Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Texas (CAIR-Houston) held a news conference to launch a billboard campaign designed to help challenge growing anti-Muslim sentiment in American society. The launch of the CAIR-Houston “Peace and Unity” campaign will take place under a billboard depicting diverse representatives of the state’s Muslim community, with the headline “Proud Americans, Proud Texans, Proud Muslims.” Other billboards in the CAIR-Houston campaign will stress interfaith understanding.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged the United States to repudiate growing Islam phobia in the American society, following an attack on a Muslim man in Florida. “Elected officials in Florida and nationwide must begin to address the rising level of Islam phobia in our society that can lead to violent incidents or acts of discrimination targeting ordinary Muslims,” The Nation quoted Ramzy Kiliç, CAIR’s Communications Director in Tampa, as saying in a statement.
In an exclusive statement for islamonle.net CAIR-Houston, executive director, Mustafa Carroll said “The objective of this campaign is to counter the growing incidents of islamophbia in Texas and since we announced this campaign we have received a lot of positive reactions all over the world including people from other religions”
“This pro-active campaign is designed to promote mutual understanding and to highlight the contributions of American Muslims to our society,” said CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafa Carroll. “We have noted that there have been a number of recent bias incidents targeting Muslims in Texas and around the nation” added Carroll.
The launch of the CAIR-Houston “Peace and Unity” campaign will take place under a billboard depicting diverse representatives of the state’s Muslim community, with the headline “Proud Americans, Proud Texans, Proud Muslims.” Other billboards in the CAIR-Houston campaign will stress interfaith understanding.
In the press conference held on Friday 10 June, Mustafa Carroll, executive director of CAIR (Houston) summarized the objectives of the campaign as following:
• It is a response to increased anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia resulting in an increase in civil rights complaints from Muslims, increased hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric that is fueling a higher potential for violence that recently included two local Mosques targeted by arsonists in the Greater Houston area
• The campaign is intended to encourage unity, to decrease polarity, and to highlight the contributions of American Muslims as productive, patriotic, “normal” citizens who make enormous contributions to our society. American Muslims embrace diversity, and have been an integral part of American Society for well over 200 years.
Featured in one of the billboards is a doctor, army service member, social worker, civil rights worker, and former Houston City Council member. Another billboard highlights the features a Christian Minister, a Muslim Imam (religious leader), and Jewish Rabbi that illustrates the interfaith relationships we must continue to build as a community.
• Lastly, we need to change the vitriolic narrative of HATE AND INTOLERANCE that has become prevalent in discourse regarding Islam and Muslims in America. Working with people of all faiths, our coalition partners, and other Muslim organizations the Council on American Islamic Relations aims to help dispel stereotypes and misinformation in order to humanize American Muslims, to decrease Islamophobia, and stop the targeting of Muslims in hate related incidents that has steadily increased in the United States after the tragedy of 9/11. It is our sincere hope that this initiative will encourage more peace and increased unity among all Americans.
CAIR had also recently called for hate crime probes of incidents such as vandalism at a Missouri mosque, said Kiliç, adding that CAIR’s San Antonio chapter was challenging the refusal of a private school association in Texas to admit an Islamic school. A number of states are currently seeking to enact legislation that would stigmatize Islam and marginalize American Muslims, the report said.
Islam phobia refers to unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam, which led to discriminations against Muslims, exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political or social process, stereotyping, the presumption of guilt by association, and finally hate crimes.
Islamphobia Damage US image
Expressions of hatred for Muslims “do real damage to America around the globe,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, the executive director for Reform Judaism. “It is not what our religions are about.”
“You may have heard some of the loud voices of those who hate Muslims,” Mattson said, addressing herself directly to fellow-Muslims during the press conference. “But they don’t represent America. Don’t use these incidents to justify any kind of hatred against America or American Christians and Jews,” she said.
Richard Cizik, a former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and currently president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, was particularly harsh toward those “mainly conservative Christians …who are responding with open bigotry and hatred” toward fellow citizens because of their faith. Not only are they rejecting the Constitution’s first amendment protecting freedom of religion, but they “bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ”, he said.
Growing waves of Islamphobia
A political analyst and Maryland University professor recently has warned of the growing waves of Islamphobia in the West, especially in the US. Speaking in an interview with FNA, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad cautioned that “Islam phobia in the United States has become an increasing problem”.
“Politicians are using the general ignorance of the American public about the religion of Islam, its teachings, and its history in order to manipulate the fears of average Americans to think that a so-called “sharia law” is about to be imposed by the small Muslim minority upon the enormous majority of Americans who are secular or Christian,” he explained.
“In order to benefit from this manipulation, the politicians rely on media stereotypes about Muslim law, ignoring its fundamental calls for justice and tolerance and instead misrepresent it as a matter of imposing a Muslim penal code and culture on non-Muslim Americans,” Ahmad continued.
“They devise nightmare fantasies of women forced into burkas in order to provoke working class Americans into thinking they must take pre-emptive action against their Muslim neighbors who are plotting to deprive them of their beer and pork chops,” he said.
“Many Americans, who are devoted to those universal values that Islam shares with America, such as the freedom of minorities to practice their religion, are speaking out and acting, but they too are under attack. The silliest of these attacks is the accusation, believed by 18% of Americans that President Obama is a secret Muslim,” the analyst concluded.
In relevant remarks last month, Deputy Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations Eshaq Ale-Habib lashed out at the growing trend of insults to Islam in the West, and called on the United Nations to take proper measures to confront the spread of Islam phobia in the western societies.
Ale-Habib called on the UN and its Committee on Information to take practical steps to promote “religious tolerance” and to counter the growing Islam phobic trend in the West, and to stop the desecration of Islam.
Ale-Habib also condemned the recent act of burning Islam’s holy book, the Quran, by an extremist US pastor, and said the incident runs counter to the UN’s efforts to promote “religious tolerance and mutual respect between religions and cultures.”
He further slammed Western media for their bias against developing countries as well as their monopolistic control over global information and communications technology. ”This is unfortunate that, by using their modern and exclusive communications technology, some developed countries are constantly distorting the realities and fabricating events… specially with regard to developing countries,” Ale-Habib told the UN’s Committee on Information. ”Developing countries have been hindered by the unfair… duplicitous and exclusive approach of the (western) media,” he added.
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