Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz, who recently tweeted a cartoon of Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed, sparking a petition to have him deselected by his party, locked horns with Muslim community organiser Mo Ansar and the political director of the HuffingtonPost UK Mehdi Hasan on Newsnight on Monday.
Nawaz, who runs the anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, tweeted a picture of a t-shirt, featuring a print of controversial comic strip Jesus and Mo, alongside the words: "This is not offensive and I'm sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it."
The petition on Change.org, which gained around 20,000 signatories, stated: "Maajid Nawaz’s recent activity on social media outlets Facebook and Twitter have been both disrespectful and offensive to the Muslim community in the UK and abroad and the Islamic faith at large... And hence the Party must take punitive action ideally through disassociating itself with Mr Nawaz by removing him from his position as PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn."
Following the tweet, Nawaz received several death threats as well as condemnation, notably from MP George Galloway, who responded by tweeting: "No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL."
During the discussion, it emerged that Myriam Francois-Cerrah, the prominent writer and journalist, was dropped from the discussion in favour of Ansar, resulting in no female Muslim voice on the panel.
Before the show she tweeted:
— M Francois-Cerrah (@MFrancoisCerrah) March 24, 2014
Twitter reacted to Francois-Carrah's removal from the panel with some disdain:
— Sabbiyah Pervez (@sabbiyah) March 24, 2014
— Shaista Gohir (@ShaistaGohir) March 24, 2014
— Shelina Janmohamed (@loveinheadscarf) March 24, 2014
Ian Katz, the Newsnight producer who made the decision to drop the only female voice from the panel, tweeted:
@MFrancoisCerrah Very sorry to stand you down for tonight. Felt we needed wider range of views on panel. Hope you'll come on another time.
— Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) March 24, 2014