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    Posted March 7, 2012 by
    Paterson, New Jersey

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    Atheist Billboard Goes Up in NJ Muslim Neighborhood


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JoyfulGypsy, of New York, shot these photos of an American Atheist billboard that was erected yesterday in a Muslim neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey. The billboard said, ‘You know it’s a myth and you have a choice’ in English and Arabic along with the word ‘Allah’ on the side. 'I spoke to a few people on the street as I was photographing the billboard and they all told me they were not happy about the billboard and considered it disrespectful,' she says. 'However, they agreed that the American Atheists had a right to post their opinion.'
    - ssesha, CNN iReport producer

    On Wednesday, March 7, 2012, American Atheists erected a billboard on the corner of 33rd Street and Broadway, the heart of a Muslim community in Paterson, New Jersey, with the wording: "You know it's a myth, and you have a choice" in both Arabic and English, with the word "Allah" on the left side.


    According to the American Atheists website at www.atheists.org, the purpose of this billboard is to advertise the Reason Rally in Washington D.C. on March 24 (www.ReasonRally.com) and the American Atheists National Convention, to the atheists in the Muslim communities. "Insular communities like these are designed to squelch individualism and religious criticism, making the atheists in these communities feel particularly alone -- they are not."


    Apparently, atheists within the Muslim communities are quite plentiful, as evidenced by the emails they receive and the number of former Muslims now in the American Atheists' ranks. The new billboard acknowledges the closeted atheists in the community and invites them to the Reason Rally and convention, where they will meet others like themselves, share stories, have fun, and return with enough knowledge and support to allow them to make their own decisions in their lives. They do have choices.


    American Atheists claim this billboard is not meant to inflame or enrage, and while the reaction of the Muslim community will be interesting, they do not expect any violence nor vandalism.


    Although some in the Muslim community might not appreciate the outreach, American Atheists do have every right and every responsibility to advertise their organization and their movement as they see fit.


    While I was at the site photographing the billboard, I asked a few local people what they thought of the billboard in their neighborhood. None of them wanted to be identified but they all told me they were not happy about it. They told me they felt it was disrespectful and insulting but they agreed that the American Atheists have the right to put up their billboards where they want.


    In addition, they also told me that they too have the right to advertise and voice their opinions and will most definitely be doing so.


    Stay tuned.


    *Click through the tabs above to see a total of two pictures.


    Photos by Lulis Leal

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