Over 20,000 people have signed the petition to remove Maajid Nawaz as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate. Liberals, ex-Muslims and atheists have all come out in defence of Nawaz collectively, ridiculing those who were offended by a link to a cartoon that depicts Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Jesus, peace be upon them both.
According to Nawaz, he wished to illustrate that not all Muslims are offended by depictions of their prophet after the BBC’s Sunday morning show, ‘Big Questions’ decided not to show a cartoon of Muhammad sitting with Jesus. Well, he spectacularly failed in his mission, and managed to further antagonise British Muslims who long ago rejected him as any sort of representation of Muslims in Britain. It is obvious to those who are aware of him that they see him as someone who has made it a business of being a provocateur and attention-seeker. The organisation Nawaz founded, Quilliam Foundation, lost all respect and legitimacy when it whipped up the ‘danger of extremism’ rhetoric in return for government funds.
This, in large part, explains the explosive reaction to Maajid’s poor decision to post the link to that cartoon on his Twitter page. Indeed, very few would argue that he doesn’t have the right to free speech, but quite frankly the idea of free speech is littered with privilege and those who have defended Nawaz have exposed their double standards on the issue. It was fine for a self-professed Liberal Parliamentary candidate to post something which he would have known would be offensive to many people, but the objections of those who were offended don’t seem to be deemed legitimate.
In fact, Nawaz (before his earth-shattering fall) and his supporters dismissed those who signed the petition as illiberal, easily offended and, according to some, even Islamists. Nick Cohen who disclosed that he knows Nawaz well is one example; in a piece for the Guardian, he noted ‘extremists are menacing the career and life of a Liberal Democrat politician and respectable society hardly considers these authentically scandalous threats to be a scandal at all.’ He further went onto state that ‘the BBC decided that extreme Wahhabi and Salafi Muslims, who would ban all images of Muhammad, represented all Muslims.’ According to them it was this type of menace that people like Nawaz are fighting against, and the behaviour towards him was nothing more than retribution.
Bar the crazy tiny minority, those Muslims who were offended used the political channels open to them and let their protestations be known by organising a petition. How very extremist of them. And what Nawaz’s supporters may call ‘retribution’ is in fact criticism and protest, both of which are legitimate. It’s also very telling that whenever something of this nature happens, the ‘extreme Wahhabi/Salafi’ card comes into play, because ordinary British Muslims can never express strongly held beliefs unless they are fundamentalists.