TAMPA - A Christian radio station canceled its advertising contract with a
Muslim organization this week on the grounds that the content "did not
serve our Christian constituency."
The 30-second spot promoted a Saturday event at the University of South
Florida - a Christian-Muslim dialogue.
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"This is exactly why we need to be doing programs like this," said Ahmed
Bedier, director of the Central Florida office of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations. "There's a lot of misinformation about Islam,
and relations are strained. Not only here, but all around the world."
Christopher Gould Sr., general manager at WTBN, 910 AM, said Thursday that
it was unfortunate a contract had been signed, but the company reserves the
right to reject advertising after it reviews the content.
The station will refund the Islamic council's $300, he said.
"We run advertising that is aimed at our audience," Gould said. "This isn't
the first time we've had to reject something. It could be another religion
trying to promote people to its faith, or for an alcoholic beverage or a
gentleman's club. We have to draw the line as to what is acceptable."
The contract had been signed by a sales manager when the promotions
department reviewed the ad. Gould said he checked out the council's Web
site and concluded the group is "clearly interested in recruiting people"
That is not the group's intent, Bedier said.
Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue,
protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions
that promote justice and mutual understanding, its Web site says. The
organization has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.
"We don't aspire to go out and convert," Bedier said.
The radio spot invites the public to attend a Muslim-Christian interfaith
event titled "Jesus: Biblical and Quranic Perspectives." It is sponsored by
CAIR-Florida and the Muslim Student Association at USF, and includes
Christian and Islamic scholars.
A narrator opens the spot with: "Our world today is torn apart by mistrust
and misunderstanding. We have a choice: live in ignorance of each other or
work to create harmony and tolerance..."
The event will show that the two religions have more in common than
differences, particularly among conservative worshippers, Bedier said...
Bedier also said Islam is the only other major religion that believes Jesus
was sent by God.
WTBN is owned by Salem Communications, a radio broadcasting company with
Christian and family-themed programming. The chain owns 104 stations
Gould said his decision is in keeping with the company's philosophy.
"It's nothing against this particular religion," he said. "If the Church
[of Jesus Christ] of Latter-day Saints or [Jehovah's] Witnesses wanted to
run a spot promoting their religion, we'd do the same thing. We're here to
serve evangelical Christians."
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