Merton buses have been used to spread a Muslim message of peace. These buses will be travelling all over London.
By Ima Jackson-Obot
MUSLIM messages of Loyalty, Freedom and Peace have emblazoned buses in Merton, in an ongoing campaign that has tried to catch the community’s attention.
Organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association to promote Islam as a peaceful religion, posters of the group’s motto, “Love For All Hatred For None” covered buses.
It was set to end last week, but has been extended due to its alleged success, measured by the large volume of supportive phone calls and website hits received.
Terri Henry, staff at Lonsdales Florists, Wimbledon, thought that a bus campaign alone is not enough to change people’s views on Islam.
She said: “I think that ignorance breeds fear and a one to one approach is more likely to create an impact.”
This promotion is part of a ten-year national initiative that started in January in Central London, to change the misconception surrounding Islam.
Press spokesman, Mahmood Rafiq said: “In the news, Islam is always linked with bombings and terrorism.
“We are hoping to educate and inform people through engaging with them, and in turn, they will find out more about us.”
Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has also received local and national political support for their campaign.
St Helier Ward Councillor Maxi Martin said: “I believe in whatever can be done to get a message of love across to counteract the actions of a few who stand outside of what Islam means.
“I think it’s a brilliant campaign. I’ve never met such a peaceful community of beautiful people who honestly live by what they say and work on loving people.”
A Wimbledon businessman who didn’t want to be named liked the idea but thought that Islam had been twisted so much that it would be difficult to go back to how things were.
“It’s as if a siege mentality has developed in the UK because people are scared about mass immigration and the recession.”
However, another Merton resident who didn’t want to be named, thought that Islam was not a peaceful religion and felt that British way of life was being eroded away.
“A lot of people feel the way I do. We’re a Christian country and they’re trying to take over.”
Mr Rafiq said the group understands that changing public perception is a slow process and they do not expect results overnight, nor do they have any intention of stopping.
They are one of several Muslim community groups in the borough, yet they are solely driving the campaign and have not received feedback, positive or otherwise from other Muslim groups.
“All our projects and initiatives are open to all – Muslims, other faiths, no faith groups,” Mr Rafiq added.
After the bus promotion has finished in Merton, the group will continue to build long-term relationships with the community, through ongoing interaction.
These include leaflet drops, neighbourhood watch meetings, litter pickings and four weeks ago a blood drive held at The Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden, was attended by 180 people.
The campaign will continue non-stop in and around London, with the next phases planned for Croydon and its surrounding area.