A 30-second ad sponsored by a Muslim group has been yanked by a Christian radio station in Florida because it didn’t serve the station’s “Christian constituency.”
“We run advertising that is aimed at our audience,” Christopher Gould Sr., general manager at WTBN-AM told the Tampa Tribune. “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 ad, sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, promoted a Christian-Muslim dialogue this weekend at the University of South Florida.
“This is exactly why we need to be doing programs like this,” Ahmed Bedier, director of CAIR in Tampa, told the paper. “There’s a lot of misinformation about Islam, and relations are strained. Not only here, but all around the world.”
The text of the spot starts with a narrator who says: “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.”
Listeners are encouraged to attend a “historic dialogue” between Christians and Muslims sharing their perspectives on Jesus.
The station says it will refund the $300 paid for the airtime.
After a contract with WTBN had been signed, Gould said he examined CAIR’s website, and came to the conclusion the group is “clearly interested in recruiting people” to Islam, and says the station reserves the right to reject spots after content is reviewed.
“The language was very gentle, and it’s under the guise of tolerance and discussion,” he told the Tribune. “But the fact is, they want to grow their organization.”
“We don’t aspire to go out and convert,” Bedier responded.
According to its website, “CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
A statement on the radio station’s website says, “At WTBN, we’re committed to delivering the finest in Christian talk radio from a Biblical perspective – proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ for all mankind. We strive to provide the best in Christian programming to our audience, our advertisers and throughout the community we live in and serve.”
WTBN’s parent company is Salem Communications, which owns and operates 95 radio stations nationwide, 60 of which are located in the top 25 most populated U.S. markets.
Gould told the Tribune his decision is in line with Salem’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.”