The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has embarked on a campaign to redefine the term “jihad,” applying earlier this year to advertise a “#MyJihad” message on Hillsborough Area Regional Transit buses.
The transit authority, known as HART, rejected the ads because the agency prohibits “advertisements that primarily promote a religious faith or religious organizations,” according to an email to members sent by the Florida Family Association.
According to a source, HART board members have been overwhelmed with responses from residents opposing the ads since the email was sent out Thursday.
Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR-FL appealed the decision, according to Florida Family, and the HART board of directors will consider the matter at a public hearing on April 1, although the issue is not listed on the meeting agenda.
Lawyers have asked the board to reverse its decision to reject the ad, saying Shibly has asserted that the campaign seeks to bring a “diverse America closer together by raising awareness about an Arabic word which has become misunderstood.”
The CAIR-FL effort is part of a nationwide educational campaign launched in Chicago in December.
The goal of the campaign, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab explained, is “reclaiming Jihad from the Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who ironically, but not surprisingly, see eye to eye on Jihad,” according to a CAIR statement.
Critics counter that it’s an attempt to redefine the word jihad, to reclassify it as a “struggle” instead of a holy war waged on behalf of Islam — a central doctrine of the Islamic faith.
The Huffington Post reported that ”MyJihad” was a response to the actions of conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who ran a series of controversial “Defeat Jihad” ads on city buses in November.
One Geller ad says:
“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support the Copts. Defeat Jihad.” [A reference to Coptic Christians in Egypt.]
Shibly found himself at the center of another controversy in December 2011, when he was allowed to speak to the students of an advanced history class on religion at a Hillsborough County high school.
The presentation covered topics such as basic Muslim beliefs, Islamic history, Islam and human rights, religious tolerance and diversity, and misconceptions about Islam.
The decision to allow Shibly to address students concerned parents because, according to The Investigative Project on Terrorism, he “has a track record of defending terrorist groups and acting as an apologist for radical Islam.”