A Franklin-based effort to show support for Muslims in America is having far-reaching impact.
Yard signs proclaiming, “We Stand With American Muslims” have appeared in yards throughout Johnson County, and in the windows of dormitories at Franklin College.
People from California, Washington and Massachusetts have ordered the placards, and want to order more.
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“What the sign is saying is that this is not the America that we have enjoyed being part of. This is now what we are about, to label groups,” said David Carlson, a Franklin College religion and philosophy professor who has organized the sign campaign.
Nearly one year after first offering the signs, Carlson and other organizers have seen a growing interest in the campaign, particularly in the past month. Nearly 100 signs have been requested since late-January, with the campaign going viral through Facebook and other social media among the interfaith community.
The uptick in interest coincides with the executive order signed Jan. 27 by President Donald Trump that temporarily banned people from seven predominantly Islamic countries from entering the U.S. in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks and increase the vetting process for people coming from countries with ties to terrorism.
Since that time, 90 sign orders have gone out, Carlson said. Before the executive order, Carlson had shipped about 75 signs.
“Muslims are feeling very vulnerable right now and concerned about what’s coming out of Washington, and for them, the sign is showing that people are happy they’re here, they’re welcoming to me,” Carlson said.
Carlson, through his involvement in the group Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness, started the yard sign campaign in April to combat growing feelings of resentment for the Muslim community.
The Muslim community as a whole is being lumped in with extreme Islamists who want to use terror to further a certain ideology, Carlson said.
“One of the things I tell my students is that so many people have a negative emotional reaction to Islam, but they couldn’t pass a basic test on it. They don’t know the difference in a news story between the word ‘Muslim’ and the term ‘Islamist,’” he said.
Carlson co-founded Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness to bring people from all religions and faiths together to work against evil in the world.
He has spoken throughout central Indiana about his study of the Islamic State group, whose primary recruiting tool is to show young Muslims the hatred that exists for them. The way to counter that, then, would be to show that Muslims are welcome in the U.S., Carlson said.
The yard sign campaign is effective, because it draws attention to the cause of supporting Muslims living in the U.S. without devolving into an argument, Carlson said.
“A lot of people I talk to don’t want to fight with their friends about politics. When they disagree with their friends about politics and it comes up, they feel like they’ll never get anywhere. In a way, the yard sign then is your stance,” he said.
Keeping the campaign going has become almost a second job for Carlson. He arranges the ordering and shipping of the signs during the week, then hand-delivers them on Sundays throughout central Indiana.
He expected his contacts in the Indianapolis area to be most interested in the signs. But Carlson has been surprised how far-flung the campaign has become.
He estimates that about half of the requests for signs have come from outside the state. Orders have come from as far away as Seattle and Virginia. A particular hotspot for the signs has been San Jose, California.
Carlson will continue to take orders for the signs as long as there is a demand. People can purchase a sign for $12.84, the cost of the printing, shipping and tax. It includes a yard anchor.
“The signs really have two audiences. On the one hand, the primary audience is the American Muslims, who feel supported. The second audience is people who believe this and want a sign like this too. It gives them courage to stand up,” Carlson said.
Anyone interested in ordering a “We Stand With American Muslims” sign should contact David Carlson at email@example.com.
Signs cost $12.84, including tax and shipping.