Hawzah News Agency- An online petition to remove a billboard in St. Augustine Beach that has offensive words against Islam has gained global recognition. More than 2,600 people from across the United States and other countries have signed the petition to have the billboard taken down since it was started on Saturday.
Becky Williams, who created the petition, told reporters, this movement is to show the Islamic community it is welcomed and accepted in her hometown.
"I felt the immediate urgency to do some form of action," Williams said. "I felt the need to do something that showed support and camaraderie for those people that I felt as if the sign was attacking and speaking out against."
The billboard off A1A and Seashore Avenue in St. Augustine Beach is sparking many conversations among members of the Islamic community.
“Very offensive. Very, very offensive,” said a neighbor, Essam Kabil.
Kabil told us he hopes this sign will inspire people to learn about different cultures and not wrongly judge people by their religion.
“Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want to believe, especially religion,” said Kabil.
Spoking with the billboard's owner, who had no comment about the message, but said it was an individual, not an organization or faith-based group that paid for the sign.
As for Farhan Shahie, he said it’s important to find the good in everyone. He wishes the person who’s paying for this billboard would take the time to learn about his culture before prejudging.
“You show your good behavior, you do everything good and they will say, you know, ‘Over time I might be wrong. I’m not supposed to put no billboard up,’” Shahie.
People who live in St. Augustine Beach say they understand the person who paid for the sign has a right to their own freedom of speech, however, many say they feel this billboard is inconsistent with the community's standards.
Locals such as John Poage is showing his opposition by waving to oncoming cars on A1A and standing near a sign reading “Locals for Tolerance.”
“I think tolerance is important and we are not looking for a fight, but we want to adjust the conversation to something more appropriate,” Poage.