The campaign was launched by CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. It is in response to what CAIR calls “Islamaphobia,” and an increase in civil rights complaints from Muslims, rhetoric that is fueling a higher potential for violence that included two local mosques recently targeted by arsonists.
Mustafaa Carroll is the executive director of the Houston chapter of CAIR. He says American Muslims embrace diversity, and have been a integral part of American society for well over 200-years.
“The campaign is intended to encourage unity, decrease polarity, and to highlight the contributions of American Muslims as productive, patriotic, normal citizens, who make enormous contributions to our sociey.”
Featured in one of ten billboards that went up around Houston is one titled: “Proud Americans, Proud Texans, Proud Muslims”. It features a doctor, an Army service member, a social worker, a civil rights worker, and former Houston City Councilmember MJ Kahn.
Other billboards will stress interfaith understanding.
“The Council on American Islamic Relations aims to help dispel stereotypes and misinformation, in order to humanize American Muslims, to decrease ‘islamaphobia,’ and to stop the targeting of Muslims in hate related incidents, that has steadily increased in the United States after the tragedy of 911.”
Carroll says he realizes that the change in anti-muslim sentiment will take much more than billboards.
“We want this to be the beginning of many other things. There are a lot of things that we’re planning for the rest of this year, leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9-11, that we hope to help build unity in the community, and to reduce the polarity that we’ve seen for the last — at least the last ten years.”
There are an estimated 300-thousand Muslims who live in Houston and surrounding areas.