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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > UK: The Illiberal Democrats

UK: The Illiberal Democrats

Wednesday 12 February 2014, by siawi3

Sarah AB

January 22nd 2014, 7:05 pm


A reasonable Lib Dem response to the ridiculous recent petition condemning Maajid Nawaz might have been to say nothing at all – particularly given that it cited David Ward as an example of someone who helped build community cohesion.

But instead they issued this statement:

“The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.â€

There is plenty of material which one should be free to share, but which might be said to cause gratuitous or unnecessary offence. But Maajid Nawaz was making an important point about censorship and blasphemy taboos – and the Lib Dems’ response helps illustrate why that point needed to be made. In some instances one might retweet genuinely aggressive satire in order to make a free speech point – in the wake of death threats for example. But Jesus and Mo really should not be seen as something which has to be hedged round with such caution and anxiety.

Here’s a very good point from Robert Sharp:

On the Daily Telegraph blog, Tom Chivers says he won’t reproduce the Jesus and Mo cartoon because he desires a quiet life. I think that misses the point. It’s incredibly easy and trivial for white guys like Tom or me to republish pictures that might be blasphemous to Islam. We can do so with near impunity. It’s not controversial.

It bears repeating: The problem with ‘offence’ and ‘blasphemy’ is that it suppresses the dissenting voices from within a community. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti; Maajid Nawaz; Salman Rushdie, &ct. Minorities within minorities.

I suspect that if a non-Muslim PPC had retweeted that cartoon, in order to make a point about free speech, there would not have been this outraged response.

Dilly Hussein channels Andrew Gilligan on 5Pillarz, complaining that Tell MAMA has stepped outside its remit in offering a bit of support to Nawaz in the face of death threats from Pakistan.

To add to his sob story, anti-Muslim monitoring charity, Tell Mama (government funded) issued a statement that two death threats had been made to Nawaz from Pakistan in response to his tweet…what relevance does that exactly have on the response of British Muslims?

Here’s one answer, in the form of a tweet from Mohammed Shafiq:

We will notify all muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries.