In California's capital city of Sacramento this month, stark black billboards loomed over highways and faded commercial strips, offering solace to the troubled: "Looking for the answers in life?" one asked. "Discover Muhammad."
With messages that are part religious invitation to explore the Muslim faith and part public relations, the billboards anchor a national campaign to showcase Islam as a religion of love and tolerance, aimed at Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
But the campaign by the mainstream Islamic Circle of North America, which is sponsoring billboards in other cities to publicize the Muslim prophet's message, could also spark a backlash amid a spike in anti-Islamic sentiment marked by protests, advertising campaigns and sometimes vandalism and violence.