Friday, June 9, 2017

But Is it True?

Shortly after the recent terror attacks in England a billboard appeared along an interstate highway in Indiana that deeply disappointed and even outraged some who saw it. The billboard is ostensibly a description of the prophet Muhammad, although he's not actually identified anywhere on it.

In any case, the billboard displays six purported facts about Muhammad that many people think should not be publicized because it's offensive to muslims. Yet if the claims are demonstrably true then why should anyone object to being confronted with the truth? This is not to say that the billboard is not offensive, or that it won't harm relations with Christians. Maybe it will harm relations with Christians just as mass slaughter in the name of Allah tends to harm relations with Christians, but the important question is, are the claims true?

Here's the billboard:

The first statement is a bit controversial. Some Islamic historians claim that Muhammad never married a six-year old girl. Rather, they point out, he was engaged to a six-year old girl named Aisha and then married and consummated the marriage when she was nine and he was fifty four. In any case, I'm not sure that that mistake is particularly egregious.

Other than that all of the other claims are corroborated by muslim chroniclers.

Even so, some muslims were understandably upset to see the man they revere publicly maligned:
“I was a little disappointed when I saw that...We do support free speech, but we do realize this is also rooted in bigotry,” said Farial Khatri of the Islamic Society of North America, according to Fox59. “We’ve seen them in New York and several others cities on billboards as well as other transit ads,” he added.

Some groups spoke out against the display as disparaging to Muslims while other groups want to do more. The Muslim Alliance of Indiana plans to raise money to put up its own billboard nearby to spread a message of peace and kindness.

Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, said she was “heartsick” when she saw a photo of the billboard, especially since it appeared at the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. She strongly condemned the billboard for spreading lies and misinformation about Islam and its prophet. “These are completely false statements,” Shahid said, according to NBC news.

“It perpetuates hate. It perpetuates misconceptions about Islam, and it makes our neighbors think we believe things that just aren’t true … they’ve been misinformed,” she said. “This billboard is garbage,” Shahid added.

Shortly after the giant board went up, the Muslim Alliance of Indiana reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman Andre Carson about ways to challenge the billboard.
The best way to challenge the billboard, it seems to me, would be to publicly demonstrate that the claims it makes are false or unfounded rather than simply asserting that they are. That's how it's done in a free society. It'll be interesting to see whether that kind of discussion ever actually takes place.