LONDON — Just months after an advertisement featuring the Lord’s Prayer was rejected for a run in theaters throughout the United Kingdom, buses in the nation are set to bear a banner declaring “glory to Allah” for a Ramadan advertising campaign aimed at portraying Islam in a more positive light.
The advertisement, which reads, “Gather the reward of Ramadan: Subhan’ Allah (glory to Allah)” is paid for by the group Islamic Relief. It will appear on buses in London, Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham and Bradford, which all have large Muslim populations.
“There is a lot of negativity around Muslims at the moment involving things such as counter-terrorism issues,” leader Imran Madden told reporters. “We want to change for the better the perception of Islam. The bus campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions.”
Islamic Relief is also seeking to raise funds for those who have been affected by ISIS in countries like Syria though its advertising effort.
The campaign was announced the day after Londoners elected the city’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan. As previously reported, Khan was sworn in on Saturday during a multi-faith ceremony at the Southwark Cathedral, an Anglican house of worship in the city. He received a standing ovation from those gathered, including professing Christians.
“This election was not without controversy, and I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” Khan said. “Fear does not make us safer, it only makes us weaker, and the politics of fear is not welcome in our city.”
Britain First candidate Paul Golding, however, is stated to be among those who turned their back during Khan’s speech, and a member of his staff shouted, “Britain has an extremist mayor!”
Reports that the “glory to Allah” advertisements were approved while a 60-second commercial featuring the Lord’s Prayer was rejected for theater airplay in December have raised concern among Christian groups in the nation.
“People were surprised by the cinema advertising agenda to ban the Lord’s Prayer—something we all grew up with,” Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute told the Daily Mail. “Audiences are capable of hearing expressions of Christian faith without running away screaming in horror.”
“Britain is a Christian country and we Christians need to find our voice,” also said Andrea Williams of Christian Concern. “If we are allowing these adverts for Islam, then we need to give the Christians far more freedom to express themselves.”
As previously reported, the advertisement, which is part of the Church of England’s “Just Pray” campaign, was initially cleared by the British Board of Film Classification and the Cinema Advertising Authority, but Digital Cinema Media (DCM) rejected it because of its religious content.
“DCM has a policy of not accepting ‘political or religious advertising’ content for use in its cinemas,” it said in a statement. “Some advertisements—unintentionally or otherwise—could cause offense to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith. In this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.”
The National Secular Society said that it agreed with the decision, opining that the Church of England was “arrogant” to place the prayer in front of a captive audience.
But the Equality and Human Rights Commission decried the ban.
“Digital Cinema Media said an advert could cause offense to those of differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK. What is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder,” it said.