Calm down dear…it’s only a cartoon…or is it?

As those of you who follow me on Twitter (@GleamingRazor) will be aware the last few days have been rather eventful to say the least. I’ve become enmeshed in a more peaceful (no arson or killings reported as yet), localised version of the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy. Thus far for the most it’s been played out online on social media but as mainstream media outlets pick up on the story and with some Muslims planning to raise the issue in mosques at Friday prayers later this week it may well assume much greater proportions depending upon the response of local communities.

In brief the controversy centers upon the tweeting of an image from the online “Jesus and Mo” (@JandMo) comic series. 10 days ago Maajid Nawaz, the Liberal Democrat party parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn constituency decided to publish an image from the aforementioned series on his twitter account. The particular picture, eponymously titled “Jesus and Mo” , depicted the two Prophets (peace be upon them) as comical caricatures of themselves greeting the reader with “Hey” and “How ya doin’?” (presumably in some sort of comical American accent) respectively. The tweet contained a short comment from Mr Nawaz asserting that the image was not offensive and that God was above feeling threatened by it. Last week whilst browsing Mr Nawaz’s timeline I noticed the offending tweet and  forwarded a screen shot of it on to a prominent northern based Muslim activist with a rapidly growing media profile. The rest as they say is history. The resulting ebullient debate has seen a hastily convened alliance of far-right sympathisers, ex-Muslims, athiests/humanists along with a few so-called ‘cultural Muslims’ mobilise in support of Mr Nawaz’s “right to free speech” against a growing number of Muslims expressing their distaste/disgust at the seemingly offensive and insensitive nature of Mr Nawaz’s act and his subsequent refusal to back down or apologise. An online petition launched four days ago, calling on the Liberal Democrat party to withdraw Maajid’s candidacy, has at the time of writing gathered some 16,000 signatures with a counter petition calling upon the party to come out in his support garnering less than 5,000. A handful of threatening tweets have been sent to Mr Nawaz as a result of this controversy with these being roundly condemned by activists on both sides although it would be remiss not to mention that Mr Nawaz has accused his lead antagonist of inciting his murder – a charge which the individual concerned strenuously denies.

I think the clearest way to expound my views on this controversy would be to list below the arguments of the pro-Nawaz camp (#TeamNawaz), individually deconstruct them before summarising the reasons why I believe the removal of Mr Nawaz as PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn is the right course of action and in the interests of good community relations. In summary the arguments in favour of Mr Nawaz’s actions and his continuance as a PPC for the Lib Dems are:

(i)                  The image is not offensive.

(ii)                Any sanction against him wound be a curtailment of his right to free speech and an imposition of Shariah law by stealth.

(iii)               Muslims need to stop being offended.

Mr Nawaz has repeatedly asserted that the image is not offensive. Well needless to say many, many Muslims would beg to differ and the reasons are manifold. First off Sunni Islam forbids ANY depiction of the Prophets (peace be upon them). Whilst Shi’ism permits it they are only ever drawn in a manner befitting their status as revered messengers of God. The obvious purpose of depicting them in the comical manner of “Jesus and Mo” is to vitiate that very same aura of respect and to reduce them to objects of laughter and ridicule. Furthermore Mr Nawaz’s offending tweet contained a link to the infamous comic series’ author; even a brief perusal of said publication quickly dispels any doubt as to it’s purpose and should the opinion of an “Islamist” not be good enough in this respect then I refer you to perhaps the best description of its contents emanating as it does from the Council of Ex-Muslims (assuming the comments on the site are authentic): “Blaspheming, heretical, filthy Hell fodder.”  Coming from someone raised in a Muslim household and who spent 14 years engaged in Islamic activism the idea that he couldn’t anticipate the widespread offense disseminating such an image (along with a link to the twitter account of the associated comic series’ author) could cause is incredulous. Whether he personally thinks it is inoffensive is largely irrelevant; the point is that someone who is running for public office must be seen to be receptive and sensitive to the views and sentiments of all segments of the community they seek to represent. Recently we witnessed the suspension by UKIP of one of their councillors who publically opined that the flooding witnessed in some parts of the UK over the past month was the result of divine displeasure over the legalisation of gay marriage. One wonders as to where the public outpouring of support was for Councillor David Silvester from the same liberals (with a lower case ‘l’) currently expressing outrage over the campaign to deselect Mr Nawaz.

The case of the UKIP councillor conveniently provides a bridge to the next argument in the #TeamNawaz arsenal and one which is frequently employed in right wing circles namely that Muslims are attempting to impose and enforce their values and religious laws upon Britain. The reality is that even if this were the case there would still be nothing to worry about as it is not just British law that provides for freedom of speech and expression but also European human rights legislation. These rights are regarded as sacrosanct and non-negotiable by every Member of Parliament across the entire political spectrum as well as by the overwhelming majority of British society. Whether 5% of the population (and I doubt it’s even that) would prefer blasphemy against Islam and the publication of sacrilegious images banned by law is neither here nor there but does provide some with a useful smokescreen with which to obfuscate the real issue – the unseemly conduct of a prospective member of parliament. The law of the land is made by Parliament and as such there is precious little chance of Shariah law being introduced any time soon – no matter how loud the clamour from a tiny subset of the Muslim community (itself only 5% of the entire population). Muslims as a whole are not calling for the curtailment of freedom of speech – even though many of us do not agree with the concept in an unrestricted sense – rather we are calling for those who would seek to represent us to conduct themselves in manner that engenders confidence in them and their political agenda. Again returning to the case of the unfortunate Mr Silvester it is worth noting that UKIP party leader Nigel Farage stated that the reason for his suspension was not his “strong Baptist view of the world” which he was entitled to but rather his defiance of a request not to give further media interviews. In other words while he respected his right to a viewpoint that millions might find offensive if he was going to represent the political party then he’d best advised to keep it to himself and not seek confrontation.

Lastly I turn my attention to the call for Muslims to stop being offended. For the sake of brevity I will restrict myself to saying that in a free society – which Britain is supposed to be – one is free to take offense as per their individual or collective inclination. It is not for anybody else to dictate or force upon another what he/she should or should not take offense at. Sure, Muslims as a collective do tend to take their religion more seriously than other religious groups but then that is perfectly acceptable in a pluralistic society. The handful of Muslims (and it is a handful) who go beyond peaceful discourse are duly dealt with by the police and the courts in the same manner as those small numbers from far right groups, animal rights group etc. are dealt with. The idea that the majority should force or coerce a minority to adopt their beliefs and mores runs contrary to the principles of the liberal secular state. So yes, while I do take offense at the image in question the reasons I want to see Mr Nawaz’s removal as a PPC go beyond the posting of a solitary picture.

So why should Mr Nawaz be deselected? For two reasons (I won’t  be including his questionable dress sense).  Firstly it doesn’t behove someone seeking election to public office to conduct themselves such a  brash, provocative manner and it would be disastrous for community cohesion if politicians were allowed to engage in such execrable behaviour without oversight and with a sense of impunity. His conduct with respect to this affair has been less than exemplary and in the wider context of his Quilliam organisation’s attempts to dictate an agenda of Islamic reform upon the Muslim community the idea of having such a character in the nation’s legislature with direct access to the corridors of power is a prospect that many Muslims would find unsettling if not terrifying.

When Mr Nawaz originally tweeted the offending image it’s telling to note that he didn’t state (at least not initially at any rate) it’s supposed inoffensiveness was his personal opinion rather he stated it categorically as if it were a matter of received fact with no room for question or debate. When some Muslims – most of whom were not scimitar waving paid up members of Al Qaeda – decided to question him upon his provocative behaviour instead of constructively engaging with them his response was to tell people to “get the F off my timeline”, phraseology he employed repeatedly. As the controversy heightened and news of it spread he decided to elucidate his views on the matter in a series of short points entitled “A liberal Muslim’s response to fundamentalist attempts at censorship”.  These aforementioned actions perfectly encapsulate the problem with Mr Nawaz and his Quilliam foundation; the mindset of “I will dictate to you what is acceptable Islam and what isn’t and should you happen to disagree then you’re a fundamentalist/extremist/Islamist” – with all the ramification such a categorisation entails.

Imagine the obloquy Mr Nawaz would have faced if he’d told, say a Labour MP, who disagreed with any given statement on his timeline to “get the F” off of it? Would that be regarded by any as acceptable behaviour from someone seeking election? If you are a public figure, an aspirant MP and the head of an organisation seeking to “inspire change”  do you not think it reasonable that people have a right to view your Twitter timeline and robustly challenge your views? Do we not expect public officials to conduct themselves with a higher sense of decorum and civility or have standards been lowered to accommodate brown skinned “ex-extremists” who happen to be promoting a government approved version of Islam?

It is also worth noting that the vast majority of support being expressed for Mr Nawaz on social media via the #TeamNawaz hashtag emanates from atheists, far-right sympathisers and ex-Muslims – now that’s not to say that they aren’t entitled to their view – but you can understand the apprehension that many Muslims might feel about political parties touting a man with a self-declared agenda to reform Islam who seems to have the approval and backing of such factions?

As a so-called “Islamist” I actually don’t care much who is elected as MP for Hampstead and Kilburn constituency or any other constituency for that matter at least in respect of which party they happen to represent (possibly with the exception of the BNP). What does concern me is that the people who make the laws in this land, the laws that I am forced to abide by upon pain of prosecution, do not have an agenda of confrontation and provocation towards those of us who seek to live our lives according to orthodox Islamic norms and values. The rhetoric and behaviour of Mr Nawaz and his Quilliam foundation has been far from reassuring in that respect these past few years. From secret reports demonising mainstream Muslim groups and individuals, constant broadsides and invectives against prominent Muslim personalities and anyone else daring to disagree with their “reformed” version of Islam, cosying up to far right extremists who incessantly spout their bile and hatred towards Islam and the Muslim community and most recently suggesting that Muslim parents should be forbidden from circumcising their babies. Naturally all of this has caused a great deal of consternation and angst amongst a community already feeling demonised due to the actions of a tiny (and it really is a tiny) minority.

Most British Muslims – and that includes us “Islamists” – desire peaceful co-existence with all the other communities that comprise the rich mosaic that is 21st century (CE) Britain. Of course we reserve the right to speak out against the murderous foreign policies of successive governments – a sentiment that millions of non-Muslim British citizens share with us – as is our right under the law. Naturally we will disagree with many aspects of secular, liberal culture – including the right to mock and denigrate the Prophets of God (peace be upon them) – and where we disagree we will make our opinions known albeit in a peaceful manner. To do otherwise in the context of modern day Britain would be counterproductive and ultimately futile. What we ask from those who hold power in this nation is not to attempt to force their secular liberalist belief system upon us. The antics of Mr Nawaz and his Quilliam foundation far from promoting peace and cohesion are only serving to further alienate those Muslims most in need of guidance, both spiritually and worldly, and in doing so aiding the cause of the actual extremists  – both Muslim and non-Muslim – who actively work to sow discord between communities and promote violent confrontation on our streets. For this reason and those I have cited above I urge Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat leadership to act decisively and remove Mr Nawaz as their PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Stop Press: Since I started writing this it has come to my attention that Mr Nawaz has “apologised” for any “inadvertent offence” he may have caused. The sneering tone of his “apology” could hardly be more obvious and I won’t dignify it with any other comment than that.

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Aziz Jan says:

    Well said. This Nawaz is an insidious provocateur who’s only support is amongst right-wingers or ex-muslims both of whom harbour an inverterate hated of Islam and its sensitivities.

    It beggars belief that an aspiring Member of Parliament would go around telling people who disagree with him to fuck off. I’m a lifelong Liberal Democrat supporter and can’t believe my party is promoting this man. I’d call him a clown if he weren’t so dangerous.

    1. Mark says:

      Aziz, you have just reminded me what I forgot to say in my probably too-long initial reply.
      It seems to me that the reason this whole thing has been started is simply because it is Mr Nawaz and therefore Quilliam.
      I know some have said they are acting like a McCarthyite organisation and that’s their beef about them. But there are implied other reasons, which they are keeping quiet about. So what are they? For me, an organisation which is *against* extremism should be applauded, so it is confusing and worrying when some are against this.
      The petition mentions both Jesus and Mohammed. I say the Jesus mention is convenient because there have been so many satirical depictions of Jesus over many years without a peep. Lets’s face it, once the agitation based on Nawaz and Quilliam got off the ground, most Muslims who are moaning are doing so because of Mohammed. A couple of things here. The Jesus & Mo cartoon has been around for a few years without high-profile agitation. South Park depicted Mohammed. The agitators are doing it because of Mr Nawaz and using other Muslims based on depictions which have occurred before.
      In summary, the agitators have a political reason, but are using religion to stoke the ire of others. Quite a standard thing really.

      1. Aziz Jan says:

        I can assure you I have no political reason – in the sense you mean. I’m a life-long Lib Dem supporter as are my family.

        Unlike you, I’m a Muslim and am a part of the Muslim community here in Britain and London. I can assure you that vast swathes of the Muslim community would be “extremists” and “islamists” by Maajid Nawaz’s definition. He is an insidious provocateur like I said in my initial comment who sets out to rubbish and belittle Muslim sensitivities and then label anyone who opposes him as an extremist. I’m a Briton, A Muslim and don’t see a conflict between the two but I, like anybody else in a democratic society, have the right (some would say duty) to attempt to influence my country to reflect values and policies that I believe in. I personally have chosen the Lib Dems to express my opinions, others may choose other parties, or none.

        I, and i can absolutely assure you, Mark, thousands of others are sick to death of this Maajid Nawaz, as well as his so-called think-tank trotting out vicious islamophobia. The only reason he gets away with it, is because he’s asian and of a Muslim background. Had any white Briton engaged in the kind of incessant scare-mongering he has, I’m sure he’d be widely condemned by all quarters.

        I object to your attempts to dismiss my and thousands of others’ objections to his behaviour as “agitators” who “have a political reason”. You’ve clearly bought into his entire Daily-Mail garbaled nonsence ofthe spectre of “islamist extremism” looming large over our country which is why you’re frantically defending him to the hilt.

        He has no influence or liking in the MUSLIM community with a lot of his supporters seeming to be right-wingers, ex-muslims and neocons which is quite revealing in itself.

        His retweeting and linking to a guy who depicts the Prophets of Islam is deeply offensive to Muslims, and his subsequent reaction and attempt to dismiss those who voice objections as extremism sums up his extremist, unbalanced stance. I agree with the author of this article that in times like this what we need are level headed empathetic representatives, not unbalanced hothead lunatics who go around stereotyping and condemning huge sections of communities.

        I need not remind you that in my 45 years of life, I’ve never known of a prosepective parliamentary candidate for a London constituency no less to take to telling his detractors to go fuck y’all and piss off and fuck off and the like! It simply beggars belief!

        As a lifelong Lib Dem member and supporter it’s the biggest joke in town that this right-wing lunatic is representing my party.

        Don’t buy into the rubbish he’s sold you. By engaging with the Muslims community in a fair, balanced, principled and (I would argue) Liberal manner, we stand a much greater chance to create community cohesion and harmony in Britain.

        As for all this death-threats rubbish, he’s quick to play the martyr. Calling someone “ghustaq-e-rasool” means defamer of the prophet – Most would agree with that statement. How the flipping heck does that constitute a death threat????

        Maybe there were a few other childish comments left by some idiots, i don’t know, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the 10s of thousands of British Muslims who are deeply offended by him and his attempt to play the martyr is, frankly, sickening.

        Lib Dems need to deselect him and pick a genuine Liberal.

    2. c-b says:

      I think Mark is plainly right that Maajid Nawaz is being targeted because of his beliefs, rather than because of an inappropriate tweet.

      Let’s deal with the tweet first, because the tweet is the ostensible reason for petitioning for his deselection. The tweet is i.) a picture of the J&M t-shirt and ii.) a link to the J&M website.

      The actual illustration on the t-shirt features two smiling pencil drawings introducing themselves as Jesus and Muhammed. On the t-shirt, neither of the two characters are saying or doing anything that could be deemed offensive, except that their appearance itself could be said to be demeaning to the sacred status of one or the other, or both. The assertion that the tweet was designed to be hurtful to any part of the Muslim community doesn’t really wash, then. Especially with the alternate explanation of the tweet; to illustrate the subject about which he was opining.

      Indeed, HOW WAS MAAJID NAWAZ’S ACTION IN TWEETING A LINK ANY DIFFERENT TO THE MASKED AVENGER SENDING ON SCREENSHOTS OF MAAJID’S TIMELINE FEATURING THE ILLUSTRATION? After all, if passing such an image around the electronic ether is, itself, blashemy, then TheMaskedAvenger would also be guilty. The difference is the motives assumed to be behind their actions. But in a sense their motive was the same – to illustrate their points with a visual reference.

      The second complaint about Maajid Nawaz’s tweets is, apparently, that he included a link to the J&M website. In describing the nature of that site, the author of this piece is being slightly disingenuous. While depictions of Jesus and Mo making fools of each other, or losing arguments with.an atheist, is likely to be upsetting and offensive to some believers, that is not the raizon d’etre of the cartoon series. The series is an attempt to amusingly comment on, and argue against, the apologetics of Christians and Muslims. It is not hate speech. And so to say that no LibDem candidate should link to it, is tantamount to saying that no Lib Dem candidate should link to an atheist website or to a website arguing against Islamic doctrine.

      As to the nature of Maajid Nawaz’s views generally, I fail to see why his desire for one type of Islam should be more sinister than the desire of every other activist Muslim for their own beliefs to generally prevail. People who have views that MN categorises.as ‘extremist’ might find that upsetting, but I don’t see why that means he’s a bigot. Whether someone finds “most” or “a few” Muslims (or subset of any group) to be extreme does not in itself brand someone as holding hateful views, any more than it was necessarily bigoted against Brits for the Baroness to say that “Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test”, or bigoted against Muslims for Mehdi Hasan to note that anti-semitism is more widespread amongst Muslims than he desired.
      Maajid Nawaz is not illiberal simply because he attacks illiberal beliefs. Maajid Nawaz might alienate illiberal voters, and political parties have to appeal to some voters to survive, but it’s a pretty rum day when you compromise on your principles in order to gain power. Besides which, ostensibly, the petition is not about how having Maajid Nawaz as a PPC would alienate voters, but about an alleged offensive tweet.

      The final thing to note is that the man who started this rolling on Twitter claimed he was going to notify “Muslim organisations and Muslim countries”, which sounds like a threat – because, otherwise, why notify Muslim countries?
      It seems to me that it is distasteful and morally dubious to disapprove of such threats and yet to promote this man’s campaign by signing his petition.

      Please excuse the extra text at the end of this comment, as I’m using my phone and cannot edit it.
      The second complaint about Maajid Nawaz’s tweets is, apparently, that he included a link to the J&M website. In describing the nature of that site, the author of this piece is being slightly disingenuous. While depictions of Jesus and Mo making fools of eachother, or losing

  2. Mark says:

    First para and onwards from there: Threats being condemned by the activists. You seem to forget Mr Shafiq himself tweeted the “Defamer of the Phrophet” and “Inform islamic countries.” Ok, you mention Mr Nawaz accused him of it, but how can he strenuously deny something that is in black and white?
    The comparison to the UKIP person who said the floods were divine retribution does not work. It is obvious that man is bat-shit loony and would probably try to fix floods by praying or getting rid of gays, than build flood barriers. I exaggerate, but the two things are completely different.
    As far a minorities go, this is always brought up. It happened in the veiling and gender segregation arguments, along the lines of, “it’s such a tiny minority, what are you worried about?” Well, we have a right to remember what the Christian religion could do, and did, 500 years ago when it had power. That is why I quite like the fact this secular society keeps a lid on religions running away with themselves, or even getting a toe in the door of legislation. The push to get “Islamophobia” married up to “racism” is another example.

    I personally think Mr Nawaz is quite sartorially elegant.

    Industrial language is a sideline and and was not a main point of the petition against him.
    I disagree, or to a point don’t understand your assertion that the “vast majority” of his supporters were “atheists, far-right and ex-muslims.” How do you know? Is this on the bio of each twitter user? I note you don’t include other muslims, unless you lump them in to “ex-muslims.” A man phoning LBC today, referred to Mr Nawaz as a “former muslim,” which I suppose is some sort of insult, given that Mr Nawaz considers himself a Muslim. Christopher Hitchens (PBuH) once said that “Any attempt to discuss reforms of Islam has been met with sometimes brutal resistance.” So it goes on.
    On the point of not liking his type in parliament, there is a function in the UK called voting, which you can choose to do or not. You can vote against him for instance.
    And his “regret” statement, has been looked upon by Mohammed Ansar as an “apology.” This was in reply to someone who said he had nothing to apologise for. I suspect Mr Ansar would have loved to have belittled the “regret” statement, but at that point in conversation, had to say he had “apologised.”

    My view is that the main reason Mr Nawaz sent the initial tweet was because the BBC Big Questions program he was on, moved the cameras away when the student opened his jacket to show what all the fuss was about. This was BBC self-censorship, and hit another nail in the coffin of free expression which has been going on since the Danish Cartoons in 2004. And don’t forget that those cartoons may never have seen much light of day if it hadn’t been for agitation, including adding false pictures, and transporting Danish flags (to be burnt) to middle-eastern towns. I doubt they readily sell Danish flags in towns in the mid-east. Nevertheless about 50 died for that and building were burnt down. The Western media refused to show the cartoons (to this day) even in order to inform what all the fuss was about. I’d assume you are happy with that. I’m not.

    I remember Christian groups trying, and sometimes succeeding to get Life of Brian banned. That was annoying then, and the same applies now. Of course, the Christian organisations may (or may not) have realised back then that they made the film more popular. Just today there is news that a play has been cancelled because of Christian fundamentalists. The annoyance of this sort of theocratic bullying is not confined to Muslims. However, the threats of violence do only emanate from one direction.

    Why so much scrutiny when Muslims complain like this, including the threats? You don’t have to be a quantum theory scientist to understand why. The terrorism at home and abroad. The groups like Boko Haram etc trying to impose some “version” of Sharia*.
    The likes of Anjem Choudhry and his “Freedom go to hell” mob. I, and I assume many others then have to start with those, and try to figure out where others fit in, eg Shafiq, Ansar etc and I must say, bloggers like yourself. I haven’t made my mind up, because the waters are so muddy. What I do know is that I have found many liberal Muslims on Twitter who I’m certain do not fit in to the above, but seem to be hated by other Muslims.

    Also, some defence of agitation against the cartoon has been ridiculous. Mr Shafiq said on radio that Jesus and Mo were depicted engaged in gay sex. Not true. A man on the radio today said because they are shown sharing a bed, it was “homo-erotic.” Where are their minds at????? Two men sharing a bed is a comedy staple going back to laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise. And beds also have a function for sleeping. Sometimes it screams to me loud and clear, that some are obsessed with sex, even when it isn’t present.

    * We always hear on the news, about groups like the Taliban etc, trying to impose their “extreme version” of Islam/Sharia. Then we are told that there is only one Islam. But if there are “versions” that would imply at least some sort of reform has occurred somewhere, so I’m confused why reform is such a dirty word. If it is, and there is only one Islam, it therefore follows that the Taliban version is the same as the British version. That is another reason for scrutiny.

  3. Aziz Jan says:

    Just a small comment as my final word on this, the one who is posing the biggest threat is Maajid Nawaz – not the juvenile idiot who leaves a idiotic comment to maajid on twitter. Maajid has been secretly going around lobbying the government to blacklist, isolate, demonise and otherwise harrass inoccent muslims and muslim groups – all of whom are peaceful.

    He is a huge threat to community cohesion in this country and all the while right wingers like you are promoting him in a race to the bottom to a dysfunctional, polarised, hate-filled society where muslims feel isolated and marginalised. It’s pretty obvious that that’s not way in which to run a progressive democracy not to mention that that will only fuel fundementalism and possible knock-on terrorism. George Bush and the neocons have already tried the failed policies of beating and scaring communities and has that worked? not at all. America is more vunerable and hated than ever before by a lot of the world.

    The stick doesn’t work, mate, neither is it moral. Only by increasing a sense of Britishness, openness and inclusiveness will our society get past this ‘them’ and ‘us’ which you seem to keen to promote. Be a force for openess, inclusiveness, respect and understanding. Not right wing scaremongering and secret black lists like your friend Nawaz is secretly promoting. If Maajid were a Liberal he wouldnt be doing this, or telling offended muslims to go fuck off.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/aug/04/quilliam-foundation-list-alleged-extremism

    1. Mark says:

      Aziz, I don’t particularly like labels, but thanks for not going as far as suggesting I’m “far-right” as some would do, merely for trying to stand up for free speech, which this is all about. Right wing? I don’t pigeon-hole myself, and I suppose I go across spectrums, but mainly in the centre if anything.
      What I see is a jostling for position amongst a lot of people at the moment, and I’m still not clear who is doing what for the best purposes. However, if anti-extremism comes along, I’m happy to take a good look.
      I live in a majority Asian area of NW London and see no trouble, so I’m not concerned on that basis. It’s the people who have a voice and can influence I take issue with. It’s at that point you need to choose I suppose.
      I certainly would not choose Mohammed Ansar or Mohammed Shafiq for various reasons.
      So, with those two being the main protagonists in this, it makes me wonder who they actually represent. I’ve seen a lot of Muslims against them. They are the ones who should have a bigger voice, but the media gravitate towards the orthodox conservatives, which I think is wrong.
      Perhaps Quilliam might have pointed at the wrong people, but how do I know? But I’ll give anyone battling extremism my support and have to put my trust in the security services.
      Until then, all politics aside, I will argue against what I see as religious bullying and intrusion on free speech.

  4. khan says:

    kudos to the author for clearly elucidating the crux of Maajid Nawaz’s action and his intention on tweeting the cartoon. Please do not think that Nawaz’s intention was to somehow show the Muslims a liberal cheek and not to be offended by a childish cartoon. It was not. He is as described ,rightly, above as an insidious agent provocateur who’s aim was to propagate controversy and be seen as the defender of free speech and liberal values to promote his, hopefully ended, political career.
    A Freedom of information act request (link below)
    http://www.5pillarz.com/2013/11/07/quilliam-foundation-received-over-1-2m-in-governmemt-funds/

    has shown what this individual Nawaz has garnered in monies since he came out of an Egyptian prison for supporting the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. The figures are mind boggling that Nawaz together with the equally odious MuhammED Mahbub Hussain, better known as ED Hussain who’s book the Islamist was supposedly re-written and sexed up by Whitehall pen pushers according to wiki leaks, have managed to hoodwink from the government and by default the British taxpayers. He reportedly paid himself an annual salary of £125,000 per annum which has been reportedly fallen to £75,000 after government cut in funding last year.
    The shortfall in this funding has been made up by mysterious benefactors and other non published agents who I am assuming do not throw money such as this for no influence or agenda being driven by Nawaz and his coterie of provocateurs like Usaama Hassan,who, despite making a point of pointing out his Jihadi credentials that he spent a few months in Afghanistan in the 90’s was never in any battles. Those of us who know do not count firing weapons and running up and down a few high ridges and doing guard duty in Kunar province as a something more than what it was instead of trying to insinuate he was some sort of commander.

    The point here is MONEY and a career. Has no-one ever asked how a individual who never finished his degree until recently managed to blag a ‘GRADUATE’ job paying those type of figures when he has never been engaged in a career of any sorts or like ‘Gideon and Cameron’ inherited a shed load of money from rich parents. Can someone also tell me how he managed to get on the Postgraduate LSE course and who funded it. This itself just seemed like an insidious way of providing some sort of legitimacy to his so called expert views the fact that he had studied at the LSE so he must be intelligent and know what he is talking about.
    Do not be fooled that because he throws a few Arabic verses and sayings here and there that he is a scholar. He has been challenged many a time for a debate on Islam by learned people and refuses because he knows he has no real debate in him.

    This political career has been hastily conceived as he knows the writing is on the wall for his so called de-radicalisation think tank Quilliam which are widely despised by the Muslim community and therefore needs a new revenue stream for his lifestyle choice of never having a proper job. The so called think tank has achieved nothing except the defection of Tommy Robinson who has not changed his views and has used Quilliam for legitimacy or to get a lighter sentence for his recent criminal offences.It seems that the people in the corridors of power have realised they have to give up this folly of supporting this one trick pony and they need to enage with grassroots muslims who have more loyalty to the democratic process than someone like Nawaz who will

    He has written secret reports to government agencies denouncing Muslims,who have rightly spoken about the foreign policy and the radicalising factor of such policies, as extremists and fundamentalists. He has repeatedly insulted and denounced people as Islamists who have challenged his views and particularly his so called scholarly credentials to reform Islam or as he says provide a new tafsir (explanation ) and no doubt from past form passed on their details as was admitted by ED Hussain when he reported some students in Syria to the brutal Assad regime.

    Nawaz is a self confessed non devout or practising Muslim which means to me he no longer believes in the faith. He has every right to be a non-Muslim without any fear and I would defend to my last his decision to call himself a non-Muslim. However I think it is disingenuous that he continue this charade that he is a Muslim and therefore he is doing this to help Muslims. His timeline shows that the most vociferous supporters as said above are the usual atheists, ex Muslims and so called ‘heritage’ Muslims.
    This term heritage Muslim is a misnomer as you cannot be a Muslim and not practise the religion of Islam as Islam is not a culture but a way of life. His heritage is of a Hindu and Sikh culture as he is, I hear, a Gujar or if not a Pakistani at least and that is what their backgrounds were before they became Muslims as Iranians were fire worshippers before they became Muslims.

    As said above by Aziz Jan, a person who quotes Ice Cube and Ice T on his twitter feed and tells people who disagree with him to fuck off and Fuck all Y’all is not exactly someone who would benefit parliamentary democracy and I am sure the chamber and the Speaker would not be amused by his low riders, back to front sunglasses and pimp roll discussing ethical foreign policy, disability rights or the dismantling of the welfare state for the vulnerable in society by the incumbent Tory/Lib cabal.

    Someone also needs to remind the FAKE WANNABE OG Nawaz that Ice Cube and Ice T hated and despised sell outs and Uncle Toms who pimp out like HO’s for the money and fame and I am sure if someone asked the rappers for their opinions of him they would use the same language for him as he reserves for Muslims he abuses on twitter.

    note: OG stands for Original Gangsta a term used to describe the original criminals and gangbangers. Sorry a misspent youth listening to PE, Ice cube, Ice T, KOOL MOE DEE , Eric B N Rakim , NWA etc.

    1. Mark says:

      Here’s me trying to understand a few things.

      I’ve heard it said a few times now that Nawaz is not a Muslim. He says he is. You seem to assert that you have to be an absolute practicing Muslim to be a ‘proper’ Muslim. So you have effectively apostated him. Can you do that?
      It just seems like a game to me.

      On the subject of Robinson, who is one those I have also not made my mind up on.
      I hear it said a lot that “He has not changed his views.” I ask, what do you (and others) mean by that?
      Given that from what I’ve seen over the last six months or so, he has been at pains to point out that his beef is with “Militant Islam” only.
      If that was indeed the case, would you say that is ok, because you are also against the militant (extremist terrorism) side?
      If not, why not?
      Or is it that you believe that he is simply lying and is against all Muslims, whether militant or not?
      Clarification would be nice, because the “He has not changed his views” always has me thinking the person saying it, must be an extremist.

      1. cs says:

        The author of this article is an extremist, sadly lacking ability for rational argument. He claims this is mainly about the conduct of a member of a political party. But while not at all “roundly” condemning threats, he continues trying to incite international islamist fury over twitter. The aside about MN’s style of appearance encapsulates his petty narrow-mindedness.

        A religious world view that
        *doesn’t accommodate different understandings and conclusions drawn from a religions’ prescripts,
        *tries to silence debate (MN, having been asked, was taking part in a debate, referring to one specific, deliberately non-offensive cartoon image which many, even conservative muslims publicly deemed innocuous),
        *aims to impose blasphemy rules under the disguise of a “manners-police” and
        *excludes Muslims from the shared religion if they don’t adhere to their righteous version of it,
        is inherently weak, but makes up for it in self-rightousness. God has no part in this, and there is no love for humanity in it either.
        It contains everything we should work argue and educate against, to protect our liberal society which should include a rich and diverse culture of beliefs, philosophical thinking, room for discussion, art, music etc. (also within Islam).

        I hope this avenger will eventually arrive at a more enlightened gleaming ways.

    2. c-b says:

      Just to note that I myself heard Maajid Nawaz criticise British and US foreign policy in a public forum (he attacked drone strikes as a member of the audience during a talk/debate about the War on Terror).

      So he plainly doesn’t class people as extremist purely for attacking foreign policy.

      Perhaps, if he does at all, it is for the basis on which they attack foreign policy?

  5. Damo says:

    A few points of disagreement:
    It is a very real possibility that in the year 2014 the expression of a piece of art (regardless of its merits or lack thereof) could result in hate campaigns, sabotage, rioting, violations of diplomatic immunity and murder by a group of people that resort to violence in response to the mildest of perceived slights. The Danish Cartoons, The Innocence of Muslims, The Satanic Verses and the Theo Van Gogh film Submission are all a testament to the reality of this depressing situation.

    The support of Nawaz was not only a retaliation against accusations of blasphemy – which the law of this country deems to be a victimless and imaginary crime – but it was also a protest in the face of “moderate Muslim spokespeople”, with a history of trying to smokescreen their more extremist views and alliances, actively orchestrating a campaign of intimidation against a man who retweeted a cartoon which he found inoffensive. This intimidation took the form of death threats, an online petition to get him sacked and the deliberate publicizing of Nawaz’s actions for the benefit of ‘Islamic States’ to take their own form of retribution against him. That last act of intimidation has and will place Nawaz in a position of real physical danger if we are to bear in mind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s disgraceful Fatwa against Salman Rushdie’s which lead to threats on his life, the murder of several of his cohorts and an enforced decade long exile – all for the crime of writing a work of fiction which some Muslims found offensive.

    Again, “Blasphemy” is not a crime in this country and even when it was it never applied to Islam. There are countries in the world where blaspheming the Prophet are outlawed and carry severe punishments – the UK is not one of them and any calls for it to become one will be opposed.

    It has been stated that Maajid’s own views on whether the cartoon is offensive or not is irrelevant. I couldn’t disagree more. He retweeted the cartoon due to the BBC’s decision to self-censor and he did so by accompanying it with several statements saying that as a Muslim he does not find the image offensive. Very often, those that are critical of Islam are (often dishonestly) accused of viewing all Muslims as one generic monolithic block that all have the same agenda and all think the same way. Ironically, the perpetrators of this accusation tend to be the very same people that assume the right to speak for all Muslims themselves. How often have we heard that by making a film or drawing a cartoon or writing a book the culprits have offended over a billion people? Very often Muslims themselves, by claiming to speak for all Muslims, create a confusing and unrealistic picture of the diversity of opinion that exists within Muslim communities and can lead to certain prejudices against Muslims. In stating that he does not find the cartoon offensive Maajid, as a Muslim, is expressing one opinion amongst a plurality of opinions that I assume exists within the Muslim community regarding what constitutes blasphemy and what is or isn’t offensive, in order to highlight that many Muslims have a differing positions on many topics. The subject of what is or isn’t offensive is almost entirely subjective and therefore his views are not irrelevant – they are precisely the point.

    It’s also been stated that Maajid didn’t make it clear when posting his remarks that it was his personal opinion that the image was inoffensive rather than a statement of outright fact. Come on really? Does something as subjective as what is or isn’t offensive needs to be prefixed with a “The following statement is a personal opinion…” disclaimer? Is it not overtly obvious that a statement being made by a person on their own personal twitter account (not the twitter account of the Quilliam organization for example) is an expression of that persons opinion? I would submit that it is and to say otherwise in the case of Maajid Nawaz would be to deliberately hold his tweets to a standard that would not ordinarily be imposed in any other context. If, for example, Anjem Choudhary had posted the same cartoon from his persona twitter account stating that the image was ‘offensive’ any rational person would not assume he was speaking for anyone other than himself. If I posted a statement saying that the Jesus & Mo cartoons are funny, I defy anybody who read the statement to not automatically assume that I was expressing an opinion and not a conclusive statement of fact, and they’d be right to.
    Of course we have no right to tell anyone what they should find inoffensive but we have every right to demand that expressions of that offense do not take the form of death threats, hate campaigns and violence. Muslims have the right to be offended by the movie Submission – they do not have the right to murder the director of the film and pin a further death threat to his dead body with a dagger. Muslims have the right to be offended by all sorts of religiously motivated atrocities that occur on a daily basis and on a global scale but instead they choose to find offense in a fellow Muslim expressing the mildest possible defence of a reasonably innocuous cartoon.

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