British government to launch "anti-extremism" campaign in Pakistan

Other News Materials 10 February 2009 21:53 (UTC +04:00)

The British government has hired prominent Muslims for a publicly-funded TV advertising campaign aimed at preventing young people in Pakistan from engaging in extremist activity, the Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday, dpa reported.

It said the three-month public relations offensive, called I Am the West, consists of television commercials and high-profile events in regions such as Peshawar and Mirpur.

It is being funded by the Foreign Office, which is paying up to 400,000 pounds (596,000 dollars) for a pilot project due to be launched on Pakistani TV next Monday.

According to the report, British communities minister Sadiq Khan, Jehangir Malik, the UK manager of Islamic Relief, English cricketer Moeen Ali and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Chaudry Abdul Rashid, will take part in the project.

According to a synopsis, the target audience is 15-25-year-old males who are "less than well-educated and worldly wise, but potentially susceptible to extremist doctrines," said the Guardian.

If the project is successful, it will be repeated in Egypt, Yemen and Indonesia.

The original proposal to the Foreign Office came from Deen International, an organization set up specifically for the project and headed by Khurshid Ahmed, chairman of the British Muslim Forum.

Ahmed told the Guardian that the idea arose from the attempted terrorist attacks on Glasgow airport in June, 2007.

"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," he said.

The pilot projects involves nine 30-second television commercials, supported by radio commercials, scheduled across a number of channels, including PTV, Geo TV and Khyber, which is specific to the Peshwari area.

The central theme of I Am the West is to assert that there is no contradiction in being a Muslim and being British.

"Muslims are equally proud of being both and certainly espouse the belief that violent extremism is not propagated in their name," the synopsis says.

The campaign has four key aims: to ensure Pakistanis realize the west is not "anti-Islamic", that British society is not "anti-Islam", to demonstrate the extent to which Muslims are integrated into British society and to stimulate and facilitate "constructive debate" on the compatibility of liberal and Muslim values, said the Guardian.