Educating the constituents

The International Business Times reports on the bullying of Maajid Nawaz.

A would-be Liberal Democrat MP who published an image of the Prophet Mohammed on Twitter has been targeted by online abuse.

Maajid Nawaz received threats of violence – including beheading – and an online petition was started against his bid to become MP in 2015.

It happened after the former Muslim radical and co-founder of Quilliam, an anti-extremism thinktank, drew the ire of critics by publishing a cartoon of the prophet of Islam on his Twitter timeline.

The image depicted Mohammed and Jesus which led mainstream Muslim commentators to accuse 35-year-old Nawaz of causing offence.

Mainstream? How mainstream? I’ve seen some “mainstream” Muslim commentators defending Nawaz.

But I suppose councillors can be considered in some sense mainstream.

Councillor Yaqub Hanif of Luton signed the petition calling for Hawaz to be deselected as a candidate.

He said that depictions of Mohammed were “totally unacceptable” to Muslims.

Hanif told IBTimes UK: “It’s appalling that this guy is a parliamentary candidate because this behaviour is not conducive to being an MP. If you want to be an MP then you must respect all faiths. He’s not doing that.

“Nawaz is saying things to get a reaction of people and just to make a point to his mates. They are smearing everyone who stands up to them as an extremist.”

That’s bullshit. I’ve been seeing it over and over on Nawaz’s Twitter feed and on BMSD on Facebook, and it’s bullshit. Candidates for public office don’t have to “respect” all faiths to the point that they obey their every petty rule and taboo – and in fact in many cases they shouldn’t.

This is one where they shouldn’t. A satirical cartoon strip about religion is entirely permissible in an open society, and candidates for MP should not be obeying taboos on publishing such a cartoon. They should instead be educating their potential constituents about the core commitments of an open society. That’s what I take Maajid Nawaz to be doing.


  1. Enzyme says

    Even if you accept for the sake of the argument the idea that you have to respect all faiths, Nawaz doesn’t fall foul of it: he self-describes as a Muslim, and his point is that you don’t have to get upset about J&M. For Nawaz, there’s no lack of respect there – or none about which anyone needs to worry.

    Hanif misses that point. Or distorts it. Either way, it doesn’t look good for him.

  2. rnilsson says

    British Liberal Democratic People’s Tea Shirt Party, of an odd beige colour?
    Identically dressed, everybody is a body double body.

  3. Rob says

    I don’t see how you can respect “all faiths”, not with all those contradictions and competing claims of correctness (putting aside all the really problematic stuff for just a moment).

  4. Enzyme says

    Rob – It’s probably safe to assume that “respect” means nothing more and nothing less than not thinking about them too much, and certainly not asking questions of them or their adherents. Basically, it’s STFU.

  5. sacharissa says

    It bothers me especially that he’s being attacked for not respecting his own faith. Nawaz cannot be confused with those who use Islam as the pretext to bash immigrants and/or people who aren’t white. Imagine a Christian being deselected as a parliamentary candidate for posting a picture from Life of Brian. It’s pretty much equivalent.

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