We have learnt that the Ahmadi community in the United Kingdom have had their right to free expression curtailed once again.
The online site, Christian Today, mentioned the following in their article about the obstructions that were put in front of the Ahmadi community in their recent campaign. Their site stated:
“An email template seen by Christian Today and sent to Ahmadi opponents claimed ‘the billboard incites hatred, it is deeply offensive and hurtful to millions of British citizens’. The email urges other Muslims to write to the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency), the Metropolitan Police and the Charity Commission asking them to take the billboards down”.
Following on from this, Farooq Aftab, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, contacted Faith Matters and said, “We had booked a number of digital billboards with Primesight for our ‘Messiah Has Come’ Campaign. Initially you will recall that we started with Glasgow earlier in the year but due to complaints by Muslims they took off. After the ASA said there was no offence committed they were restarted.”
He went onto say:
“In the past few weeks we booked a number of billboards which Primesight, (the billboard advertising agency), recommended to us. Inadvertently one was near Birmingham mosque which we were not aware of. Due to complaints, particularly from some Muslims in the area, the billboards were taken down and also in locations such as Barnet, Lambeth, Leeds and Birmingham.
“When we contacted the company we were told that they were taken down because of ‘security’. In one instance we were told that when the Merton billboards were being put up, the person putting them up was threatened, so he stopped. When asked why the police had not been informed of this, there was no response”.
Aftab also spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of Primesight and was told that they had taken down the billboards after complaints and he was challenged by Aftab that the basic beliefs of the Ahmadi community were not being respected and they had to right to advertise a peaceful message since they were not harming anyone. He even suggested that other Muslims could put up billboards saying that the ‘Messiah has not come’.
Aftab also showed Faith Matters Whatsapp messages that had been circulating which included the following text:
“Salam everyone. We have managed to speak to the advertising agency regarding the Ahmadiyya sign boards in Birmingham and they have promised to remove ASAP. But at the same time they have asked members of the Muslim community to visit their website and log their complain. Can I request all of you to visit this website and forward it to your contacts to act immediately. www.primesight.co.uk”
Aftab finally stated the following:
“The True Islam Campaigns purpose is to educate people on the true and peaceful teachings of Islam as practised by the Holy Prophet, Muhammad. The Billboard Campaign, ‘The Messiah Has Come’ aims to educate the public on the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Ahmadi Muslims believe in the finality of prophethood in accordance with the Holy Quran and the sayings and practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and to suggest otherwise is incorrect. Every individual and group has the right to manifest and profess their faith and to curb this would not only be a breach of basic human rights but contrary to the values of freedom of speech and expression which we cherish in this country.
“Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are Muslims and the community in the UK is one of the oldest and well integrated in society, contributing at all levels and has not had one incident of radicalisation or extremism. It is clearly doing something right. Further, it is not for states, authorities or organisations to interfere in religious matters. There needs to be a clear separation of State and Church so to speak, otherwise we will go down a very slippery slope with groups or people trying to monopolise religion. No one can determine someone’s faith. This is a matter between God and the individual and the hallmark of a pluralistic and democratic society.”