‘Your Neighbourhood Muslim’ social media campaign for liberals to speak up

Kolkata, Oct 13 (IANS) Assailed by questions on their stand on incidents of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam, a group of Muslims in the eastern metropolis has initiated a social media campaign that profiles ordinary Muslims and offers a platform to “liberal” members of the community to assert that “Muslims are like people of other communities, no different”.

The campaign — Your Neighbourhood Muslim — was prompted by “persistent” questions such as, “What are the liberal Muslims doing about the blasts by terrorists in the name of their religion”.

“Somewhere between the radicals of all communities, it is the liberals who are getting marginalised and polarised. This is no different for Muslims as well. This is a counter as well as a fight-back for the liberals to get their voice heard,” environmentalist Mudar Patherya said.

“The core of this idea is that we Muslims are like people of other communities, no different. Peace-loving. Faithful to their country. Integrated with other communities. And we figured that the best way to communicate this — ‘we are no different’ — was through simple profiles,” states the initiative’s Facebook page.

The communication “deliberately revolves” around the “much-misapplied and much-misunderstood” word ‘jihad’. The Arabic noun implies the act of ‘striving, applying oneself, struggling or persevering’.

For example, a black-and-white photograph of Sheikh Salim, a motorcycle repair specialist, proclaims “My jihad is to make every inefficient bike move like silk again”.

Similarly, Iftekhar Ahsan, who organises the ‘Calcutta Walks’ tours of the city, announced in a Facebook post that his jihad is “to preserve every single heritage brick of Kolkata”.

The word ‘jihad’ here stands out in bright blue.

“The word has a very positive connotation. It is now never used in a positive connotation,” highlighted Pathreya, Chief Positioning Officer, Trisys Communications.

“So this is what our communication does. It humanises Muslims. The big message: the Muslim is not just a citizen; the Muslim is an asset,” the campaign emphasises.

“It gives liberal Muslims a voice. I think it’s time those who are liberal, who are universal, who are inclusive, speak up,” added Abdul Rahim of Sirri Saqti Foundation.



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