In response to alleged Islamophobia, a few Dallas mosques paid to put up a billboard with a simple Islamic message. However, once locals read the words, hundreds of Texans came forward to show their disapproval.
After a Muslim woman was allegedly attacked at the Reunion Tower, the Islamic community in Dallas was determined to unite both Muslims and non-Muslims. Unfortunately, their choice of action seems to have only further divided their secular allies from those wary of Islam as an ideology.
In a bid to expel what they believe to be an irrational fear of Islam based on a lack of knowledge, the Islamic Center of North America (ICNA) Dallas paired with sister organization GainPeace to send the city a message they hoped would bring understanding only to be met with resistance.
According to KDFW, the billboard reads, “Hijab: the dress of modesty” along with the phrase “respect, honor, strength,” and a hotline number across the bottom that encourages viewers to call in with questions. Ruman Sadiq, who represents both organizations and their initiative, says the ad was created in order to establish civil discourse with the non-Muslim community.
“What better way to take action than by educating people about why we wear the hijab and what it really means,” she said
However, instead of teaching the community, GainPeace call center director Dr. Sabeel Ahmed says that the plan backfired. He lamented that the initiative received more angry calls “than from any billboard in the last 12 years of GainPeace’s campaigns.”
Out of 200 calls within the first week of the billboard’s unveiling, Ahmed claims that nearly all of them were “hate calls” demanding the sign’s removal. The New York Post reports that the call center workers have grown increasingly upset over what they allege has been relentless bullying and harassment, and it only continues to grow with each passing week.
One of the hotline operators told Ahmed this week, “I have never been abused the way I’m getting abused now.”
Ahmed claims that anonymous callers have accused his operators of being “terrorists” and telling them to “go home.” He alleges that others have insisted that “this is a Christian country” and demanded that the organization stop trying to transform the U.S. into a Muslim nation.
Ahmed called the reaction “heartbreaking,” adding that he and the organizations didn’t exist to impose their beliefs. “There are so many misconceptions out there, so we feel we are here to educate. We want to get rid of the fear of the unknown. When people get to know what Islam is and what we believe in, people realize there isn’t that much that’s different between us.”
Ruman Sadiq, however, tried to remain positive. She encourages callers to “engage with us” in order to “arrive at a better understanding of one another.” As for the call center, employees have been given several major talking points in an effort to debunk misconceptions about Islamic doctrine.
- Muslims are not new to the USA – living here for around 500 years.
- Muslims are Americans as much as anyone else.
- Muslim women wearing the hijab of their own choice, not forced by anyone – freedom of choice.
- If Christians can have billboards about Jesus, why cannot Muslims on hijabs?
- Hijab (modest clothing) is also found in Judaism and Christianity and was worn by Mary (mother of Jesus), Mother Teresa and Catholic nuns.
Although Muslim women in America have the constitutional freedom to choose to wear or not wear the hijab, many others are forced to don the headscarf either through Sharia law or familial compulsion. As such, the billboard seems to focus on Islam in the Western world rather than as it is implemented in countries across the globe.
The billboard has already been removed, as it was intended to remain only temporarily. However, the organizations are always looking for another Islamic message to spread to the non-Muslim community.
It’s unclear whether the organizations achieved their goal. However, Dallas’ expanding Muslim population is sure to come up with more ways to spread the message of Islam in the near future.