When I hear the word 'cartoon' and 'Muhammad' in the same sentence, I cringe and prepare myself for a plethora of conflict and disharmony between Muslims and the rest of the world. To the West we Muslims may come across as over-zealous, overexcited and too defensive-but this is not without reason. Being a minority group across Europe and in America, I feel the need to stand up for my faith which seems to be hijacked by many who have nothing to do with me, nor do they represent me-be it Al-qaeda or the Taliban, or some twit from Birmingham. People forget there are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, no way does one size fit all. What offends me will not offend others, and vice versa.
Islam forbids Muslims to make pictorial representations of any prophet, as this encourages the biggest sin in the eyes of God, which is 'shirk' -worshipping anyone other than God. This makes sense to me, as it is human nature for some to want or need to pray to something tangible rather than a spiritual conceptual being. For this reason even the slightest depiction is avoided as small drawings can lead to big paintings, which can lead to sculptures and statues, and voila you have an idol, all ready for worship. When we say 'Muhammad' we always suffix it with 'peace be upon him' because that is how respected and important he is to us. Here lies another reason how he can be mistakenly apportioned divinity-and that as mentioned earlier is a major sin.
Now we come to the Jesus and Mo series. Let me start of by saying I am not offended by most of the series. I am definitely not offended by those T-shirts. There are a few strips which I find distasteful, but being a Muslim, I hear and see things every day on the radio or in the papers that are insensitive and Islamaphobic. Islam bashing seems to have become a favourite past time for some broadcasters and journalists. However these juvenile cartoons are hardly anything to get hot and bothered about. They endorse the typical stereotypes that are used every day by many people- Muslims are terrorists, misogynists, bla bla bla. The creator of the cartoons is not targeting the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or Islam specifically-he's poking fun at organised religion-this doesn't make it any better but it's all light hearted. He also stated at the start that Mo is a body double. I mean that is pretty funny. If the content of these were really offensive like those Danish ones then it would be a different story. Offense is subjective, but there are some things that are blindingly obvious and some that are less. In reality Muhammad (peace be upon him) had great respect for Jesus (peace be upon him) and followed his teachings - yes Jesus is an extremely important prophet to Muslims too. In reality of course they would be friends!
The last few days has seen numerous discussions in the news and in social media about Maajid Nawaz, head of Quilliam Foundation (an anti-extremist think tank set up by the government) and Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn. He retweeted a link to the Jesus and Mo series of cartoons. The tweet led to Maajid receiving many replies by many unhappy Muslims-some slightly loopy, suggesting Nawaz should be beheaded. I mean this is ridiculous-did anyone even know that at the time of the Muhammad's (pbuh) life, not one person was executed for blasphemy? And he had his fair share of abusers.
My problem with Maajid Nawaz is the way he responded to some of these people was extremely rude, inappropriate and wholly unacceptable as a parliamentary candidate. The man stands for the 'moderate' Muslim, and claims to represent those that are not extreme. This doesn't mean you should endorse controversial cartoons in a bid to be deemed as liberal and non extreme. On the other hand he has just published a book so all this publicity can't be doing him much harm.
My second problem is that this is the same man who took Tommy Robinson/Stephen Lennon (founder and leader of the English Defence League) under his wing and gave him a legitimate platform to preach his disgusting and vile Islamaphobic drivel and got the government to pay him for it. Maajid took this man and gave him the respect he certainly didn't deserve and fooled some people into believing he has changed. Luckily Tommy is behind bars now for committing some kind of mortgage fraud, which proves my point exactly-he was a fraud looking to gain some respect and move away from the bad reputation that he had created for himself.
Befriending the EDL leader is definitely not something that I would want in my member of parliament, and hence why I signed the petition to have him removed as a parliamentary candidate. The petition has over 21000 signatories currently. I am not ashamed of this as this is not to do with freedom of speech, but more to do with rejecting thuggish behaviour that perhaps Maajid learnt by getting into bed with Tommy Robinson, metaphorically speaking of course.