Earlier this year, Maajid Nawaz, a Liberal Democrat MP candidate, attracted controversy when he tweeted a link to a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. Said cartoon depicts the Islamic Prophet Muhammad alongside the Jewish-zombie-wizard, Jesus Christ. Although part of a series featuring, among other things, the two in bed together, this particular cartoon simply featured them standing next to each other. However, the mere depiction of the Prophet is forbidden in Islam.
Nawaz, a Muslim and the director of the anti-extremism think-tank Quilliam, posted the link to highlight that, as a Muslim, he did not find the cartoon offensive. Indeed, it is worth noting, Islam only forbids Muslims depicting the Prophet and says nothing about the illegitimacy of non-believers doing so. However, the response from a section of the UK’s Muslim community has been negative. A petition to de-select Nawaz has attracted 20,000 signatures and several prominent Muslims (and a few objectionable hangers-on) have condemned Nawaz’s actions and opinions. Nawaz has also received a handful of death-threats.
This video features a debate between Nawaz, the journalist Mehdi Hasan (of the Huffington Post), and social commentator, Mo Ansar. In the shadow of the latest round of “Muhammad-cartoon-gate”, the debate concerns both Nawaz’s actions and “who speaks for British Muslims”*.
Interestingly, the program was going to feature Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a Muslim woman and writer, before she was dropped in favour of Ansar. Therefore, the predominance of male voices is as much a reflection of the media (and its image of Islam) as it is of the Islamic community.
*[The answer, if you're wondering, is no one. No one can ever speak for anyone else, let alone a population of nearly 3 million who all have their own individual perspectives, interests, beliefs, and agendas.]