We wrote last week about the PR challenge facing Muslims who want Islam to be understood as a religion of tolerance and forbearance, not radicalism and repression of women.
Now we've come upon an organization in London that's rising to said challenge. The Exploring Islam Foundation is seeking to create positive dialogue and improve Islam's image in Britain via a poster campaign with the theme, "So did Muhammad," Islam's founder. One poster, for example, features a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf saying "I believe in women's rights. So did Muhammad."
A recent poll by YouGov in the United Kingdom "found that 58 percent of Britons surveyed associate Islam with extremism, 50 percent with terrorism and 68 percent feel the religion encourages the repression of women" -- consistent with the PR challenge we were noting.
"So did Muhammad" posters with messages of tolerance and social justice are appearing in London underground stations, at bus stops and on cabs. Remona Aly, campaigns director for Exploring Islam, explains that, "Our goal is to ut forth the universal values that Muslims hold, which are ones of justice, of compassion, of mutual understanding and tolerance."
Yet the subway posters have to counter memories of a bomb set off there in 2005 by self-proclaimed Islamists, notes a report on the campaign by Deutsch Welle, a German media company.
Exploring Islam's campaign faces criticism as being misleading. But Kristiane Backer, a German-born former MTV presented who converted to Islam and appears on one of the posters, says "Islam is a very beautiful religion that contains highly ethical principles, spiritual principles. But nobody knows about that."
In a post-9/11 era of concern over terrorism, Exploring Islam's posters are indeed responding to a difficult PR situation for British Muslims.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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