Quilliam Founder Maajid Nawaz took an unfathomably brave step yesterday when, as a Muslim, he posted a cartoon on Twitter of the Prophet Muhammad (The fact that this can be described as a brave step, is deeply troubling in itself). Predictably, the cartoon sparked a storm of feigned outrage (self-pity, as the rest of us call it) across social media. Immediately threats were sent, and anger registered. The sort of anger that Christians registered at the opening of “The Life of Brian” for much the same reasons; they don’t like what they consider to be “blasphemy” and that we should all play by their rules (whilst they themselves wish the freedom to criticise and mock ‘the West’, democracy, homosexuality, and anything else they relentlessly disapprove of).
It is important to note that it is not my place to tell you what is and isn’t offensive to you. If you find a cartoon of Muhammad offensive, then I have no place to tell you that you shouldn’t. You are entitled to be offended by anything that, well, offends you. It would be wrong of me to claim otherwise. You’re also entitled to complain. No one wishes to take that right away from you (except, perhaps, Islamists and a few Nationalists… both of whom have a lot more in common than they realise) However, this is just as true for you, as it is for me. For example, I am offended by almost every chapter of the Qur’an opening with a vivid description of how as a non-believer, I deserve eternal torture, for simply not believing. For example, chapter 3 gives us this lovely little tale:
“As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”
– It offends me that billions of people believe this violent horror story, and consider me therefore inferior, deserving only punishment for the terrible crime of saying “I’m not sure I believe this“. This offends me. But I don’t call up the BBC every time they drag Mo Ansar on as a ‘moderate’ face of Islam in Britain, to complain that he’s showing support for a book that openly offends billions of people with threats of severe punishment. I have the right to complain and hope for him to be disciplined for that. But I don’t. Because I’m a grown up.
Equally, I am offended by ‘moderate’ Muslims like Mehdi Hasan insisting that we non-Muslims are unthinking, and that we live like animals:
“The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God.”
“We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”
– This offends me. Hasan doesn’t know me. He’s never spoken to me. And here he is summarising an entire group of people (not our beliefs or ideas… but we as people, as human beings) as living like animals. But I do not then write to the New Statesman to complain in the hope that Mehdi Hasan will be sacked, or disciplined. I don’t do this, because I’m a grown up.
Mo Ansar – a grown up – had such a tantrum over the posting of a cartoon by Maajid Nawaz yesterday (as did Mohammed Shafiq), that he tweeted the Lib Dem complaint form (Nawaz is a Lib Dem candidate) for others to fill out and complain… about a cartoon. This is a very passive aggressive way to silence people, and I find it offensive. A very sort of Daily Mail reader response to something they dislike. A lot of Islamists took to twitter to outright threaten Nawaz. Ansar’s method was similar though far more passive aggressive; threaten to report people to their superiors, in the hope they’ll be disciplined and shut up in future, by threatening their career simply because Mo doesn’t like blasphemy:
It is therefore easy to play Mo at his own game, and to turn this around and aim his own hideous anti-secular logic back at him. For example, I am offended by Mo’s underhanded suggestion that we non-believers are uncharitable. Why post this? For what purpose was he serving? This seems nothing more than a “get one up on the Atheists” game he’s playing. It’s offensive. But I didn’t report him… because again, I’m a grown up.
– Mo Ansar, who I consider to be a religious supremacist, doesn’t take kindly to those challenging religious supremacy. With that in mind, I am offended by Mo Ansar showing his support for the protests in Bangladesh that called for the hanging of Atheist bloggers:
– ‘Protesting blasphemy’. No, they were calling for blasphemy laws, and the punishment of those who “offend” Islam. The bloggers; Asif Mohiuddin, Subrata Adhikary Shuvo, and Russell Parvez, had their lives threatened, with chants of “Hang the atheists”. I cannot imagine Mo would be so quick to defend EDL supporters if the chants were “Hang the Muslims!” and those same protesters demanding all those who happen to be Muslim, be punished by new anti-Muslim laws. It is often the case with religious supremacists – as with all supremacists – that they tend to be very hypocritical. Indeed, supremacy is hypocrisy.
Atheists bloggers in Bangladesh had already been murdered for blaspheming. This is the reality of religious fascism and what Mo chooses to ignore – or in this case, gloss over – in his war on secularism. Hefazat-e-Islami is the group that took a large role in the Bangladesh protests. Their demands included:
“…abolishment of all laws which are in conflict with the values of the Quran and Sunnah.” “…death penalty as the highest form of punishment to prevent defamation of Allah, Muhammad (S.A.W).” “…Immediate end to the negative propaganda by all atheist bloggers.”
– For Mo Ansar, the media referring to – what he calls “Orthodox Muslims” – as “Islamists” is nothing more than media propaganda. It’s a predictable response from Mo. In the same way that the EDL claim the media always pick on them, when they’re smashing up shops. The protest in Bangladesh was not a peaceful protest, nor did it have any peaceful motives. It was a violent fascist movement demanding the establishment of an Islamic state full of oppression for those who don’t fit its narrow spectrum of what is decent and correct. Mo Ansar defending these people and completely ignoring their totalitarian demands, offends me. But I haven’t clicked the “report” button on twitter. Because I’m a grown-up.
I am offended that Mo Ansar see’s fit to not only defend ritualistic genital mutilation, but summarises anyone who might take issue with the chopping up of a child’s genitalia, as a “militant secularist”:
I am offended that one cannot post a cartoon on a social media channel without receiving death threats from self-pitying, religious supremacist thugs, desirous of a World run according to their dictates, in a secular country. This offends me.
It offends me to know that both Mo Ansar and Mohammed Shafiq are intelligent enough to understand that their feigned-public outrage would both fuel and lend credibility to a threatening and violent backlash, and yet they did it anyway. This is utterly grotesque of two grown men.
I am offended that Mo Ansar openly supported gender segregation in secular institutions:
– Contrary to what Ansar seems to be suggesting, UCL did not tell Muslim women that they MUST sit next to men. There was no “dictating” to Muslims at all. It was Muslims attempting to dictate to everyone else, and then complaining when people weren’t going to stand for that nonsense. UCL simply have a free seating policy. Sit where ever you wish. They do not base seating, or any other policy, on religious demands. There is no infringement of any right going on here. if UCL were forcibly telling Muslim women that they must sit next to a man, that they have no choice, then yes, rights would be abused. That wasn’t the case. Ansar is manipulating the situation, to appeal to the victim mentality espoused by the faithful when they don’t get to force their principles upon the rest of us, and that offends me.
I am offended that my gay friends are called ‘unnatural’ and ‘haraam’ by Muslims who know nothing of nature, and seem to believe that if bigotry is cloaked in the word ‘faith’, it is acceptable and must be respected. Mohammed Shafiq – a Lib Dem – was another yesterday who had a tantrum over the cartoon and announced his intention to complain to the Lib Dems. The same Shafiq who would withhold the right for two people in love to marry, based entirely on his own personal belief:
– “Protect religions”… as if religions have been the victims of persecution by the gay community over the centuries. I think Shafiq is a little confused here. Shafiq is not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. Shafiq and Ansar have far more in common with the right wing, than they’d ever care to admit.
In fact, I am offended that Shafiq calls himself liberal. It is insulting to the traditions, the ideals and the great philosophical minds that have defined liberalism, that a homophobic religious supremacist has the nerve to place himself in the liberal camp. This offends me.
Nothing happens when you’re offended. You’re just offended. That’s it. It makes you say “I’m offended”. You might argue your case, and you have a right to do that, and that is in most cases, a sensible reaction (you may also wish to just ignore it and walk away, also a sensible option). It provokes debate and it encourages others to understand and perhaps challenge their own thought processes or ideas. Encouraging discussion is good. That is how grown-ups deal with being offended. Mo on the other hand, has decided that if you say something he doesn’t like, about his own beliefs, he will try to have you punished for it. So stay quiet. Or else.
Secondly, much of what we deem to be a feeling of “offense” tends not to last very long. Whilst yesterday Mo was outraged and offended by a cartoon being posted, it seemed to have passed by this morning:
– To put this into perspective, Mo posted a link to the Lib Dem complaint page, in order to have Maajid Nawaz disciplined for blasphemy; an ‘offence’ so terrible, that it hurt Mo’s feelings for about an hour. Islamic superiority complex hidden behind the very typical victim mentality, nothing more.
To reiterate; Mo Ansar suggested others complain to the Liberal Democrats, about blasphemy. He wants a political party in the UK – with the name ‘Liberal’ in their title – to punish what he considers to be blasphemy. In the 21st Century. It isn’t the right to challenge or the right to complain that I have an issue with. Both of those are essential in a secular democracy. It is the vacuous mentality that drives people like Mo Ansar to complain like a child, in the hope of silencing others, disempowering others, for the sake of the perpetuation of the supremacy of their belief that both irritates me as someone who values secularism, and, as it turns out, offends me.
It offends me that Mo Ansar then retweeted this ridiculous comment by George Galloway:
– Predictable child-like Galloway response “we’re not going to love you again ever ever ever ner ner!” It is perhaps prudent at this point to remember that in 2009, Galloway delivered this address in Gaza:
“I, now, here, on behalf of myself, my sister Yvonne Ridley, and the two Respect councillors – Muhammad Ishtiaq and Naim Khan – are giving three cars and 25,000 pounds in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics.”
– £25,000 in cash to Ismail Haniyah. The same Ismail Haniyah who referred to Osama Bin Laden as a ‘Muslim warrior’ whose soul ‘rests in peace’. Haniyah is also imperialistic, believing the entire region Islamic by divine right. He believes that peace with Israel can only come about, if they agree to give up Jerusalem, for no other reason, than being under the delusion that his particular fairy-sky man divinely ordained it for Muslims. Another key member of Hamas, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar described gay people as being:
“…a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.”
I am offended that Mo Ansar would show his solidarity with anyone who openly supported and funded such a hideously fascist and oppressive regime.
Ansar then complained that secular progressives are focusing too much on trying to ‘reform’ Islam. Here, Mo is very wrong again. Secularists – like myself – believe all beliefs and ideas should be treated equally. This is healthy. To deviate from this, is to advocate supremacy. This is unhealthy. Mo’s very anti-secular attempts to silence Nawaz by encouraging reporting him, proves the point Nawaz was originally making; that reform is necessary. And secondly, if you do not wish to see your faith reach a point where it is considered universally unacceptable to demand punishment for blasphemy (aggressively or passive aggressively… and including all ideas, such as holding negative opinions about ‘the west’), nor to reach a point that your faith is not considered supreme and inherently deserving of a special dispensation from the rules that allow us to criticise and mock all other concepts and ideas – be they religious or political – and indeed, you help to perpetuate that state of affairs with feigned outrage over cartoons, then you’re going to have to deal with the rest of us challenging that regressive and sinister position, by posting cartoons perhaps. We disagree with just how important you think your religious beliefs are for the rest of us. You will have to cope with that. Because you’re a grown-up.
I am quite certain that it isn’t those of us who happily critique, satirise, or mock Islam that fuel anti-muslim hate and anger. We treat Islam no differently than we treat all authoritarian ideas. We advocate a line of equality by which no concept is permitted to rise above. We believe it is so incredibly vital and necessary that all ideas – especially authoritarian ideas – be open to all forms of criticism and that the critic be free from threat. This is how you combat extremism that arises when ideas – like Islam – become so far removed from the treatment all other ideas are open to. It is therefore those like Ansar, who wish to form a protective layer around Islam as a concept, free from mocking, free from blasphemy, free from critique or attempts at reform, free from satire, whose actions and words work only to make a taboo out of Islam, which in turn creates an atmosphere of suspicion and disunity across the country. To shut off criticism perverts the idea, it makes it appear superior to its adherents who react sensitively whenever that superiority is challenged, and it creates an air of suspicion, with those overly defensive and suspicious few – with groups like the EDL – tending to react with putrid anti-muslim rhetoric and violence. It is therefore essential for the health of humanity, that all authoritarian ideas be as open as possible to mocking, criticism, and satire – this includes my own ideas. This is the goal we must progress. To react passive aggressively when just one idea is challenged, – and yet remain silent when satire or mockery or criticism of other ideas (say, ‘The Book of Mormon’ musical or ‘The Life of Brian’) are challenged – and to attempt to silence the challenges to that one idea, is vastly sinister, and dangerous, and offensive. It is this that perpetuates the idea that Islam is somehow different, and that is so incredibly dangerous for so many reasons. This is what Ansar is perpetuating. For that alone, Mo Ansar ‘offends’ me. But I’m not going to encourage complaining about him to the BBC in the hope that they might discipline him… because I’m a grown-up.