Colorado Christian and Jewish leaders stood together in Denver’s main Mosque and launched a “Love Thy Neighbor” campaign — starting with ads on RTD buses. They said the ad they unveiled, at a time on the calendar devoted to love and understanding (but ONLY among Christians and Jews), is meant to replace anti-Muslim ads placed on buses.
Denver Post “Our country is in the midst of a lot of divisions,” Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Joe Black said. “Hatred is only going to further violence and the breakdown of society.”
“Love Thy Neighbor” ads, purchased for $5,000, are expected to appear on 10 buses by the end of this week and stay on each bus for a month. The “Love Thy Neighbor” message conveys “a shared concept in the three religions,” Colorado Muslim Society Imam Karim Abuzaid said. “In Islam, we are commanded to love our neighbor, or at least act in love.” (But they mean only if the neighbor is a Muslim)
When metro-area Muslims saw the negative ads on Regional Transportation District buses in November, “we felt really hurt,” Abuzaid said. He and Jeremy Shaver, director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, questioned RTD officials about the decision-making of the quasi-governmental organization.
Those ads were placed on buses for four weeks in Denver, New York and Boston. Paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the ones in Denver read: “9,757 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01. It’s Not Islamophobia. It’s Islamorealism.” (Actually, the ad said ‘19,767’)
The Anti Defamation League challenged this as offensive and inflammatory. But RTD legal staffers had reviewed the content and found no basis for rejecting the ads. Other transit agencies that challenged bus ads in court have lost.
The religious leaders on Monday acknowledged free-speech guarantees under the First Amendment of the Constitution but emphasized community needs.
“When we see hate speech,” Shaver said, “it is incumbent on us who are in the majority to call it out.” Colorado religious leaders have collaborated before. The leaders stood together on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
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