Sarah Khan, London
Everyone loves a good slogan. The holy grail of all marketing and advertising executives, a short phrase that will stick in the mind and be associated with their product or association. Some slogans are amusing little word plays, others become memorable for decades. Simply think ‘Just do it’ by Nike or ‘I’m lovin’ it’ by McDonalds. These are simple, effective messages that translate across cultures and languages becoming truly global in their reach. The key requirements of a good slogan are that they should be memorable, should send a positive message and should distinguish your ‘brand’ from others in the same field. But just sometimes, slogans come to mean something more, conveying something beyond the simple words they contain.
The growth of Twitter and social media has seen the rising power of the hashtag. Thousands, sometimes millions of people, rally behind a cause and show their solidarity through a shared expression. In recent years we have seen how hashtags have the power to fuel social change. #Icantbreath or #bringbackourgirls for example caught the attention of world leaders although they started from a grass roots level.
In the sphere of my life I have grown up with a slogan that was coined before the internet age; a simple message with a deep meaning and one which I hope translates into concrete behaviour and is not just words. The slogan ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ was coined by the third head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, while in Spain for the laying of the foundation stone of the Basharat Mosque. It was in response to concerns of the people there but also came at a time when the Community was facing severe persecution. Homes and businesses had been looted within Pakistan and the situation was dire with riots being held in many places and some Ahmadi Muslims losing their life in the calamities. Instead of taking forceful action or reacting to violence with physical force the then Khalifah urged all Ahmadi people to turn to prayer and it was in this atmosphere that the slogan took hold. During a need to find peace, to find spiritual strength at a time of trial, it was a unifying and beautiful beacon of hope shining in a time of fear and concern.
Since that time more than 40 years ago, the slogan has been adopted into the hearts of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It is displayed on banners and posters at all of our events whether they be in rural Africa or Urban America. It is emblazoned on badges, t-shirts, bumper stickers and much more. This slogan has come to serve two main purposes; it reminds Ahmadi Muslims to be correct in their approach to everyone and it serves to tell guests in a quick and digestible manner a fundamental core principle of our faith.
With the growth of extremism and terrorism, the impact of this slogan has become more pronounced upon visitors and guests who come across our Community. At peace forums and annual gatherings, the message makes a deep impression on people’s hearts and immediately indicates to them that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not of those creating unrest and violence in the world. I have even seen this impact first hand.
A couple of years ago I was travelling to our annual convention in Hampshire by train from London. A man boarded the train along the route with his teenage companion. As he entered the carriage he looked around at the veiled women and Muslim men, many of whom sported beards. He swore loudly, claiming this wasn’t Iraq, and then continued down the train to another section. Within a few minutes he returned, face slightly downcast. He hadn’t realised that the train was full of similar people and he had nowhere to escape from them. He stood in front of me and my young children for several stops, looking uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how volatile he was and I did not want to provoke any disturbance so I kept quiet and he for his part uttered no further abuse. However, during that journey my children and I were wearing our I.D. badges with a neck chain emblazoned with the phrase ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ and I noticed this man observing people all around him sported these words in one form or the other. I don’t know what impact this slogan had upon that particular man but I know I felt relief and humble pride that I was wearing my badge that day. The slogan spoke for me and indicated my beliefs far better than any argument or confrontation could ever have done. I realised then the power of words to convey beauty through silence.
This is why you may see this slogan emblazoned on buses across the UK from time to time and from tomorrow on buses in Glasgow and other Scottish cities. The campaign focus is ‘United Against Extremism’ and it has been undertaken to publically declare our stand as Muslims against violence or extremism of any nature. In the wake of the tragic murder of Asad Shah last month, Scotland showed that it is indeed a place where communities can stand united against intolerance. The support of locals for the family and the neighbouring Ahmadi Community was heart-warming for those of us even in far-flung places of the globe to witness. When so many members of our Community live in fear of physical and verbal attacks due to their faith, the solidarity shown by the locals is an act of kindness which touches the hearts of many.
However, while the bus banners will only be around for a few weeks, we, as Ahmadi Muslims, hope that the true meaning of our slogan will continue long after the campaign. Speaking in 2014, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said that the slogan ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ could ‘make it clear to the world that Islam teaches love, peace and kindness and it is not correct to associate cruelty and viciousness with the faith of Islam. We employ this slogan to signify that we wish to live together by breaking down walls of hatred. When we serve humanity in any way at all or when we disseminate the message of Islam we do so because we have love for every person in the world and we wish to remove hatred from each heart and instead sow the seeds of love’.
With such a lofty ideal, and such a memorable slogan, backed by concrete actions there is a hope that Muslims and non-Muslims can indeed unite and put out the fires of extremism with the compassion of love.