This follows the news that London has just elected its first Muslim mayor
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BIRMINGHAM, UK (ANS – May 9, 2016) – Following the shock news that London has just elected its first Muslim mayor, comes further surprising information that buses in various British cities will be emblazoned with slogans praising Allah in an initiative driven by a Birmingham-based charity.
It is part of Ramadan campaign by the Islamic Relief charity.
In London, following a bitter battle, Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistan-born bus driver, on Saturday, May 7, 2016, became London’s first Muslim mayor, beating a Conservative challenger who attempted to link him to extremism and securing a much-needed win for his opposition Labour Party.
Khan’s victory, which also makes him the first Muslim to head a major Western capital, was confirmed shortly after midnight inside London’s futuristic glass and steel city hall following a day of mixed news for Labour in elections elsewhere in the country.
But now, the Birmingham Mail, based in England’s second city, has revealed the pro-Allah poster campaign will soon appear on buses in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Leicester and Bradford, cities with large Muslim populations.
“The campaign has been orchestrated to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan in June, when Muslims traditionally fast and give to charity,” said the newspaper.
Islamic Relief said the posters would help to raise funds for victims of war and disasters in countries such as Syria, and portray Islam in a positive light.
Director Imran Madden said: “There is a lot of negativity around Muslims. We want to change the perception of Islam. The campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions.”
The Birmingham Mail went on to explain that Islamic Relief has helped more than 100 million people across the world since it was established in Birmingham in 1984.
“More than £140 million (UK pounds) has been sent in aid to Syria – supporting around 6.5 million people. The charity works with 33 countries and supports people of all faiths and backgrounds,” it said.
According to Islamic law, Muslims are supposed to donate 2.5 per cent of their income to the poor and needy. Known as Zakat, the practice is regarded as one of the “five pillars of Islam.”
But, not surprisingly, the campaign has drawn criticism from some UK Christian groups who fear their own faith is being increasingly censored while allowances are made for Islam.
They cited that last year, three cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, refused to show an advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer.
Andrea Williams, head of London-based Christian Concern, said that allowing Islamic adverts while banning Christian ones reflected a “disproportionate fear” about the Christian message in the face of worries about critiquing Islam.
Herself, a lawyer, Williams said: “Increasingly what we see is accommodation being made for certain groups and a fear by the elite of consequence if they do not make way for certain groups.
“It (the ruling elite) bends over backwards to ensure that groups like (gay rights charity) Stonewall and Islamic Relief are given space, but is very concerned when it comes to Christian advertising or morality, so that is where you find a certain message being censored.
“Our cases at Christian Legal Centre demonstrate how the message of Christianity is censored in the public space as the elite fears that it will offend.
“But when it comes to Islam, there is a big push by the ruling elites to make as much accommodation as possible, and a fear of being seen to critique or criticize the doctrine of Islam.”
Williams added: “If these adverts are running, then we should ensure that space is given for Christian adverts to run, but what we are seeing in many situations is the removal of access to public space for Christian groups.”
However, Islamic Relief said the posters would help to raise funds for victims of war and disasters in countries such as Syria.
Commenting on the bus campaign, Graeme Brown, the Editor (Agenda and Business) at the Birmingham Mail, who heads up campaigns as well as business, political, local government, education and health teams, gave his personal views on the bus plan.
“Islamic Relief,” he began, “is a global powerhouse and a force for good in n some of the bleakest corners of the world. It is one of the first on the ground when tragedies strike, like in Syria, where at least 60,000 people have been killed, or when the Bangladesh floods struck, or in drought-stricken countries like Niger.
“Its work in these places, where just surviving to the next day is a challenge, should speak for itself.
“For cash to change hands in order to portray Islam in a positive light in Birmingham, as well as London, Manchester, Leicester and Bradford, seems a crying shame. I also fear this could be counter-productive.”
Brown added, “Considered that people don’t need persuading that Islamic Relief is a force for good, raising more than £80 million (UK pounds) a year for the neediest of causes, they don’t need to be told that Islam can be a force for good.
“But for those people seeking to jump on division, it is just another reason to bleat – particularly given the side of a bus is such a blunt instrument.
“There are few more nuanced and multi-faceted issues than Islam and humanitarian relief at the moment. Hoping that a glimpse of a poster on a bus will change perceptions is optimistic to say the least.
“When a part of the world is in need, very often this charity is on the ground first – providing support and saving lives. Its funding should go there – rather than challenging misconceptions in developed cities.”
Note from Dan Wooding: I was raised and educated in Birmingham, an industrial city in the English Midlands which, in recent years has seen a huge rise in its Islamic population. Mosques and Muslim schools abound and, in some parts of the city, you would think you were in Pakistan, with so many of the women wearing their Islamic dress and the men wearing Muslim garb. This is also taking place in many of the English cities where the bus adverts will be run. For some, this is an extremely worrying situation, but of course, Britain is a democracy and so people are entitled for free speech, even if most of the population do not agree with their message.
What are your thoughts? Let me know at email@example.com.
Photo captions: 1) Buses in Birmingham, UK, that could soon carry the advert praising Allah. (Birmingham Mail). 2) Sadiq Khan, the new Muslim mayor of London (AFP/Getty Images). 3) The huge Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham, with a capacity for 6,000 Muslims. 4) British-based Muslims make their views clear, something that worries many people in the UK. 5) Dan Wooding
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, but raised and educated in Birmingham, England. He is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter (both born in Birmingham), and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California.
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