Muslim leaders denounce billboard in Indianapolis

Indianapolis — A Virginia-based outdoor advertising seller with a history of inflammatory statements on Islam is the owner of an Indianapolis billboard that is featuring an anti-Muslim ad.

The Indianapolis Star on June 6 traced the billboard to a firm called LightPoint Impressions. Don Woodsmall, who was listed as a principal on the firm's website, responded to inquiries with a 500-word statement in which he said he sold the ad to a "group of patriotic Americans" who were denied advertising by national companies.

Woodsmall declined to name the group behind the ad, saying it requested anonymity.

"Their desire, born out of love and not hate, is to launch a national conversation," Woodsmall said in the statement.

The billboard, headlined "The Perfect Man," does not mention the prophet Muhammad by name, but makes several oft-repeated claims that have previously been used to disparage him and, by extension, Islam. The billboard can be seen from the southbound lanes of I-465 on Indianapolis’ east side.

Islamic leaders denounced the ad as untruthful and lacking context, and a blatant attempt to stoke anti-Muslim fervor. They called for the people behind it to come forward.

"It's just a group of cowards who are not even ready to put their name behind it," said Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana.

Woodsmall, a Charlottesville, Va., businessman, said he researched Islam after being approached by the group that wanted to buy the ad.

"Upon learning what they wanted to post, my first question was, like most Americans, 'Is it true?'" he said. "After talking to a half-dozen Islamic scholars and receiving and reviewing numerous citations from Islamic law and literature, I was convinced that each point listed on the billboard was historically and factually true."

Yet, Woodsmall formed at least some of his views on Islam long before the billboard went up in Indianapolis.

Woodsmall has spent several years criticizing Wake Forest University Imam Khalid Griggs and calling for the university to hold a debate on Shariah law, according to published reports.

Woodsmall in 2015 sent a letter to tens of thousands of Wake Forest alumni encouraging a donor boycott over Griggs, according to The Washington Post. Woodsmall, a Wake Forest graduate, called Griggs a jihadist and "an active supporter of Sharia Law." The university stood behind Griggs.

Woodsmall acknowledged "there are those who might be offended" by his Indianapolis billboard and said he would remove the ad "if any of the facts are shown to be untrue."

Chris Kopf, who was listed on the LightPoint Impressions website as a co-principal, distanced himself from Woodsmall when reached by the Star.

"We owned some assets together — billboards — a number of years ago," Kopf said. "We have parted ways relative to those assets many years ago."

Woodsmall, he added, "is not part of LightPoint Impressions any longer."

The LightPoint Impressions website, which until Tuesday included a biography and contact information for Woodsmall, touted the I-465 billboard as reaching 5 million motorists each month. The billboard was listed for rent at $1,950 per month for a 12-month term.

Woodsmall in an email said he owns the "Perfect Man," billboard.

Woodsmall called it his "duty as a patriotic American to accept this advertisement designed to inform the American public of the true root cause of the cascading violence that is endemic to and systemic in Islam."

LightPoint Impressions deleted its website Tuesday.

[Fatima Hussein and Justin L. Mack of The Indianapolis Star contributed to this story.]

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