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Models and consumer products lose advertising space to religious messages

By Shaheryar Mirza

The Muslim Awareness Programme has put about ten billboards in some areas of the city, including DHA and Clifton. The main theme of the messages is women’s rights. PHOTO: COURTESY MUSLIM AWARENESS PROGRAMME

KARACHI: In Karachi, it is impossible to escape the presence of advertisements, which often times feature beautiful women trying to persuade people into buying a beauty product, ice-cream or even furniture. But lately, there is a new type of advertisement that has been cropping up across the city and the only product being promoted in them is Islamic knowledge.

The Muslim Awareness Programme has started putting up billboards with excerpts from the Holy Quran as well as Hadith in Defence Housing Authority, Clifton, Nursery and Shahra-e-Faisal. “A good man treats women with honour,” reads one of the signs while another says, “When immodesty prevails, another disease prevails.” Yet another states “the prophet (saw) never hit a woman.”

At the moment, there are about ten billboards around the city as well as pylons in Zamzama. The awareness group, which comes under the AlWasila Trust and is funded by donations, aims to spread the message all over the city.

“There is social illness in our community and immodesty on our billboards as well as our TV [screens]. I wanted to spread the message that this is wrong. The programme also aims to motivate people and give [them] authentic knowledge about Islam,” said the founding member of the trust, Asim Ismail.

Recently, another unknown group started putting up billboards that lambasted the fashion industry for its ‘vulgar’ advertisements. “We are not trying to point fingers at anyone or telling people to stop lawn exhibitions,” said the project manager of the programme, Humaira Iqbal. “There are many people who will be happy to see [our signs] but others might be offended because they disagree. We don’t want to insult people.”

The choice of excerpts is interesting because the average person will not be able to tell whether the awareness group falls into the liberal, moderate or conservative fold of Islam. The group itself doesn’t like to fit into any one of these categories.

“Labelling becomes risky and we basically just teach the Quran and Sunnah,” said Ismail. He feels that though there is a lot out there about Islam, he is trying to put forward a side of it that doesn’t get much promotion.

At the moment, the awareness group’s main theme is women’s rights and in Ramadan, it will focus on motivational quotes and information about the holy month. Iqbal and Ismail both say that they avoid picking sayings that are open to interpretation and select those which no one can deny are a part of the religion.

When questioned that the signs may come across as preachy, Iqbal said, “We aren’t trying to convince people and we’ll have a healthy approach to criticism.”

He added that they have been missing out on an important medium in using the media for spreading their message and this innovative campaign, though costly, can be effective in drawing awareness for their cause

Express Tribune