Search

Hampstead and Kilburn MP candidate at centre of free speech battle over Prophet Muhammad tweet

08:30 23 January 2014

Maajid Nawaaz. Picture: Nick Ansell

Maajid Nawaaz. Picture: Nick Ansell

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn has called for calm as over 15,000 people (and counting) signed a petition calling for him to be sacked from his party.

Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist who now runs a leading anti-extremist organisation, caused outrage among some sectors of the Muslim community after publishing online a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The image – posted on his Twitter account – originated from two audience members from the LSE Atheism Society who recently appeared on a BBC show wearing T-shirts showing two cartoon figures under the title “Jesus and Mo”.

In an attempt to demonstrate that not all Muslims were offended by “bland” depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, Mr Nawaz re-posted the picture alongside the message: “This is not offensive and I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.”

In a furore that has led to multiple death threats and has forced him to contact the police, Mr Nawaz has found himself at the centre of a battleground between free speech advocates and those calling for respect of religious values.

A petition claiming he had been “disrespectful” and demanding he be sacked from his party has so far received more than 15,000 signatures.

George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, was among those condemning him, saying: “No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Maajid Nawaz.”

The uproar has also prompted thousands of free-speech advocates, anti-extremist campaigners and fellow Muslims from across the world to come out in support of Mr Nawaz, a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir who now runs the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation.

Supporters include prominent atheist and scientist Prof Richard Dawkins and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Prof Dawkins tweeted: “We’ve reached a new low when you can get threats for not being offended by something.”

He added: “There really are people so in love with offence, they’re offended that you’re not offended.”

Pleading for calm on both sides, Mr Nawaz said: “I do not find it [the cartoon] offensive, so the whole debate should be about the meaning of offence, and not about whether it’s right or wrong to insult prophets, when I don’t think this is insulting.

“Some are angry that I didn’t find the cartoon featured on BBC offensive and repeated my view.

“Others are angry I am being silenced. Please let’s all calm down.”

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats defended Mr Nawaz’s “right to express his views”.

But he urged all candidates “to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence”.

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 16:20
Lord Janner leaves Westminster Magistrates' Court by car last month. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin.

Lord Janner, who is accused of 22 sex abuse charges, will have his trial of the facts heard in the new year.

Yesterday, 15:23
Fire

An elderly woman was rescued from a blaze at her flat in Camden Town.

Yesterday, 13:25
New Acland Burghley headteacher Nicholas John

A headteacher brought in to rescue a school still recovering from a damning Ofsted report has said he is committed to implementing “high professional standards” – including making sure all staff now abide by its dress code.

Yesterday, 12:14
Hampstead actress was approached by bogus charity collectors

An actress has warned fellow residents to beware of two bogus charity collectors who approached her for money in a Hampstead street.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Get ready to take in the beautiful sights of London from above!

Are you always seeking unique ways to see your favourite city? This one is for you.

Shop till you drop!

Home to top name brands at great prices, TK Maxx is more like a treasure hunt than a shop. Perfect for grabbing a bargain or some hidden gems, you arm yourself with a trolley and go wild.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder