An ad campaign aimed at preventing the spread of anti-Muslim feeling has launched in Cornwall and Devon in South West England. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has taken out the ads on the side of a fleet of 100 buses in the two counties in a bid to spread what it describes as “positive awareness of Islam”.
The Western Morning News reports that the adverts use the slogan “Muslims for loyalty, freedom, equality, respect, peace” and advertise the Ahmadiyya association. The association’s national secretary, Fareed Ahmad, said he hoped bus users and passers-by would respond positively to the ads.
“This is part of a national initiative and I’m really pleased the South West will be taking such a prominent role. As well as the 125 First buses carrying the banners, we will also be distributing leaflets to explain our message in more detail.”
He added that, given the increasingly negative publicity generated about Islam, it was even more important to take the message of peace and tolerance to our fellow citizens.”
Muhammad Noman, South West regional president of for the Ahmadiyya Association, said: “There remains a concern about Islam, especially in the light of events carried out by Jihadist groups. We believe in Jihad – but the true concept of Jihad is one of self-reformation and not of harming others.
“A true Muslim can never raise his voice in hatred against his fellow citizens, nor against the ruling authority or government of the time. He should remain loyal and fully abide by the laws of the land of which he is a subject.”
Mr Noman went on to condemn Islamist fundamentalists: “Such extremists do not represent Islam, yet their words and deeds have a damaging impact on Muslims and non-Muslims every day.
“By emphasising the values highlighted in our campaign, we hope to facilitate a better understanding of Islam so that people are able to judge for themselves the actions of those who claim to speak and act in its good name.
“Islam stresses the promotion of peace in words and deeds.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslims are an Islamic movement founded at the end of the 19th Century in British India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ahmad claimed to be Islam’s prophesised Mahdi, or redeemer, who would cleanse the religion and bring it back to its pristine form.
Followers reject violent jihad unless under extreme instances of persecution, preferring instead to spread Islam through writing and dialogue.
“Extremists shed blood, whereas we give blood,” Mr Noman added. “While they take lives, we save lives. This is true Islam and it is this faith that is the driving force for our work.”