Background to the cartoon can be read here with fuller analysis of what happened when Maajid Nawaz tweeted a cartoon which featured the Prophet Mohammed saying “How ya doin’?”
Regrettably after the video “Who Speaks for Muslim Britain?” the panel discussion gradually descends into a slagging match. Maajid Nawaz restrains himself but later returns to the tweet so we do not get a full discussion based on the video. Mo Ansar does himself no favours repeating the lie that Maajid linked to the Jesus and Mo website – then stating that Nawaz still had an “extremist mentality.” The aim for Hasan and Ansar is to mention that Nawaz has no credibility with UK Muslims. It is a great tag team effort as Nawaz is shouted down. Paxman should have kept all on point as chair, and seems not to realize how heated this would become. He should have been briefed there would be tempers if he did not already know he might need to jump in.
Initially at the beginning of the panel discussion Maajid brings Mo back to discussing the video, which talks about giving a wider voice to minorities within UK Muslims. I differ from Mehdi Hasan that including ex Muslims is irrelevant. With issues regarding apostasy and orthodox views of Islam versus a more secularised version they are a valid part of the discussion. This is all part of extending a pluralistic view of Islam where no one person or group speaks for Muslims.
Mehdi was at least clear where he stood. The cartoon of Mohammed saying “How ya Doin’?” offended him but he would defend the right to tweet it. He did not sign the petition to deselect Maajid as a parliamentary candidate. Crucially Mehdi acknowledged it was making tweeting of the Mohammed cartoon the centre piece of the petition which was a mistake. This made it a free speech issue rather than that of being a foul mouthed parliamentary candidate on social media. That might have worked had we forgotten at the same time Maajid was also receiving on twitter death threats and foul language directed at himself. Mehdi has done so when provoked – but should parliamentary candidates have a higher standard? Context matters in this case.
Mo Ansar did his best to say the cartoon did not really offend him but a parliamentary candidate should not do something that might recklessly or knowingly offend others. Which presumably was why he encouraged people to support a petition which said it was offensive, when he did not think it was, while claiming he did not want him deselected, which the petition he backed called for (see why for this Aaronovitch called Ansar “slippery” here).
“I will not make you a free speech martyr!” shouts Mo Ansar – but the petition called for a cost (deselection) on the basis that it is knowingly offensive to reproduce an image of the prophet. A denial of free speech because it is offensive. Mo having his cake and eating it. When Mo mentioned the election and claimed that Nawaz was defining Islam as a gatekeeper, I nearly fell off my chair. Because a back door blasphemy code of conduct on Muslim parliamentary candidates is exactly that. Even with that as part of a global call to sign a petition 20,000 signatures out of 1.5 billion suggests the world was going on as normal. Hasan was correct to avoid this line, and I hope he uses his resources on The Huffington Post to discuss minority voices within UK Muslims.
Where Are The Muslim Women?
Mehdi Hasan came up with the best point in the discussion when mentioning how the Newsnight editor had dropped Francois-Cerrah from the panel. Result was four men discussing who might speak for minorities within Muslim Britain. No women. Two women are briefly in the video noted Paxman does not count here. Hasan mentioned some great grass roots groups to support. In this regard he mentions Sara Khan, director of Inspire – you see her talking about women in the video Nawaz presented.
On twitter I have on occasion seen trolls impersonating female Muslim friends of mine. I remember Sara and I challenging one of them and Assed Baig for talking to them – but he was too busy trying to point score against Sara and her charity. That regrettably is the problem you see on twitter. Muslim men putting down Muslim women for their civil rights activity. Together with non Muslims saying Islam is against such rights for women.
As I make clear about this blog secularism, pluralism and religious freedom are important. I am not trying to get people to become irreligious, caricaturing all religious people as the same nor suggesting that Islam is the greatest evil. This end of civilizations clash narrative belongs to far right extremists and the few Islamist extremists who have taken up arms in Asia and the Middle East – killing mainly other Muslims to make their point which includes targeting children and schools.
Disagreements need to be aired – and as the panel showed on Newsnight they can become quite heated, especially when they get personal. What Newsnight failed to answer is how a platform might be given to those who currently are being let down by the media, and social pundits becoming the story. Islam is pluralistic in how Muslims follow and practice in the UK much to the dislike of the Wahhbist movement.
Calling people Islamophobes and portraying Islam as monolithic does not help. As Mo Ansar tried calling Peter Tatchell an islamophobe for his position on halal meat just before Peter was made a patron of Tell Mama the “measuring anti-muslim attacks; standing against bigotry and prejudice” group. A man of contradictions is our Mo Ansar.
As I mention in my article on halal meat there are different islamic opinions on stunning animals. But those views are not aired and when non muslims raise them they are smeared as trolls and haters. Muslims are increasingly told when they air these views they are islamophobes themselves, and if they are a woman or gay sexually degrading remarks follow on twitter.
Let us have more discussion of pluralism in Islam – because trying to suggest only one version of Islam but many views by Muslims plays into the hands of extremists. Islam is not one thing, and the only person that should judge if they are a Muslim is the believer.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
My Huffington Post Blog