ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) - News 4 examined the policies for granting or denying personalized license plates ("Vanity Plates") after receiving an email from a viewer.
The viewer had seen a vanity plate on a car belong to a St. Louis County couple that read "JIHAD 1" and thought the plate was inappropriate because some people associate the word with terrorism.
News 4 discovered the plate belonged to a Muslim family.
Both the mother and father spoke with News 4 Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager off camera.
The explained that Jihad is the name of their son and that is why they applied for the plate. They also explained that Jihad has a spiritual meaning for Muslims that has nothing to do with violence or terrorism.
News 4 took the question to Faizan Syed, the executive director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Syed said "Jihad is very common and it doesn't mean Holy War. It means someone who is struggling, so when you name your kid Jihad, it means someone who is going to struggle to be better."
Still, Syed said he understands how the word can be viewed as offensive.
"It has the ability to confuse people," he said, "and because the average American thinks of Jihad as a certain thing, it's probably better for this individual not to use it."
News 4 made several requests for an on-camera interview with a representative of the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles on the State's reasons for allowing the JIHAD plate, but no one was made available to talk.
News 4 also discovered that in 2009 the State of Missouri rejected a very similar plate, "J1HAD."
The State has offered no explanation as to why "J1HAD" was rejected while "JIHAD" was allowed.
News 4 checked with Illinois and found that "Jihad” is banned for use on license plates there.
In fact, thousands of plates have been banned over the years in Illinois and Missouri. (Disclaimer: Some of the license plates are derogatory in nature)
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