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Islamic group claims Florida church sign is ‘hate speech’ • Sunday January 19, 2003

Reuters, Jan. 17, 2003

MIAMI – An Islamic group asked state religious leaders on Thursday to repudiate a sign outside a Florida Baptist church reading “Jesus Forbade Murder … Muhammad Approved Murder,” describing it as “hate speech.”

The church pastor said the sign “speaks the truth.”

The sign outside the First Conservative Baptist Church in Jacksonville misrepresents the Koran, Islam’s holy book, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights advocacy group with about 80,000 members.

“All Americans must band together to condemn hate speech designed to divide our nation along religious and ethnic lines,” CAIR said in a news release.

Gene Youngblood, pastor of First Conservative Baptist Church, said it was “political correctness” to describe Islam as a peaceful religion.

He said, for example, that Christians were being slaughtered and churches were being burned in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.

“The signage that we’ve been doing speaks the truth,” he said.

The sign, which reads in full: “Jesus Forbade Murder, Matthew 26-52, Muhammad Approved Murder, Surah 8-65,” could contribute to a climate of increasing intolerance toward Muslims in Florida, said Altaf Ali, the executive director of CAIR Florida.

The group said the relevant section of the Koran indicated that those who are steadfast in battle would overcome much larger enemies and was not an endorsement of murder.

In fact, Muhammad condemned murder, CAIR said, quoting the following passage: “… whoever murders a person … it will be as if he had killed all mankind…”

Muslim advocates in the United States have complained of increased profiling since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. An anti-terrorism program that requires men from 20 largely Muslim and Arab countries to report to immigration authorities for fingerprinting and photographing has spread panic in immigrant communities.

“I really call on religious leaders in Florida to condemn this,” Ali said of the church’s sign. “It just divides along religious and ethnic lines.”

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