Muslims in St. Louis have a clear message to send to terrorists: “Hey ISIS, you suck!”
That’s the text on a new billboard located on Manchester Road near I-270, funded by the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and meant to be what their chairman, Helal Ekramuddin, calls their “declaration of independence from ISIS.”
The full text of the billboard reads, “Hey ISIS, you suck!!! From, #ActualMuslims.” It also cites the Quran’s message that “life is sacred”.
Obviously, the campaign isn’t hoping to reach members of the Islamic State passing through Manchester. The billboard is a project of SoundVision, a multimedia PR company dedicated to fighting American Islamophobia through the media. The billboards, which have also been seen in Chicago and Phoenix, spread the message to non-Muslim Americans that most Muslims condemn the actions of ISIS.
“The name is Islamic State, but they are totally against the teachings of Islam,” Ekramuddin says. “Life is sacred in Islam. Killing a person is forbidden. The destruction of religious sites and the killing of prisoners is forbidden.”
But as SoundVision documents on its website
, the fight against ISIS has led some people to wrongly conflate the terrorist group with mainstream Muslims. In their view, fighting terrorism is a great way to stop Islamophobia.
“Every few weeks it’s in the news,” Ekramuddin says. “There is a chain effect of hate and Islamophobia getting worse.”
To combat that cycle, the Islamic Foundation decided to bring one of the anti-ISIS billboards to St. Louis. They hope the billboard format will reach ordinary people who don’t spend much time engaging with the news on their commutes.
“That’s why it is in simple, plain language that every common person can understand,” Ekramuddin says.
SoundVision’s billboards have gained positive attention in other cities, and they have even launched a crowdfunding campaign
aiming to bring the message to Times Square.
Ekramuddin says the conversation about ISIS-sponsored terrorism sometimes fails to note that the majority of those killed are themselves Muslim — one reason the Muslim community must speak out against them.
“In an attack of ISIS, their victims are mostly Muslims, in very high numbers compared to what is happening here,” he says.