Maajid Nawaz, Pictures and Death Threats

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

Outside-Kilburn-Market

Maajid Nawaz outside Kilburn Market

Following a studio appearance on an episode of BBC Big Questions, Maajid Nawaz, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, reposted a cartoon via his Twitter account that (allegedly) depicts the prophets Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them, saying ‘Hey’ and ‘How ya doin’. Important to note, Maajid didn’t actually draw the cartoon, but merely reposted it, along with the comment that he wasn’t offended.

After his tweet, an online offensive was launched against Maajid Nawaz, petitioning Nick Clegg to remove him from his prospective candidacy. This was followed by a counter petition calling for the Liberal Democrats and anyone who believes in our innate rights and freedoms, to rally behind him.

The offensive against Maajid Nawaz, even included death threats, which is as criminal and incredibly shocking, as it is blatantly ridiculous that someone should have their life threatened, over what in truth amounts to nothing! Did Maajid Nawaz draw any cartoons? No! He commented on a picture, saying nothing more than he wasn’t offended by it! Even if Maajid had drawn a cartoon, which he didn’t, issuing death threats is most certainly not the way to protest against that…

The image Maajid Nawaz commented on.

The image Maajid Nawaz commented on.

The matter of drawing or painting pictures of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is not even clear cut within Islam. While it’s certainly true that some Muslims strongly oppose making pictures, there are many paintings that date back centuries, produced by Muslims more religious than those making such a fuss about this today.

The fact that Maajid Nawaz didn’t even draw a thing, but merely reposted an image drawn by someone else and said, “As a Muslim, I’m not offended” makes this all the more absurd. I’m not offended either and more to the point, really don’t see what Maajid has supposedly done wrong here, either within British politics, or the religion of Islam.

What’s funny, is that like most of the other pictures some people keep jumping up and down about; the depictions don’t even look like what one would imagine either prophet to have looked. If there’s no resemblance, then clearly we are not talking about an actual image of Jesus or Muhammad, peace be upon them, even if that’s what some people think it depicts. So, how therefore can we really be offended by it?

While I can understand the offence caused by previous cartoons featuring a bomb turban, these images are really tame; some Muslim friends on Facebook, even referred to them as ‘cuddly’.

Muslims have always varied in how they interpret many aspects of Islam and until very recently, this was accepted by most. Although many Muslims today assume it to be haram to depict Prophet Muhammad in works of art, in actual fact there are many historic depictions of the Prophet in Islamic art. In response to this reality, small minded critics hit back with lines like, “Every picture maker is in the Fire. A soul will be placed in every picture made by him and it will punish him in the Hell-fire.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

"The Mi'raj or The Night Flight of Muhammad on his Steed Buraq", 16th Century CE http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/452670

“The Mi’raj or The Night Flight of Muhammad on his Steed Buraq”, 16th Century CE
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/452670

But does that mean, everyone who owns a passport (even a Saudi one) or helps to produce it, is destined for the fires of Hell? Such people lack even the most basic understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. For any point found only in a hadith, not the Holy Quran, we must first consider it’s authenticity, context and degree of importance before jumping to any hasty conclusions.

Due to the history of the community in which Prophet Muhammad lived, there was understandably a profound concern about 3D sculptures that could be used as idols. The hadith is referring to that, not 2D pictures. Which certainly makes more sense in terms of the overall message of Islam, starting with the Kalima Shahada, “La ilaha il Allah…” (No gods beside God). Even 3D sculpture is not haram, if produced as a tool for learning or as a piece of art. The issue was always predominantly with the worship of statues, not the statues themselves. Cartoons as we understand them now, didn’t even exist back then, so how could any hadith be referring to them?

Seeing as these fanatical puritans like to make reference to history, it’s important to realise that people of their mentality were mostly mocked and ignored by Muslims in the past – not listened to and obeyed!

If Islam had been a religion of such petty small mindedness over the centuries, our religion today would not have over 5 madhabs (schools of thought) along with countless Sufi tariqats and other groups, or left us with such a diverse wealth of heritage in all fields of Human endeavour. These facts alone, are proof of Islam’s long tradition of broad mindedness, tolerance and understanding.

stupidity-for-dummies-490x600Jumping to conclusions, making 5 minute fatwas and takfiring (excommunicating) people is most certainly not the Sunnah (example) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who always advised people to consider the consequences of their intended actions before they act.

“And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint none but persons of the greatest good fortune.”
~ Holy Qur’an 41:35 (A. Yusuf Ali)

Self-restraint and thinking before we act, are powerful weapons that will enable us to overcome our weaknesses and go on to make our dreams a reality. Needless to say, lacking in these qualities will result in the exact opposite.

Maajid Nawaz, like many Muslims who refuse to tow the wahabi islamist party line, is one of the latest to have his life threatened. Hang on, what does Islam say about threatening to murder people, especially brothers and sisters of the same faith?

“…if anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…”
~ Holy Qur’an 5:32 (M. Asad)

Among the same people who most passionately (and rightly) highlight the killing of Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere, are often found those fanatics who swiftly issue death threats to anyone with whom they merely have a disagreement. Do they really think this is what Allah SWT wants of them? Have they not read the many verses of the Holy Quran discussing hypocrisy? Is this not blatantly hypocritical?

I’ve been counselled by well meaning friends who advised me to stay out of this one. However, I have a duty to put the record straight. Many of Maajid Nawaz’s critics, especially the more fanatical ones, are themselves acting well outside of Islamic teachings. Were I not to say anything, I’d be a willing accomplice in the further distortion of the teachings of our Human Family’s second largest religion. Were I to stand back, I would truly be disrespecting Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his legacy, the Deen of Islam.

Today, too many Muslims claim to be ready to die for the Prophet, peace be upon him, but who is prepared to live like him? Something to consider…

11 Responses to Maajid Nawaz, Pictures and Death Threats

  1. Pingback: More from Paul Armstrong on Maajid Nawaz | The Islamic Far-Right In Britain

  2. I am OFFENDED by the minds of the offenders. They will always be boxed by their offensive interpretations of things around them. Indeed, Islam has accentuated on the greater jihad which is to subdue the self, for it was an indirect statement recognizing the presence of closed-minded self-confessed Muslims. :(

  3. Jay Bro says:

    Agree on some points. But many Jewish Spurs fans say the term “Yid” is not racist and use it in a celebratory fashion. However, many more deem it to be racist, and hence it’s been deemed as a criminal offense: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/21/football-fans-charged-yid-spurs-matches

    So to you and Majid this isn’t offense. To many Muslims it is (clearly not to the many non-Muslim Majid supporters) offensive. So why the difference?

    Also, Nicolas Anelka gets lambasted for doing the “quenelle” even though he didn’t think it was anti-semitic. He apologises for any offence caused, promises not to do it again…and still gets charged. Majid offends Muslims, sticks a proverbial two-fingers at those offended…and gets lauded. Free speech is quite selective isn’t it?

    • Greg says:

      I think we all know Anelka was lying though. And what he did was specifically designed to cause offense in a racist fashion. As far as the Spurs Yid thing, it appears that only the government and a few liberals find it racist, the majority of Spurs fans and Jews have no problem with it (when used in that context).

      Publishing a rather content-free cartoon and saying “I don’t think this is offensive” can hardly be described as racist, whether or not you personally get offended by it.

      And, erm, I don’t think Anelka or Spurs Yids have received death threats for what they did. It’s one thing for some of the Muslim community to say that this is offensive…death threats are something else.

  4. Tahir M. Raja says:

    Mr Armstrong wonder what type of argument you are trying to make. If you feel that Maajid did not do wrong or Prophet (PBUH) can be picturized well I think you are wrong. Think that why is it that the whole ISlamic architecture does not include figure etc. and is based on mostly nature. I suppose it is like this because we think based on the way the environment grooms use. Unfortunately, the world of today has and is becoming totally off the track of decency and certain rules of respectability. Very unfortunate.

  5. I have mixed feelings about this issue and Mr Nawaz from many perspectives . I have tried to like this man but every time i try he seems to put himself in some very odd and sticky situations be it from that warped TV programme about some numptie edl racist in which his disgraceful actions were manifested in an utter display of venomous inquisition against a fellow Muslim brother to allowing some deluded academic who tried to prove in another deluded warped tv programme that Sayyiduna Muhammad [saw] some how didnt exist at all and that it was some kind of myth. I saw the cartoon pathetic as it is lol never the less anyone who loves the beloved messenger of Allah would not reduce themselves in such a manner by posting something which is clear will offend some . Personally such cartoon tactics are a red herring ! I do not believe anyone should be killed for such lack of creativity and for being such a looser and an intellectually challenged fool lol Peace

  6. Tehmina Kazi says:

    Fantastic blog post!

  7. usman says:

    Whilst I beg to differ with you on a few points, I totally agree with the observation that open debate has become stifled amongst Muslims. ‘Agree to disagree’ was an acceptable outcome for our prophet SAW.
    However I get really mad whenever I see the word ‘islamist’ – what does that MEAN???!!!

    • Islamism is a branch of political ideology found among some Muslims. Islamism can be compared to other political ideologies like Socialism; there are the very left wing Communists, more moderate Socialists (e.g. Old Labour) and centre-left Socialists (e.g. New Labour). All are different branches of Socialism, though they do vary a great deal, all share certain points and evolved from common origin. In a similar way, there are fanatical Islamists, more moderate Islamists and fairly liberal Islamists; few perceive the latter types to be a danger to civilised society, but fanatics of any kind can a danger to us all.

      • eemaan says:

        You still haven’t explained what Islamism is. You’ve said it can be compared to political ideologies like socialism etc. and you’ve said there are fanatical islamists, moderate islamists etc. but you’ve not explained what an Islamist is.

      • An Islamist is a proponent of Islamism. Islamism developed from the Islamic Movement started in the early 20th Century by political thinkers Hassan al-Banna, Abul A’la Maududi and Sayyid Qutb among others, through groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent. Islamism is a branch of political thought that believes Islam should be the state religion and influence all aspects of life, regulation of society, how the economy is run etc. Of course, devout Muslims will be thinking of Allah SWT all the time and this will have a knock on effect in all aspects of their lives. The difference between Muslims and Islamists, is that Islamists seek to impose their interpretation of Islam on society as a whole, rather than it being left to personal choice. I’m not suggesting Islamists aren’t Muslims by making this comparison, just to clarify the political goals of Islamists aren’t necessarily those of a great many Muslims.

        Over the past century, Islamism branched into many interpretations, some of which became more liberal, others more fanatical. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is an example of a group that grew out of a more liberal form of Islamism, the Taliban on the other hand represent an extremely fanatical form. As with Socialism today, the differences are so great that we have to be careful when using the term Islamism. Without doubt, fanatical islamists (as with fanatics of any kind) pose a serious threat to everyone, including the vast majority of Muslims who certainly do not sympathise with their views or their objectives. However, a party like the AKP is doing a lot of good work, which many Muslims (and others) acknowledge and support.

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