A Muslim in Sydney came up recently with what he purportedly thought would be a great way to foster understanding between Muslims and Christians. He established an organisation called MyPeace and commissioned some billboards that proclaimed that Jesus was a prophet of Islam. If he was looking for publicity he sure got some. If he was looking for a response from Christians he sure got that. In fact there were two different kinds of responses he got. I like one and I don’t care for the other.
It wasn’t long before the billboards were vandalised. Whoever did that pulled off an epic fail.
Some Christians decided to appeal to the Advertising Standards Bureau on the grounds that the billboards discriminate and vilify. The ASB found against that complaint. There was another response which I think is intelligent and a great model of how to respond in an entrepreneurial fashion in these situations. Ian Powell commissioned his own billboard:
The poster was linked to a website called Aussie Christians where Muslims are invited to ‘continue the conversation’. A prominent statement on the home page states:
“Welcome. Especially if you’re an Aussie Muslim. Not just because the Gospel of Jesus teaches us to love others. But also because we’d love you to know Jesus better.”
Shortly afterwards Powell participated in a conversation between himself and the man behind the Muslim billboards Diaa Mohammed. The conversation also included humanist Dick Gross (Godless Gross – National Press) on the topic of Religion & Extremism.
Ian Powell has also appeared on the Sunrise program on Channel 7 to discuss his poster and initiative.
I like this approach. It’s entrepreneurial in that it takes advantage of an opportunity. It’s engaging, in that rather than shouting slogans across the barricades it invites conversation and engagement. It’s informative, as it helps straighten out the facts.
David Penberthy writing in The Punch doesn’t like either. Penberthy is the editor on chief of news.com.au and also The Punch. If his article is anything to go by Penberthy is your stock-in-trade secularist. His article ‘Free to believe in God and free to keep quite about it’ argues that “Diaa Mohammed and his mates simply haven’t wrapped their heads around Australia. And it’s this: most Australians are very firmly of the view that you are free to follow any religion you like, and that you are also free to shut up about it.”
Obtusely he cites wedding statistics “Almost two-thirds of all wedding ceremonies are now conducted by celebrants.” to pad out his assertion of a secular Australia. His final parting wish will no doubt not be granted “The polite message for Diaa Mohammed and his chums is that we are really happy for you that you’ve found your God, and can you please now stop bothering us about it.”. Read the whole of Penberthy’s rant here. (You will not get that 2 minutes of your life back again though.)
Well done Ian Powell, we need more of you.