Muslim group erects anti-terrorism billboards in Chicago

A Muslim group in suburban Chicago has erected two billboards over the city's highways that they hope will fight terrorism and combat Islamophobia.

The Association of Pakistani Americans of Bolingbrook paid nearly $7,600 for the billboards, which went up Sunday over Interstate 290 and I-55 and will be displayed for four weeks, the Chicago Tribune reported. The signs read "Muslims to Muslims: See Something. Say Something. Save Innocent Lives."

The signs are meant to show average Americans that Muslims don't condone terrorism, said Talat Rashid, the association's founder. He said the billboards call on Muslims to alert authorities if they suspect anyone of such acts.

Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago chairman Mohammed Kaiseruddin said officials at the Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management asked him to promote the slogan. He refused, saying it's an over simplistic message that could lead to the reporting of innocent people, such as the 14-year-old Texas boy who was arrested when his teacher suspected a clock he built may have been a bomb in 2015.

"It's so vague," Kaiseruddin said. "See something: That could mean profiling. That could mean somebody Middle Eastern wearing a long beard. And say something? Say to who?"

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago's Council on American Islamic Relations, said the slogan could lead to other problems for the Muslim community, as there isn't any data to suggest Muslims who see something suspicious don't speak up.

"I'm in the business of countering Islamophobia. I know that work needs to be done," Rehab said. "I just don't think that cementing a misperception on a billboard is going to help."

Rashid said he and members of his organization knew some people wouldn't like the billboards, but that the members believe the message is a proactive way of teaching the public about the difference between Muslim beliefs and extreme radicals who aren't welcomed by the community.

A Chicago-based Muslim outreach organization, GainPeace, has spent $12,000 on three billboards over Chicago highways that read, "Muslims Condemn All Violence."

"There has always been a complaint from our fellow American neighbors that Muslims don't speak out and they don't condemn the violence," said Sabeel Ahmed, GainPeace director. "We want to show, big and loud, that we do."

There are about 400,000 Muslims living in the Chicago area, according to Kaiseruddin.