Pro-Islam billboards in Dallas a reaction to political climate

Robert A. Hunt, director of Global Theological Education in SMU's Perkins School of Theology, talks about pro-Islam billboards in the North Texas area.

By Naomi Martin

Driving down Dallas highways lately, you may have noticed an unusual billboard tucked among the more expected ones advertising Christian churches.

"ISLAM = Racial Equality," read the 12 billboards that have popped up around Dallas and Fort Worth. They provide a hotline phone number and website for "Why Islam?"

The billboards were funded by the Dallas chapter of Islamic Circle of North America, using local mosque donations. The group has run these campaigns nationwide for years, but this one, which started Oct. 24, has stood out.

It has prompted more hate calls than the group has received in other cities. . . 

Like other minorities and newcomers to America, the Muslim community has largely tended to stay to itself in the past, said Robert Hunt, director of Global Theological Education at Southern Methodist University. The billboards, with their public proclamations, symbolize the evolution of Islam in joining the American religious mainstream.

"Billboards are an important way to make their presence known in public — look, we've arrived," Hunt said. "We have something to say in public and it's not defensive. In a way, a religious group has come of age when it puts up a billboard." . . . 

Even though the group's goal isn't to proselytize or convert people, Hunt said Islam, like Christianity, does urge its followers to encourage non-Muslims to join. Educational efforts often involve teaching that Islam is the true path to God, he said.

And now may be an opportune time.

"A lot of people are saying, if Christianity is Donald Trump, I don't want to be a Christian anymore," Hunt said. "So they're naturally out looking."

So far though, no one from the Dallas area has converted by calling the hotline. . . 

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