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A billboard that does not belong in Indy

photo by Rima Shahid via IndyStar

Civic

A billboard that does not belong in Indy

This past week Muslim Hoosiers have been shamed by our neighbors with an  I-465 billboard that makes offensive claims about the Prophet Muhammad.

We thought very naively that hate does not exist in our city and state but this billboard clearly tells us otherwise.

Demeaning the Prophet Muhammad is a traditional practice of anti-Muslim bigots that dates from medieval times. Its primary purpose is to not 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 monstrous figure, the billboard increases fear and anger toward his followers and contributes to a social environment in which Muslim Americans are physically assaulted and abused.

During this Islamic month of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, we would like to request our fellow Hoosiers to stand in solidarity with your Muslim brothers and sisters who admire, respect, and love Muhammad. Please call the Mayor’s office and let them know that you would like to have the billboard taken down, or visit the site and let the owners know that you would like for it to be taken down. Muslim Hoosiers are more than willing to discuss and debate claims about and criticism of the Prophet Muhammad, but the people responsible for the billboard aren’t interested in conversation they have cowardly decided to remain anonymous.

I would love the opportunity to sit down in a positive, engaging, civil conversation with those that have commissioned this bill. I will always remain positive because the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain taught us “The most merciful person is the one who forgives when he is able to take revenge.”

As I wrote last week, Ramadan is a time for us to pause our busy lives, strengthen our faith, and grow spiritually. It is an opportunity for Muslims to reconnect with their religion and communities.  The Muslim Alliance of Indiana is co-sponsoring an Iftaar for the Homeless regardless of faith, and we will sit together in interfaith harmony with all Hoosiers.

Please consider our invitation.

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Rima Shahid joined the Muslim Alliance of Indiana (MAI) in June 2015 and has been the Executive Director of MAI since October 2015. As Executive Director, Rima is mandated to lead the implementation of MAI's mission of cultivating interfaith harmony, building a diverse inclusive Hoosier Muslim community, and collective action to preserve civil rights liberties for all Hoosiers. Within a short span of time, Rima has significantly enhanced MAI's impact by developing seminars, workshops, other initiatives to further community. She is a regular speaker at political and inter-faith events, A native Hoosier, Rima attended Cathedral High School and IUPUI. Having spent more than decade in the Middle East, and worked as Trade Development Officer at Pakistan Embassy in Bahrain, Rima brings a unique perspective and diverse range of approaches to community outreach objectives.

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