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UK Muslims Hand Out Roses to PM, Public

LONDON – A group of British Muslims paid a special visit to the government headquarters in 10 Downing Street on Saturday, December 17, to promote peace and dispel stereotypes about Islam, delivering roses to the Prime Minister as part of an international campaign for integration.

“Unfortunately in the current climate of fear, the true message of Islam has been lost,” Abdur Rehman Tobin, a coordinator for As-Siraat, an Islamic organization in the UK promoting peace and unity, told Al-Jazeera.

“We give out roses and cards offering messages of peace. It gives an opportunity for people to talk to Muslims and ask questions and find out more to remove any misconceptions.”

The visit, organized by As-Siraat, is part of Engagement2030 campaign created by the group to promote peace and unity.

The worldwide campaign saw Muslims from all over the world holding similar events during the initiative that started on December 5, giving out roses and chocolates in their local communities and spreading the meaning of peace in Islam.

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Participants from more than 125 locations around the world were also involved.

On Saturday, the campaign culminated with the visit to 10 Downing Street where the delegation presented roses and a card for the prime minister.

British Muslims also handed out roses as a gesture of peace to the public.

The initiative was praised by Councilor of the London Borough of Newham Obaid Khan, who was at Downing Street, calling it a “fantastic initiative” that drew and an overwhelmingly positive response.

“A rose is a symbol of peace and love. Let’s hope in this festive period that we can spread peace through giving,” said Khan.

David Bowers, an American tourist who visited Downing Street with his family on Saturday, also praised the initiative.

“There are not too many Muslims where I live so there are many people in the states, including myself, who have seen the news reports and quite frankly did not have a good impression. The overall perception of Muslims in the West has generally been one that is negative,” he said.

“But I can see really nice, warm and friendly Muslims here. Perhaps the perceptions we have had may change.”

The initiative to hand out roses comes amid rising anti-Muslim sentiments across Europe and US.

Even before the Brexit vote, anti-Muslim incidents rose by 326% in the space of a year, according to a report from the group Tell Mama.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million, mainly from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin, according to 2011 statistics.