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UK in advert campaign to improve image in Pakistan

Posted: 2009-02-10
From: MNN
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Prominent British Muslims are being recruited to star in a government-backed advertising campaign aimed at improving the UK`s image in Pakistan.

London, Feb 10, IRNA -- The three-month public relations offensive, called I Am the West and funded by the Foreign Office, consists of television commercials and high-profile events in regions such as Peshawar and Mirpur.

According to the Guardian newspaper, among those starring in the first three adverts are Communities Minister Sadiq Khan, UK manager of Islamic Relief Jehangir Malik, Lord Mayor of Birmingham Chaudry Abdul Rashid (pictured) and English cricketer Moeen Ali.

The central theme of the I Am the West series is to assert there is no contradiction in being a Muslim and being British. It involves nine 30-second television commercials, supported by radio adverts, scheduled across a number of channels, including PTV, Geo TV and Khyber, which is specific to the Peshwari area.

The synopsis, which has counter-terrorism undertones, is that "Muslims are equally proud of being both and certainly espouse the belief that violent extremism is not propagated in their name."

The key aims were to be to ensure Pakistanis realise the west is not "anti-Islamic", that British society is not "anti-Islam", to demonstrate the extent to which Muslims are integrated into UK society and to stimulate and facilitate "constructive debate" on the compatibility of liberal and Muslim values.

The Guardian said the target audience is 15-25-year-old males who are "less than well-educated and worldly wise, but potentially susceptible to extremist doctrines." If successful, the pilot will be extended to Egypt, Yemen and Indonesia.

The 750,000-member Pakistani community, which retains strong links with their homeland, is the second largest ethnic minority group in the UK after Indians.

According to Khurshid Ahmed, chair of the British Muslim Forum, the idea for the public relations exercise arose from the attempted terrorist attack on Glasgow airport two years ago even though it was carried out by a UK-born Iraqi doctor and an Indian, who died in the attack.

"I did a number of visits to Pakistan to look at attitudes. Levels of hostility were increasing and there was lots of misunderstanding about how the situation was being described in the media out there," said Ahmed, who is Pakistani himself.
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