Billboards with religious messages tend to draw tons of news media interest.
Last year, a Satanic Temple billboard protesting corporal punishment (“Our religion doesn’t believe in hitting children,” it said) rankled a South Texas town, as I reported for Religion News Service.
Other headline-making billboards have insulted Muhammad, promoted a traditional view of marriage and characterized the story of Jesus’ birth as a fairy tale.
Now, “Jesus in Islam” billboards put up in the Phoenix area are in the news.
Here is the lede from the Arizona Republic:
What do Muslims think of Jesus? It's a question Dr. Sabeel Ahmed said he gets often.
To help educate people on the significance of Jesus in Islam, Ahmed's group, The Humanitarians, a Muslim interfaith organization, is launching a monthlong campaign that includes billboards along high-trafficked areas in Arizona along with radio ads.
Ahmed, the group's founder and outreach coordinator, said the intent is to highlight similarities between Islam and Christianity and bring people together during the holidays.
"We want to educate people on who we (Muslims) are and who we are not and show people that there are more similarities between the faiths than differences," Ahmed said Tuesday during a news conference at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe.
So Ahmed’s group bought the billboards in hopes of generating positive buzz in the community and the newspaper.
Mission accomplished, at least as far as the newspaper goes.
Keep reading, and you’ll discover that this story is the epitome of a puff piece: Group holds news conference. Reporter writes glowingly about it. Merry Christmas, everyone!