By Luqman Patino –
The valley is littered with billboards for just about everything but a few new billboards have popped up aiming to accomplish a lofty goal. On the I-10 freeway and 40th Street one reads “#WhoisMuhammad, Got Questions, Get Answers.”
The billboard is part of an ongoing campaign by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) in hopes of combating concerns of growing Islamophobia across the country. Other cities that feature similar billboards include Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, Chicago and Atlanta. Messages include “God does not judge by your face and wealth” and “Muhammad believed in peace, social justice and women’s rights.” The billboards feature a phone number and a website provided for passersby who are interested in learning more about Islam. Free copies of the Qur’an and other literature on Islam are offered to callers and through the website.
According to an ICNA press release, the billboards reach approximately 8.2 million impressions per week.
Shazi Hashmi, president of the Phoenix Chapter of ICNA, said, “The hopeful outcome is to spread the word of Islam and the second thing is if people want to learn more about Islam, they get it from an authentic source.”
Despite a significant price tag – it costs $1,500 to $2,000 for each billboard – Hashmi said the billboards have paid off in the past. Hashmi added that this is the second wave of billboards in the Phoenix area and that the last wave brought much success.
The Phoenix-area billboards come after a widely publicized and reported protest at a Phoenix-area mosque earlier this year. Anti-Islam protesters arrived at the mosque armed and held a “Muhammad Drawing Contest” before the event. The protesters were met with a diverse and significant number of supporters of the Muslim community. The protest was a peaceful event but drew national attention to Phoenix.