A West York, Pennsylvania, bar called The Other Place has been a neighborhood hub for decades, but a sign placed in the front window has drawn both criticism and increased business.
A sign in the bar’s window reads “Death to Islam,” echoed by two interior signs that read the same. They were put up just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and have been there since 2001. The sign facing outside was recently put up.
Customers have said they do not like the signs and have left the bar in protest. Others have asked the bar to keep the signs up. The owner has no plans to remove them, reports Fox 43.
A customer took a photo of the sign and posted it to Facebook, saying it was hateful. The staff at the bar said that since the sign drew attention, they have seen an increase in business.
Jeff Seitz owns the bar. The staff said he’s a veteran and wants to show support for the military.
Customer Carroll Waltimyer said he wouldn’t have chosen to display the sign. “I don’t condemn the man and I don’t think he’s doing anything wrong.”
A local Muslim chaplain Rick Ramos said the First Amendment does not make exceptions for hate speech. Therefore, it’s Seitz's right to have the sign.
“What him and his supporters need to note is the same Constitution that guarantees him the right to freedom of speech, also guarantees Americans the right to the freedom of religion,” Ramos said. “To try to just think that somehow, Islam is going to disappear or that there will be the death of Islam is just unreasonable. I think that Muslims and Islam are now a permanent part of the American landscape and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
He said, "This is just an unfortunate situation that they tried to disguise it as patriotism, but in reality when you move the mask away, it's hate speech, it's bigotry," reports AOL.
Ramos believes some people mistakenly conflate extremist terrorist groups like the Islamic State group and Al Qaeda with Islam. “There’s a lot bigger issues for us to be focusing on than just this sign in the window of a bar,” he added.
Kwame McPhaul, who runs Masjid at-Tawheed mosque in York echoed Ramos’ defense of the sign, saying, “It’s freedom of speech. People can say what they want. It doesn’t take away from the beauty of the message of Islam. I’m more concerned by these groups like ISIS (Islamic State group) that are damaging the message of Islam,” reports YDR.
Other area Muslims take issue with the sign. Marketing and communications consultant Rabiya Khan said, “When you’re calling for death of a religion – how would you kill Islam?”
“You would kill all the Muslims. You can’t kill a religion; you kill the follows of a religion,” Khan said.
Momin Bhatti worries the sign encourages violence against Muslims in the area. “Even if I wasn’t Muslim, I’d be disturbed by the sign because it seems to promote hate,” he said.
Durre Sharif, of Newberry Township, said the signs don’t represent the opinions of most people she meets.
“It paints such a terrible image of York – and York is such a lovely county,” Sharif said.