New billboards display religious message with a twist

- The website WhyIslam.org is aimed at educating people about the religion. It allows visitors ask questions, read quotes from the Quran, or set up a tour of a local mosque. Shibly said now, more than ever, education is needed.

"Over the last year, we documented a 500-percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in Florida," Shibly said.

Using these billboards, Shibly said, the Muslim community hopes to curb hate crimes and calm fears with facts.

"ISIS is the biggest enemy of Islam," Shibly continued. "We have to stand united and not let them turn us against each other because that's what they want, ultimately."

Some agree with the message while others need more convincing.

You may have noticed some new billboards showing up around the Tampa area. They display a religious message with a political twist.

The message reads, "Making America Great with Love, Compassion & Mercy." It's channeling the Trump-Pence presidential slogan, "Make America Great Again." It's even designed to look similar to their campaign signs.

But, this is a different type of campaign. Underneath the message is is a hotline, 877-WhyIslam and link to the website, WhyIslam.org. The Islamic Circle of North America, through donations, is posting this message in cities throughout the country.

The sign posted at I-275 and Sligh Avenue is funded by the Islamic Community of Tampa. The idea behind the signs is to unite people of all different beliefs and dispel stereotypes through education.
  
"Let's start getting to know each other. Let's not let misinformation divide us," said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR-Florida.

"It's a good billboard. I like it. I hope it stays longer than some of them," said Martha Hughes.

"I don't care for it. If it represents promoting the Islam stuff. I don't condone it," said Steven Hughes.

The goal, Shibly said, is to start a dialog and keep it going.

"Let's just get to know each other and see each other as human beings," Shibly said. "What makes America great is the fact that it brings people together from all over the world that share all different beliefs, political opinions and even religions. But through out diversity, that's where we find our strength as Americans and that's what makes America great."

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