Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Help Me Howard: Islamic Ads
When many people think of Islam, they think of a peace loving religion. For others it reminds them of terrorists who vowed to destroy America. Now, some Broward County buses promoting the religion has one man calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The county buses roll by you all the time with their big ads for the lottery, lawyers and furniture stores.
Bruce Pontner: "An advertisement for Islam."
But have you seen these? King-sized ads, encouraging people to learn about the Islamic religion by calling this number or going to this website.
Bruce Pontner: "Which blew my mind."
When Bruce Pontner saw the ads he was irritated.
Bruce Pontner: "I demand the removal of these Islamic advertisements from all county buses."
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Pontner is Jewish, but he says his religion has nothing to do with this religious ad.
Bruce Pontner: "The separation of church and state thing, I think that still exists."
Patrick Fraser: "What if a temple wanted to put an ad on the bus?"
Bruce Pontner: "I would feel the same way if it was a church."
The ads are on 120 county buses in Dade and Broward.
An organization called CAIR or Council on American and Islamic Relations paid $60,000 for the ads to run till the beginning of February.
Pontner says the Muslims can advertise all they want but not on taxpayer-funded buses.
Bruce Pontner: "If that message is peaceful, then they should be spreading it but not on county buses, not on taxpayer buses. We pay for those buses."
Well, are ads to educate Americans about Islam, paid for by Muslims, legal on county property, Howard?
Howard Finklestein: "Bruce is right that in this is a First Amendment issue, but while we have a separation of church and state, the First Amendment also guarantees free speech, and therefore these ads are protected by the Constitution."
Bruce Pontner: "Especially promoting a terrorist religion."
But Pontner believes the ads are more than just a legal issue. He is convinced they are a recruiting tool.
Bruce Pontner: "They are trying to gain more terrorists, they are trying to build their army up against ours."
Altaf Ali: "That is the joke of the century."
The belief that he is recruiting terrorists makes Altaf Ali laugh but correcting it is exactly why his group put out the ads.
Altaf Ali: "We are the ones who are the majority, the peaceful loving Muslims. The moderate Muslims are the majority. The ones who are extremists, who commit acts of terror, are a small element within Islam."
Ali says his group has been getting 25 calls a day about the ads, most are positive, and he has also been able to answer the question often asked: Why don't the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims condemn the terrorists who give the entire religion a bad name?
Altaf Ali: "We always hear this question, why don't the moderate Muslims speak out, so here is our chance to speak out and say, call us and we will tell you the real truth about Islam and Muslims."
Ali is happy the signs have spread the word, but Pontner still argues they are religious signs and should go. Is he out of luck, Howard?
Howard Finklestein: "Actually, no, county commissioners control the ads that are allowed. They cannot pick and chose which religion to allow, but they could ban all religious ads. If you want that to happen, contact your county commissioner."
And some county commissioners are being contacted about banning religious ads on county buses. A couple of counties in Florida have done it, but, critics say, wait. Why block all religions from advertising because of the fear of one religion?
I think this is why my father told me to never discuss religion and politics with people.
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