana and their efforts to strengthen our community through interfaith understanding and cooperation. ISNA is committed to continuing working with our interfaith partners to overcome these perilous times we live in.”
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.
Faryal M. Khatri, ISNA Communications Coordinator, (317) 373 – 0246, email@example.com
The defamation of any historical religious figure who is not able defend himself or herself is not going to change the power of faith and belief in God. Muslims are taught to hold all the prophets of God and religious figures in the highest esteem. The Quran [25:63] says, “For, the servants of the Most Gracious are they who walk humbly on the Earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [gentle words of] peace.” We are sure that the vast majority of Hoosiers are welcoming and hospitable to people of all faiths. However, when hate speech is prominent there is the danger of incitement to violence against Muslims and others who appear different.
“The billboard statements are false or misleading and in no way representative of the man that the Prophet Muhammad was or the life he led. We urge the person or people responsible for the billboard to come and have a conversation with us to learn about Muslims today and about the history of Islam” said Executive Director Rima Shahid.
MAI has been working with local and national organizations, including the ACLU, to explore legal options for having the billboard removed.
Executive Director Rima Shahid, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nur-Allah Islamic Center stands SHOULDER-to-SHOULDER with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) in condemnation of the so-called “Perfect Man” billboard posted on I-465.
Prophet Muhammed has been recorded by historians worldwide as a dignified man who led the world from darkness to light. The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. recognizes Prophet Muhammed amongst other world leaders as one worthy of universal respect and homage as one of history’s great lawgivers.
Not only is the billboard hurtful towards the Islamic community, it also disparages what America stands for; religious freedom. Therefore, this billboard is an affront to right-minded people of every faith celebrated within our great nation.
The Islamic sacred text, the Qur’an states in Chapter 2 Verse 62:
Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
The Nur-Allah Islamic Center is honored to stand united with people of faith from myriad religions in one voice against. To attack one faith is an attack upon all faiths.
Indianapolis, Indiana USA
June 6, 2017
We are deeply saddened about the content and intent of the deplorable billboard. We have to continue our efforts to educate ourselves and others about the Truth, our religions, doctrines, traditions, and shared values that they represent. The Sikh faith commands its followers to recognize the sanctity and respect for all faiths and spiritual traditions; and equality, dignity, and justice for all.
Sikh Americans have been facing incredible such challenges, especially since 9/11: mistaken identity, workplace discrimination, unprovoked verbal harassment, wrongful associations, physical violence, threats and hate crimes. We have to work through these very difficult episodes with thoughtful responses and with our efforts and prayers for a more hopeful tomorrow. The Center for Interfaith Cooperation and its annual Indy Festival of Faiths and many leaders are working to make Indianapolis and Indiana a place that welcomes and respects all faiths, cultures, and communities. We have made major strides in recent decades, and we have a long way to go. We can be certain that as we work together, a more tolerant accepting society will emerge. KP Singh
Interfaith Leader and Spokesman for the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis