Muslim lifestyle magazine goes mainstream

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The Independent Online

Until now, Emel has only been available in specialist Muslim bookshops but, from today, it will go on sale alongside mainstream fashion and lifestyle magazines in WH Smith, Tesco, Asda, Borders and Waterstones. The magazine - whose name sounds like the letters "M" and "L", standing for "Muslim Life" and resembles the Arabic word for "hope", has so far relied on word of mouth to attract new readers. It has now commissioned its first television commercial and is planning a billboard poster campaign.

Sarah Joseph, the editor, founded Emel with her husband in 2003 after she found herself "firefighting" on behalf of British Muslims as tensions rose after the 11 September attacks. In the wake of the London bombings in July, Mrs Joseph, who was awarded an OBE last year for services to "interfaith dialogue", says it is vital to explain the positive aspects of Islam to non-Muslims.

A Roman Catholic who converted to Islam at the age of 16, she is well positioned to explain the religion to outsiders. Emel has a print run of 20,000 and 3,000 subscribers. While Mrs Joseph hopes the relaunch will boost sales, she is more concerned to show a side of Islam that is often forgotten in the furore over terrorism. "At this time, when there is so much focus on the Muslim community, often from very negative angles, everyone is asking, 'Do they belong? Where's their loyalty?' It's really important to show everyday Muslims, the ordinary faith of ordinary people.

"If Muslims are living in isolation, scared that no one wants to engage with them, it's not healthy for our society. The Muslim is the new 'other' and we need to reduce fear and tension," she said.