Great Britistan? Anger as Train Board Hijacked to Preach Islam

Britain’s state-owned rail company found itself in hot water after one of its stations in London displayed an Islamic message on one of its signs as part of its Ramadan celebrations. The message called for “sinners” to repent.

Passengers posted photos of the message on social media. The sign at King’s Cross Station in London showed a hadith: "Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of the sinners are those who repent often.” 

Although the reactions to the sign were mixed, the religious saying caught passengers by surprise. It even triggered warnings that Network Rail, the United Kingdom’s public railway stations company, risked “generating resentment” with the Ramadan message. 

The Islamic message was displayed on March 19th, the ninth day of Ramadan. Alongside the “hadith of the day,” the sign also showed “fajr” and “maghrib,” which are the sunrise and sunset times for prayer in Islam.

In response to the criticisms it received, Network Rail said the company was marking the Islamic month of Ramadan, which started last March 10th and would end on April 9th for 2024.

King’s Cross station is made up of a diverse and multicultural workforce, and at times of religious significance, messages such as these are displayed to celebrate the station’s diversity and inclusivity,” the company said.

However, the company also said the message has been removed from the main train departure board, adding that it shouldn’t have been shown on the sign. It is also investigating why "general Ramadan celebratory messages weren't used” on the board.

Throughout the year, messaging at the station also celebrates festivals from other religions, including Easter, Christmas, Passover, and Diwali, to mark the beliefs of our colleagues and passengers.” Network Rail said. 

However, a spokesperson for Network Rail also said that “our main departure board should be reserved for train information and our general Ramadan celebratory messages weren't used for some reason, which we're looking into,” adding that "all has now been corrected."

Some welcomed the messages, which had been posted on other days of Ramadan at King’s Cross, with The Islam Channel telling its followers on X (formerly known as Twitter) that "the beauty of Ramadan in unexpected places.

"A Ramadan hadith spotted at King's Cross Station reminds us of the blessings and wisdom this holy month brings." It also added. 

However, others were not pleased with the station’s choice of message. The Humanists UK posted a statement on social media saying that train stations "should not be urging 'sinners' to repent.

"It is obviously inappropriate and profoundly misjudged to broadcast hadiths or any religious scripture at passengers. We will write to the transport secretary to outline our concerns,"  the campaign group said. 

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society (NSS), described the incident as “at best it’s a well-meaning yet misguided and counterproductive attempt at inclusivity,” arguing that it could trigger a race for other religions to also have their religious messages shown in the train boards with similar prominence. 

Religious messages like this undermine the principle of neutrality. Maintaining such neutrality in public spaces and services is the best way of nurturing a fair, harmonious, or inclusive society that respects all individuals, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds,” Evans added.

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