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Mr. Walid denied Mrs. Geller’s claims, though he provided no authoritative citations, and attacked Mrs. Geller’s character.

“She’s a well-known anti-Muslim bigot,” he said. “She makes no distinction between extremist Muslims and mainstream Muslims.”

Mr. Walid said that although there have been a few cases of violence against Muslims who convert away from the religion, there is no retribution for those who choose to leave Islam.

“People are free to leave Islam or any religion at any time. This is the United States of America,” he said.

But a public educator in Dearborn, speaking on the condition of anonymity owing to fear of retribution, said there is a climate of fear in the Detroit area’s Muslim community.

“The fear is palpable. I know there are things I am ‘not allowed’ to say. A discussion of religion with a Muslim person is often prefaced by the statement, ‘Dont say anything about the Prophet [Muhammad].’ In free society, open and honest conversation is not usually begun by a prohibition. Threats and intimidation are just part of life here.”

CAIR’s denial of the dangers of apostasy are part of the reason behind Mrs. Geller’s campaign, which she defined as a religious-freedom issue.

“We’re not encouraging people to leave Islam,” she said.

Whether or not the ads actually encourage apostasy, the furor elsewhere already have received a considerable amount of negative attention from American Muslims.

“The ads are to serve a purpose - to incite Islamophobia,” Mr. Walid said. “The average person here will see them for what they are.”

The Dearborn educator, however, said the ads serve a positive purpose.

“This kind of campaign and Americans support of it could assure these frightened Muslims that they have the rights that every other American has, that they will be protected, not abandoned or exposed to their leaders should they act upon their desire to be free,” the teacher said.