Underwear ad angers London Muslims

London: An advertisement for women’s underwear on a billboard near a mosque in Bradford has enraged Muslims in the city. The ad for Sloggi G-strings, which features four women’s bottoms, is at the centre of a campaign that threatens to spread across the UK.

“It is no longer just about the Muslim community or a mosque. I have received complaints from people of various communities who find these ads just as offensive. It is insulting to us as people and to women in particular,” Mr Sher Azam, president of the Council of Mosques, told The Asian Age from Bradford on Friday. Besides Triumph Internationals Sloggi underwear range, there have been growing complaints about graphic advertisements with posters and billboards vandalised by protesters across Bradford, Britain’s largest Muslim-dominated region. An advertisement for Velvet toilet paper, which featured a variety of euphemistically described bottoms with the slogan “Love Your Bum,” had triggered a massive uproar last year but was deemed acceptable by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority.

“We had received nearly 375 complaints nationwide in connection with Velvet tissues but we found the ad did not breach the basic criteria of likely to cause serious or widespread offence. The complaints against Sloggi G-strings started pouring in late last year and we ruled that in the context of the product they were advertising the ads were acceptable. However, we have received a fresh set of complaints and we are looking into the matter again,” Ms Donna Mitchell, spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority, said, adding that it is likely the location of the billboards would come in for specific investigation. “What we might do in this context is write to the company about concerns over placing these ads near mosques, temples or schools. The community could also contact their local contractor or advertiser as they are usually sympathetic to such concerns,” she added.

Triumph International was taken by surprise with the reaction to its billboards. “We obviously did not wish to willingly upset any groups and our apologies to anyone who was offended. But the billboard campaign was scheduled only for a few weeks in March and the posters should have been removed by now or in the process of being removed,” company spokesperson Sue Loder said. But Mr Azam dismissed this as a temporary solution and insisted the protest is not restricted to particular ads or locations. “Such offensive advertising must be regulated on a national level and if self-regulatory methods are not working, the government needs to look into stricter legislation. We have encouraged people to write letters to the company and the ASA but we are not looking for a quick-fix solution,” he said.

“The ASA ruling on Sloggi G-strings is expected next week but the issue threatens to acquire a larger dimension if the Muslim Council of Britain is forced to take action. So far we have not received too many complaints but if people are insensitive enough to have such ads near religious places, it is bound to offend the community,” MCB spokesperson Inayat Bunglawala said.

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