Monday, 12 November 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Leicester student's t-shirts challenging views about Muslims are a global hit
When medical student Umair Khan started making slogan T-shirts to challenge negative views about Muslims, he did not expect more than a few orders in the UK.
But his idea proved so popular it is now a global business, with orders coming in from Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, America, Australia, Canada and across Europe.
The T-shirts have slogans which aim to convey positive messages about Islam, such as "Terrorism Hijacked My Religion", "I'm a Tourist, Not a Terrorist", and "Islam – 0% APR", in reference to the interest-free ideology of Islamic banking.
The demand for the T-shirts has been so great Umair's Design Molvi business, which started as a four-person team in the UK, has opened a second office in Pakistan.
Umair, who is in his final year of a medical degree at the University of Leicester, said he was amazed and pleased at how successful the business had become.
The 23-year-old, who lives in Scraptoft, Leicester, said: "It's such a contemporary topic.
"We are trying to challenge those stereotypes."
Umair, who was born in Pakistan and moved to the UK 11 years ago, said: "When we started, we were just thinking we would sell them in the UK.
"But people started to ask if we could ship to this country, then another and suddenly we were getting orders from all over the world.
"It was a pleasant surprise and very encouraging."
Umair's project was helped with a bursary from Enterprise Inc, which gives students or recent graduates looking to start a business in the East Midlands up to £2,500 in funding and business start-up support.
He is keeping the project in the family, with his brother and co-founder, Ammar, setting up operations in Pakistan and their cousin, Ibrahim, marketing the product.
Volunteers have been brought on board to help with social media and design.
Following the success of the T-shirts, the company has launched a line of hats, bibs and other baby clothes.
Umair said he wanted to add mobile phone covers and accessories within the next year.
Although Umair plans to pursue a career in medicine once he finishes his degree, he said he was keen to keep going with Design Molvi in his own time.
He said: "I am passionate about both. It's just about time management and delegation."
Irene Zempi, a tutor at the University of Leicester's department of criminology, has published research on hate crime towards veiled Muslim women.
She said the T-shirts were an effective way of challenging people's misconceptions.
"Design Molvi is a very innovative way to tackle Islamophobia," she said.
"It is refreshing and encouraging to see students addressing anti-Muslim prejudice in such an intelligent manner.
"This idea is inspiring and, hopefully, it will contribute into dispelling myths surrounding Islam and Muslims."

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