Who is allowed to speak?

Maajid Nawaz is a Lib Dem PPC and founder of the anti-Islamist think tank Quilliam.

In this country it seems, sadly, that there is a two tier system for speaking rights. If I want to walk into town, stand on a box and shout that <pick a football team> is terrible, then besides odd looks, I am free to do that. But if I want to make a comment regarding the Islamic prophet Mohammed, then it seems that any comment, other than outright veneration, is inappropriate. This has been a lingering issue but now seems to have taken a strange turn when Maajid Nawaz a Liberal Democrat candidate for Hamstead and Kilburn posted an image of Jesus and Mohammed on twitter. The character of ‘Mo’ simply says “How Ya Doin’?”.

I and I’m sure many others would see this as a simple comment; not offensive in any way, perhaps a positive metaphor for Christian-Islamic relations and representing the hope of a future of understanding among the minority of Muslims who tarnish the name of the non-violent majority. Others apparently would see this simple cartoon as a political and religious warrant for execution. The minority response to this cartoon has been death threats to Mr Nawaz and calls for him to step down as the Liberal Democrat candidate.

While freedom of speech should be limited by the prevention of the publication offensive material, the question that needs asking is; when someone, especially a Muslim makes a comment that is in no way offensive to the Islamic faith or to Mohammed himself then why is he attacked for this? We live in a secular and pluralist society, and with many announcing how offensive this has been to Muslims, perhaps it is worth noting that Jesus was in the image and the corresponding lack of hatred from the Christian community.

While this issue has been useful for generating the debate over; freedom of speech, the rights of people to not be insulted and the position held by some members of the more extreme Islamic community, it would be nice if instead of petitioning for the removal of candidate Nawaz and calling for him to be beheaded they took a more moderated approach of properly explaining why this, apparently neutral, cartoon is so offensive to them.

However regardless of all this it is truly pleasant to see people standing behind someone who has been attacked for no real reason. Many have defended Mr Nawaz over his recent actions including Mr Clegg which demonstrates the attitudes at the heart of British society of tolerance, moderation and plurality.

Jack Fennel

A Muslim Liberal Democrat candidate has revealed he tweeted a cartoon of Muhammad and Jesus because of his desire to speak freely without fearing a charge of blasphemy, even though it prompted death threats and calls for him to stand down.

Maajid Nawaz, who is running to be an MP in Hampstead and Kilburn, said he tweeted the image and stated he did not feel it threatened him in order to defend his religion “against those who have hijacked it because they shout the loudest”.


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