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The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn has been forced to call in police after receiving multiple death threats when he tweeted a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist who now runs a leading anti-extremist organisation based in the UK, posted the picture on Friday in an attempt to demonstrate that not all Muslims were offended by “bland” depictions of the Prophet.
The image was of two audience members from the LSE Atheism Society who appeared on a BBC show on Sunday last week wearing T-shirts showing two cartoon figures under the title “Jesus and Mo”.
Re-posting the picture, Mr Nawaz wrote: “This is not offensive and I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.”
The Tweet prompted multiple death threats against the Lib Dem candidate - including threats to have him beheaded - forcing him to contact the police.
Hundreds of messages of support have since been sent by free-speech advocates and anti-extremist campaigners to Mr Nawaz.
But some members of the UK Muslim community have already written to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to demand that he be removed from the party.
A petition calling for him to be sacked as the parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn - claiming he had been “disrespectful and offensive” to the Muslim community - has so far received more than 2,000 signatures.
George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, also called for him to be sacked, saying: “No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Maajid Nawaz.”
Pleading for calm in response to the furore, Mr Nawaz wrote: “I posted that image here to explain how, as a Muslim, I didn’t find this particular image offensive and think God is greater than to find offence at such a bland cartoon.
“If you do think this is offensive, then you can simply not look at my profile.
“I do not find it 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.”
Mr Nawaz, a former member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, who now runs the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, added: “Some are angry 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.”