In politics sometimes you bury the hatchet, with the principle of collective responsibility. You might disagree behind the scenes with someone or a policy but in public defend the party or Government. What was refreshing about the joint statement that Maajid Nawaz and Mo Shafiq (above) issued via the Liberal Democrats over the Jesus and Mo debate is that it called for the argument to continue, but in a civil discourse:
“We are both Liberals and support the principle of freedom of speech. But we also understand the importance of respect for others’ views and of moderation of language. In so far as this second principle of moderate language has been breached in the heat and passion of the current debate, we regret this and call for all those who have differing views to ensure that any debate which continues on this subject should use language and attitudes which conform to Liberal standards of respect and moderation.
“We now call on those on both sides of this argument to return to moderate debate, free of insult and threat and we do so because we believe this is in the interests of our Party, of the wider Muslim community in Britain and of the principles of peace to which Islam is committed.” [Source]
Maajid Nawaz (above) decided therefore to break his silence, having initially on twitter described his reasons for posting the Jesus and Mo t-shirt, with a Guardian article where he mentioned there is no Muslim hierarchy to impose homogeneity on all Muslims thorough out the world, “Unity in faith is theocracy; unity in politics is fascism.” He refereed to “Muslim conservatives” seeking to have him de selected by means of a petition.
My intention was to demonstrate that Muslims are able to see things we don’t like, yet remain calm and pluralist, and to demonstrate that there are Muslims who care more about the thousands of deaths in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria than we do about what a student is wearing. My intention was to highlight that Muslims can engage in politics without insisting that our own religious values must trump all others’ concerns, and to stand before the mob so that other liberal Muslim voices that are seldom heard, women’s and men’s, could come to the fore. And many such Muslim voices have been heard this last week. [Guardian]
The article caused Mo Shafiq to withdraw his support from the joint statement.
Maybe Mo Shafiq saw in the article himself being criticised, perhaps everything Nawaz stands for religiously and politically is so at odds he does not appreciate being called out on it. He could well be a conservative Muslim – he answered Andrew O’Neils question about not being a liberal with the Liberal Democrats being a broad church.
We also cannot discount an inability to read the moderate, respectful piece for being exactly that – for remember Mo Shafiq claimed that Nawaz had in a Daily Mail article called for the veil to be banned. Something Nawaz stated in the article he was against (covered this here).
Mo Shafiq perhaps hoped that Nawaz would either change his position or at least keep his head down. Instead he came out without recourse to apology or regret because there is a principled liberal stand that Nawaz is making.
Stating that no one gets to judge my faith but my God I believe in, that by my faith I am not answerable to any man for the conscience of my beliefs. That my liberties are by natural law sacrosanct and indisputable, and by threats or intimidation to make me renounce my faith or belief is to break such a covenant that is between me and my God. I will speak as moved by this.
I can understand that passion – it is how I feel about humanism, if you replace faith with non faith and replace God with conscience in the above paragraph. Secularism is better than theocracy because it recognises no state, church or clergy have a hold over a citizen in matters of religion. Democracy that the laws of the land reflect the will of the people rather than the interpretation of religion by a theocratic hierarchy.
Shafiq feels that passion too. The problem is that rather than accepting pluralism and secularism he is insisting that other Muslims feel the same way, and that those that do not adhere to their view may still never ever under any circumstances show an image of The Prophet. Sorry, but this debate is about allowing you the right to be offended by what does not incite violence or hatred.
A cartoon saying “How you doin’ ” does not full into that category. So be offended. Tell us why you are offended. But do not impose your religious views on us who want to see the supposed controversy, or do not feel offended. Free of malice, free of intimidation, regarding a drawn image.
Regrettably Channel 4 News decided to not make that stand, but instead presented this version of the cartoon.
This reminded me of when television news used to say “for those that do not want to know the result look away now” when just about to display the football scores.
Just a thought here.
“For viewers whose God would be displeased at them viewing an image of His Prophet, which may distress you as he asks “How ya doin’, please look away now or forever hold your peace.”
Personally that is why I do not watch certain comedians. I know they will offend me. So I never watch them. It is is called freedom of choice.
The outcry looks set to continue. Theologian Usama Hasan, of the Quilliam Foundation Maajid helped found, being protested today as he attends a Plymouth University event by the Islamic Society event because he has not publicly criticised Nawaz, the saga will continue to run in the country.
Just remember that Mo Shafiq has withdrawn from the joint statement having previously made erroneous claims against both Nawaza and the Jesus and Mo cartoons. Having called Quilliam by a blasphemous term which carries the death penalty in Pakistan. He has now ripped up a statement to have a civil, mature debate.
The toys are well and truly going to be out of the pram once again I fear.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog