PATERSON - American Muslims ignored a new billboard campaign launched by an atheist group targeting Muslims around New York City calling Islam a myth, saying it make it harder for people of different beliefs to build bridges.
This is not the first time in history, and not the last time, Mohamed El Filali, executive director of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, told NorthJersey.com.
The new signs were erected last Monday by the organization American Atheists, which paid $15,000 to post for a month at a busy intersection at 33rd Street and Broadway, two blocks from the Islamic Center of Passaic County.
The sign will carry this slogan in both English and Arabic Â You know it's a myth â¦ and you have choice.
The Arabic word for God, or Allah, appears to the left of the text.
Other billboards will carry similar messages in ethnic neighborhoods across the country as the national advocacy group for nonbelievers attempts to reach out to closeted atheists in non-Christian religious communities.
A billboard bearing an identical message in English and Hebrew will go up in a heavily Jewish section of Brooklyn.
Images of both billboards were posted on the American Atheist website.
Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said the signs are intended to reach atheists in the Muslim and Jewish enclaves who may feel isolated because they are surrounded by believers.
They don't watch as much television. They don't read as much on the Internet, Silverman said.
They marry very young and they are not educated in how to live a life outside of their community.
New York is home to some 800,000 Muslims, about 10 percent of the city's population.
There are about 100 mosques throughout New York's five boroughs.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of seven to eight million.
El Filali, from the Islamic Center of Passaic County, ignored the campaign, adding it will make it harder for people of different beliefs to learn from each other.
I respect people's opinion about God; obviously they are entitled to it, he told the CNN.
I don't think God is a myth, but that doesn't exclude people to have a different opinion.
But El Filali bemoaned the billboards as another example of a hyper-polarized world.
Sadly, there is a need to polarize society as opposed to build bridges, he added.
That is the century that we live in. It is very polarized, very politicized.
The American Religious Identification survey has found that the number of people claiming "no religion" as doubled during the past 18 years to form 15 percent of US population.
In some states like South Carolina, the number of non-believers has more than tripled.
Another recent study by Trinity College in Connecticut also revealed atheism is growing in the US.
Some believe that atheist organizations have flourished in recent years fed by outrage over the former George W. Bush administration's embrace of the religious right and its religion-colored policies.
Others refer the phenomenon to a spate of anti-religion books which flooded the market during the former administration.