Muslim leaders denounce billboard in Indianapolis

A billboard insulting the Prophet Muhammad is seen from the southbound lanes of Interstate 465 on Indianapolis’ east side. Photo courtesy of Rima Shahid

INDIANAPOLIS (The Indianapolis Star) A Virginia-based outdoor advertising seller with a history of inflammatory statements on Islam is the owner of an Indianapolis billboard that is featuring an anti-Muslim ad.

The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday traced the billboard to a firm called LightPoint Impressions. Don Woodsmall, who was listed as a principal on the firm’s website, responded to inquiries with a 500-word statement in which he said he sold the ad to a “group of patriotic Americans” who were denied advertising by national companies.

Woodsmall declined to name the group behind the ad, saying it requested anonymity.

“Their desire, born out of love and not hate, is to launch a national conversation,” Woodsmall said in the statement.

The billboard, headlined “The Perfect Man,” does not mention the Prophet Muhammad by name, but makes several oft-repeated claims that have previously been used to disparage him and, by extension, Islam. The billboard can be seen from the southbound lanes of Interstate 465 on Indianapolis’ east side.

Islamic leaders denounced the ad as untruthful and lacking context, and a blatant attempt to stoke anti-Muslim fervor. They called for the people behind it to come forward.

“It’s just a group of cowards who are not even ready to put their name behind it,” said Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana.

Woodsmall, a Charlottesville, Va., businessman, said he researched Islam after being approached by the group that wanted to buy the ad.

“Upon learning what they wanted to post, my first question was, like most Americans, ‘Is it true?'” he said. “After talking to a half-dozen Islamic scholars and receiving and reviewing numerous citations from Islamic law and literature, I was convinced that each point listed on the billboard was historically and factually true.”

Yet, Woodsmall formed at least some of his views on Islam long before the billboard went up in Indianapolis.

Woodsmall has spent several years criticizing Wake Forest University Imam Khalid Griggs and calling for the university to hold a debate on Shariah, or Islamic law, according to published reports.

Woodsmall in 2015 sent a letter to tens of thousands of Wake Forest alumni encouraging a donor boycott over Griggs, according to The Washington Post. Woodsmall, a Wake Forest graduate, called Griggs a jihadist and “an active supporter of Sharia Law.” The university stood behind Griggs.

Woodsmall acknowledged “there are those who might be offended” by his Indianapolis billboard and said he would remove the ad “if any of the facts are shown to be untrue.”

Chris Kopf, who was listed on the LightPoint Impressions website as a co-principal, distanced himself from Woodsmall when reached by the Star.

“We owned some assets together — billboards — a number of years ago,” Kopf said. “We have parted ways relative to those assets many years ago.”

Woodsmall, he added, “is not part of LightPoint Impressions any longer.”

The LightPoint Impressions website, which until Tuesday included a biography and contact information for Woodsmall, touted the I-465 billboard as reaching 5 million motorists each month. The billboard was listed for rent at $1,950 per month for a 12-month term.

Woodsmall in an email said he owns the “Perfect Man” billboard.

Woodsmall called it his “duty as a patriotic American to accept this advertisement designed to inform the American public of the true root cause of the cascading violence that is endemic to and systemic in Islam.”

LightPoint Impressions deleted its website Tuesday.

(James Briggs writes for The Indianapolis Star; follow him at @JamesEBriggs. Fatima Hussein and Justin L. Mack of The Indianapolis Star contributed to this story.)

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  • Well, lets simply look at the facts. #1 Married 6 year old, Fact. But he didn’t consummate their marriage until she was 9 or 10 and he was 53. #2 Slave owner and dealer, Fact. Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648 among a couple of other references. #3 Rapist, Fact, plenty of accounts including Safiyah & Rayhanah. He even instructed his men when raping women they captured not to perform coitus interruptus and that Allâh intends to create anything nothing can prevent it. #4 Beheaded 600 Jews, Fact. During the invasion of Qurayza in 627AD (5AH) the Muslim jurist Tabari quotes 600–900 being executed. All men and one woman. #5 13 wives, 11 at one time. Very well documented Fact with names. #6 Tortured and killed non-believers. Fact. Well documented, he and his troops would torture and kill the men and take the women as slaves. Often part of the torture was to rape the wives in front of their husbands. I’m not an anti-Muslim by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a Christian and their are facts about the Christian faith that are cringe worthy. But this billboard’s facts are accurate and are all extremely well documented by MUSLIMs!! And being honest with you, doing research on these facts, these are probably some of the least shocking facts of each subject. I hear the “Taken out of context” and “things were different back then” arguments. Yeah some of these, such as slavery, multiple wives and completely wiping out another tribe were somewhat common. But some other the others are just mind boggling for anyone, much less a prophet. And one last thing, you noticed how the billboard never mentions Muhammed and yet everyone knew right away whom it was about?

  • Islamic scholar and former Muslim, Dr. Mark Gabriel, an alumnus and former faculty member of Al-Azhar University in Cairo would affirm your assessment of the billboard in question.

  • RNS lists the story under the headline “islamophobia” A phobia is an enduring irrational fear not grounded by the facts. All I can say is:
    9/11, Gold Star Families, Pentagon, Shanksville PA, London, Manchester, Paris, Frankfurt and so on and so on and so on.

  • As Cherch states below, the billboard makes no mention of Muhammad, much less of Islam itself. If Muhammad were nothing like the perfect man of the billboard, why should any Muslim claim the billboard “stokes anti-Muslim fervor”? No one ignorant of Muhammad’s resume—Jew, Christian, Muslim, or Martian—would have had any idea of the man depicted, at least, not until these Muslim pc police made such a big deal out of it. Funny how Muslims have no time to denounce the latest terrorist attack, but unite in a frenzy to declaim “false” statements about a man not even named.

  • I would go past cringe worthy – the Old Testament is littered with people God or angels spoke to who were of less than stellar character. So given that less than blemish-free record, I call the billboard simply public bullying. One can believe a belief system is wrong but that is a conversation. The billboard is designed to vilify. Never realized how hurtful this kind of stuff could be until at a comedy show when a comment was made about homophobic Christians (and that isn’t my Christian beleifs). . Not something I believe that Jesus would endorse.

    Edward below mentions Dr. Gabriel who in discussing his conversion said “First, when the Jesus taught, Love one another, or, Be kind to others, he did not say that this standard applied only to
    other Christians. The biblical teaching is absolutely general commanding Christians to treat other Christians and unbelievers of any part of the world with the same respect. Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5 says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). It doesn’t say, When a Christian hits your cheek, give him the other cheek. Christ told his disciples and his followers, “You are the light of the world. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:13, 14, 46). But if you do good to someone who does bad to you, this is the great action. But scripture rang true for him because of not just words given similar verses in the Qu’ran but the life of Christ as living those words in action.

  • The Old Testament may be “littered(?) with people God or angels spoke to who were of less than stellar character,” but Christianity is the New Testament.

    As for Islam, a Sufi once told me that it reminded her of the worst parts of the Old Testament. In fact, Islam has never left the 7th century.

  • As far as I can tell, all those claims are factual. The beheading of 600 Jews in one day cannot be verified, but his claim to have done so certainly is.

  • Are you a Christian?
    Do you believe in the Bible?
    If those answers are “yes,” then you must also believe that Islam is a false religion. And false religions are of Satan, correct? The Bible says so.

    And yet, you are upset because a billboard is “bullying” Satan. That’s your right, I suppose. But it really makes no sense to defend Satan.

  • Anonymity lest they be targeted for revenge, I bet. Freedom of religion and the First Ammendment.

  • The most obnoxious part of this ad isn’t its claims or its hypocrisy. It’s that it claims to “educate” us. Everyone knows whom the ad claims to speak of because people like the ad buyer have been yelling and screaming about it for the past 16+ years. As an already educated individual, I do not judge religions based solely on their founders or their medieval history.

  • I think the islamic problem should be seen in a historic context. The yihad was a need in the times of Mahoma and a few centuries thereafter. The yihad was necessary to preserve the life of islam. But nowadays, when we all know that we live in a single planet, unique in our known universe, the yihad is obsolete. Particularly when we all know that all monoteistic religions are honoring the same God, who is in fact receiving different names: God, Brahma, Yave, Alah, Elohim, etc. Etc. are all names of the same Supreme Being creator and owner of these worlds. Then why islamic people pretend to kill devotes of other religions if none is menacing them?

  • That is not the approach taken by Paul at Athens. I think that one has to understand that there is a difference between religion and people. Our job ultimately drills down to loving God and loving others.

  • I focus on the Gospels as to my understanding of what God asks of us but the Old Testament can not be tossed away. There are many Christians who emphasize the Old in their Christian worldview. (Just read an article on 2 very different pastors asserting slavery was good and biblically endorsed and a blessing for African Americans). As well, the Common Lectionary includes weekly readings from the OT and one of the Psalms. The New Testament includes references to the Old Testament but importantly given that there was no agreed upon Bible, the Septuagint is generally believed to be commonly used by the early Christian Church.

  • I didn’t say to toss the OT away, but that Christianity is the New Testament where no peoples are put “under the ban” or jihad declared upon.
    Or can’t you tell the difference?

  • When I read stuff that people like Shoebat, Daubunmnire, Swanson, Bakker, etc etc say, I really don’t see much of a difference.

  • Mohammed: all of the things this billboard says. Not exactly admirable, but then, there weren’t so many admirable people– by current standards– that made it into the history books 1400 years ago.

    Jesus: all of the things Christians say. He loves us so much that he died a horrible death for us. And if you don’t believe it, or were so turned off by Christian behavior that you rejected it, or failed to get the memo that he’s been sending for the past 1900 years, or don’t love him back in precisely the right way…

    …prepare to join billions of other people burning in hell for eternity, because he loves you so damned much.

    Maybe it’s just me, but speaking as an atheist, I really don’t see so much of a difference. So why don’t religionists just STOP attacking other people because of their religious beliefs? Live your life, have your faith, and leave everyone else THE HELL alone.