When Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz shared a cartoon earlier this month, he triggered widespread protests.
The tweet of the cartoon which features the prophets Muhammed (PBUH) and Jesus greeting each other. Nawaz had commented: “This is not offensive and I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it”.
It has triggered a hot and aggressive debate from all quarters revolving around freedom of expression, freedom of speech and what counts as offensive.
Some have said that as an individual standing for the position of MP, Nawaz’s tweet was inappropriate behaviour.
It’s common knowledge that visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are globally considered an absolute “no-no” amongst Muslims.
So why did he do it?
Some strong views which have come to the attention of Asian Express include concerns that Nawaz’s ploy was to encourage a flurry of social media activity and obtain virulent responses from mainstream press.
Mr Nadeem Inayat, from Bradford and a dedicated reader of the Asian Express said: “He has promoted an image to his supporters and the media that the only people that are opposing him on this issue are people who have very extreme views, the rest of British Muslims think his actions are ok.
“There is a very small minority of Muslims that agree with him that this cartoon is innocuous.”
Whilst the LibDem leader, Nick Clegg has defended Nawaz, saying that he upheld his right to express himself and confirmed that the party will not ditch him.
Nawaz also says he has received death threats from some offended Muslims, despite the fact that he didn’t draw the cartoon or wear the t-shirt that featured it.
Defending himself Nawaz, this week, published a piece in the Guardian titled, “Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it.”
He explains: “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.”
What readers say:
“This is not the first time in history that the prophet (pbuh) has been subjected to such profiling nor will it be the last. We need to ask: ‘What was the motive of Maajid Nawaz?’ Such individuals need to be challenged in a manner that is informed, mature and sophisticated to counter these narratives within the laws of the land. I well understand the anger felt by my fellow Muslims, but does beating the drums of emotions on our own lead to better outcomes?”
Amjad Pervez, CEO Seafresh
“Whilst I understand the freedom of speech scenario, I believe that Mr Nawaz was fully aware of the reaction he would get and actually did it for that reason, to show himself as a ‘liberal’ to the ‘non-Asian community’. Him stating that he is comfortable with his God is irrelevant, and I have supported him in the past especially during the Tommy Robinson episodes. Further division has arisen between communities now, because of being misled by somebody who should know better. It seems he wanted to hog the media spotlight, which has ultimately happened. I totally disagree with the threats he may have received, this should not be done against anybody, but again, responsibility needs to be acknowledged.” Shahzad Khan
“I think we have to respect all human kind. Jesus and Muhammad these are the prophets sent by God. They are the most honourable and therefore must be respected. It is definitely disrespectful putting them in the cartoon form and the reaction I have heard hasn’t really surprised me.” Muhammad Iqbal
“I believe it is disrespectful to a point, certainly for someone to draw cartoon characters of holy persons. The reaction from a lot of the Islamic countries doesn’t surprise me as I know it’s forbidden to depict the Prophet Mohammed, although I don’t think it should necessarily be that way.” Razi Jogi
“It is very disrespectful. When they hear these kind of things it is very hurtful. We love Jesus and we love the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They have publicised this matter on all the media – everyone globally can see what’s going on. I feel it hurts the whole humanity.”
“Some people seem like they just want to create a problem everywhere especially in the Muslim world. Whoever is doing it, it is not right. They can claim that they have human rights and have freedom of speech but you shouldn’t draw these sorts of things at all, whether it is against Christians, Jews or Muslims. Whatever you do, you are responsible for those actions.” Mr Arabian
We’d love to hear your views on if you think that the cartoon is offensive or not, and why?
Send your comments to: email@example.com