WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- An Islamic advocacy group Sunday launched an advertising campaign designed to counter a rising tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States.
Muslims say they have faced hate attacks after Sept. 11, 2001. Through this media campaign, they say, they want to present an accurate picture of their religion.
The "Islam in America" campaign, which was launched by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, began with an advertisement in The New York Times headlined "We're All Americans."
There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in America.
The ad in the Times says: "It's impossible to make general assumptions about Muslims because we represent more than 1 billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures -- from the South Pacific to the Horn of Africa. Only about 18 percent of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world.
"The largest Muslim community is in Indonesia. Substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa have Muslim-majority populations, while significant minorities are to be found in the countries of the former Soviet Union, China, North and South America, and Europe."
CAIR's weekly ads, each explaining one aspect of Islam, will be available to Muslim communities around America for placement in local newspapers.
In a recent statement, President George W. Bush also urged Americans not to confuse mainstream Islam with the practices of a tiny minority that preaches violence.
"Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others," Bush said.
"By far, the vast majority of American citizens respect the Islamic people and the Muslim faith. Ours is a country based upon tolerance. ... And we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values," he added.
White House officials told reporters that the president's remarks were prompted by recent attacks on Islam.
"It's encouraging to hear President Bush address the issue of Islamophobic rhetoric in our society. We hope the president's rejection of anti-Muslim hate speech will be followed by similar statements from other elected officials and from mainstream religious leaders," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.