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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Muslim-Americans launch PR initiatives, promote Sept. 11 as day of national service

protesters near ground zero

In an effort to push back against negative views of Islam and Muslims, grassroots Muslim groups are launching a series of initiatives to convey to non-Muslim-Americans that they are also Americans.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a series of advertisements today that will run on national television, clearly intended to counter some of the furor over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. In one spot, a New York firefighter who was a first responder after the Sept. 11 attacks talks about losing a loved one before announcing that he is a Muslim.

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said the point of the ad is to "challenge the notion that Muslims were not also targeted on 9/11."

A national CBS poll from last month showed that 40 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Islam. More than 70 percent of respondents said building a mosque near Ground Zero was not appropriate. And only 62 percent of Americans think Muslims should have the same right as other groups to build places of worship in their communities, a Pew Research poll found.

You can watch the CAIR "first responder" ad after the jump:

Meanwhile, Edina Lekovic, director of policy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is helping to organize a grassroots Muslim Day of Service planned for Sept. 11. The group coordinated more than 3,500 service projects in the past year as part of President Obama's National Day of Service initiative, but Lekovic says the push is especially important now.

"Given the climate in the country right now and the ... intense levels of attacks that many Muslims are feeling, this effort is meant to channel those emotions toward something that is good both for our faith and our country," Lekovic said.

Rather than just be "outraged" over incidents like the group planning to burn Korans in Gainesville, Florida on Sept. 11, Lekovic told The Upshot the day of service is an opportunity to "show who we are rather than just talk about who we are."

A separate grassroots initiative called "My Faith My Voice" also launched an advertisment this week featuring Muslim-Americans saying they renounce terrorism and do not want to take over the country or impose their faith on anyone.

"These are sincere efforts by everyday American Muslims to demonstrate who we are and that we are in every possible way just like every other American, and the kinds of awful and dangerous attacks that are happening now are fundamentally un-American," Lekovic said. "We're actually quite boring!"

Anti-Islamic sentiments are spreading well beyond the battle over the proposed Park51 community center near Ground Zero. At least two mosques far from New York have received hate-filled messages opposing the proposed mosque in Lower Manhattan, and a fire at a mosque construction site in Tennessee is now being investigated as arson.

(Photo: Anti-mosque protesters near Ground Zero/AP)

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