UK: Muslim 'Live 8' for Darfur

Music concert promoting peace fundraising at Wembley Arena expected to attract crowd of 12,000.

A peace concert in London Sunday aims to focus British Muslims on the bloody conflict in Darfur but also symbolises efforts to unite the community amid widespread suspicion of Islam here, organisers say.

"This is really something monumental, it has never been done before," said Sami Yusuf, a 27-year-old British star who often sings about Islam and is due to top the bill at Wembley Arena in north-west London.

Although he has not yet cracked the charts here, Yusuf is highly popular among young Muslims worldwide and has a fan base from Bangladesh to Britain's second-largest city of Birmingham in west central England.

More needs to be done on Darfur because "this is an issue between Muslims, Muslims killing Muslims, some people think it's shameful that people haven't really stood up," he said.

"This is a great opportunity for British Muslims to really do something."

Jehangir Malik, from British charity Islamic Relief, said when launching the event in August that he wanted to see "our own equivalent of Live 8" -- the series of worldwide concerts organised ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 calling for increased aid to poor countries.

All profits from the event will go to Islamic Relief to help fund its work in Darfur.

Sami Yusuf's record label, Awakening, says that they are expecting a capacity crowd of 12,000 for the concert.

Like him, the other artists taking part combine music with faith.

Outlandish, a Danish hip-hop outfit featuring Muslims and Christians, are appearing, as is Kareem Salama, a Muslim American country singer, who poses in a Stetson hat on the cover of his latest album.

Canadian stars The Sound Of Reason and Hamza Robertson, a young English convert to Islam, are also on the bill.

The event also has official support -- the Foreign Office helped to organise a trip for Sami Yusuf and celebrities to visit refugee camps in Darfur earlier this year.

A message from Prime Minister Gordon Brown is due to be played at the venue before the concert starts, as well as one from the leader of the main opposition Conservatives, David Cameron.

The United Nations says that some 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced as a result of the conflict in Darfur, which has been going on for over four years.

Sami Yusuf hopes that the event will help alleviate the suffering as well as countering the often negative presentation of Islam in some sections of the British media.

"I'm really happy of what is happening with this event, of all the media attention," he said.

Another group, "Islam Is Peace", is also seeking to improve perceptions of Muslims in Britain.

Formed in the wake of the London suicide bombings in 2005 in which 52 innocent people were killed, the volunteer network tries to counter perceptions of a link between Islam and violence.

For its most recent campaign, it has paid for advertisements bearing the slogan "Proud To Be A British Muslim" to appear on the London Underground and on buses in the city.

These feature a picture of a female police officer wearing a veil and a former television cookery presenter who is Muslim. The campaign was launched during Ramadan.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has also played his part -- for Eid, the festival marking the end of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he organised a free concert in Trafalgar Square on Saturday with music and comedy to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims.

There are around a million and a half Muslims in Britain but according to an opinion poll in 2006, 53 percent of Britons believe that Islam threatens Western democracy.

Source: Middle East News (English)

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