Should Christians be offended by 'Praise Allah' bus ads?

Islamic Relief'Subhan Allah' means 'Glory to Allah' or 'praise Allah'. Allah is the Arabic word for God.

Buses adorned with slogan "Subhan Allah", which means "praise Allah", will appear around the UK over Ramadan next month.

The campaign by the UK's biggest Muslim charity, Islamic Relief, is aimed at British Muslims at a time when many fast during daylight hours and give money to charity.

Comparisons have immediately been made by a number of Christian commentators to the Church of England's 'Just Pray' advert, which was banned by a number of the UK's biggest cinema chains.

Former Conservative MP and chair of the pro-Brexit group Christians for Britain, Ann Widdecombe, said: "If other religions are allowed to put their religious banners up, then so should Christians."

Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said the discrepency between allowing Muslim adverts while banning Christian ones highlighted the absurdity of political correctness.

She said: "Britain is a Christian country and we Christians need to find our voice.

"If we are allowing these adverts for Islam, then we need to give the Christians far more freedom to express themselves."

But it's not a simple dichotomy. Christian Today spoke to Martin Cottingham, the head of communications at Islamic Relief. Cottingham is also a Christian.

He told Christian Today: "not one of my Muslim colleagues said they were offended by the [Lord's Prayer] ad".

He added: "Some welcomed advertising about the importance of prayer, and did not believe the ad should be banned."

Asked about the "praise Allah" bus campaign, Cottingham said he saw parallels with Christian-based charities running campaigns at Christmas time.

"This is a fundraising appeal aimed at the Islamic community at a time when Muslims are particularly generous," he said. Islamic Relief aims to raise more than £11 million this year, up to half of which is expected to be raised around Ramadan.

Cottingham told Christian Today that as a faith based organisation, its aim was to help those who are less fortunate.

"It is a common thread within all Abrahamic faiths," he said.

"Although the organisation is inspired by Islam, its practices are humanitarian. It is not a proselytising organisation, it is a humanitarian one that seeks to help people without discrimination to faith."

The bus advertisement campaign will launch on May 23 with posters on 180 buses in London for two weeks, ahead of Ramadan's start on June 7. It will then return for the last two weeks of the fast on June 20 with 180 buses in London and 460 more in Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and Bradford. 

The decision to ban the Lord's Prayer advert was made by the cinema chains because of its religious content. However Transport for London has responsibility for adverts in London. It chooses to ban slogans linked to a "political party or political cause" but does not ban religious advertising.

Lifestyle