I wrote earlier about British Muslim politician Maajid Nawaz, who said his God would not be threatened by a cartoon, and received death threats as a result, along with calls on his party to dump him. Mr Nawaz is now defending himself, in an article titled “Why I am speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it”.
In our religion-soaked culture it doesn’t even raise any eyebrows that the supposed creator of the universe has to rely on such petty gestures to protect the one true religion(!) from being hijacked. But let’s see what he has to say. This is how he starts:
Muslims are free. Our prophet left no heir. We have never had a pope or a clergy. We are commanded to worship God alone, and for our sins we are answerable to no one but Him.
Now…really? He couldn’t even write one paragraph without writing off a huge chunk of Muslims (about 10% of them), the Shiites? Because they do believe that the prophet had a (dispossessed) heir. Besides, the claim that Muslims are commanded to “worship” God alone is a linguistic sleight of the hand, because while they are not supposed to worship anyone else, they are well expected to obey others: “Obey Allah, the prophet, and those of you who are in command” (Quran 4:59). Of course this verse means different things to different Muslims, but while to Shiites it means following the prophet’s successors, to some Sunni Salafis it means setting up a caliphate.
Having presented himself as the person trying to defend Islam against its “hijackers”, Mr Nawaz hence names his motives:
My intention was not to speak for any Muslim but myself – rather, it was to defend my religion from those who have hijacked it just because they shout the loudest. My intention was to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge, on pain of death. I did it for Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was assassinated by his bodyguard for calling for a review of Pakistan’s colonial-era blasphemy laws; for Malala Yusafzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting an education; and for Muhammad Asghar, a mentally ill British man sentenced to death for “blasphemy” last week in Pakistan.
My intention was to demonstrate that Muslims are able to see things we don’t like, yet remain calm and pluralist, and to demonstrate that there are Muslims who care more about the thousands of deaths in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria than we do about what a student is wearing. My intention was to highlight that Muslims can engage in politics without insisting that our own religious values must trump all others’ concerns, and to stand before the mob so that other liberal Muslim voices that are seldom heard, women’s and men’s, could come to the fore.
Now, Mr Nawaz, no one is disputing your noble intentions, but we are not falling for your words, either-the reason those who you disagree with have become the de facto face of Islam is not that they shout the loudest. It is simply because there are so many of them. The mobs demanding arrest of a 12 year old for allegedly burning pages of the Koran, or demanding death for atheists, are just as entitled to claim they are trying to stop their faith from being hijacked by you, as you are, to claim it is being hijacked by them (and, may I add, there are a lot more of them than of you). It is noble of you to take a stand for Salmaan Taseer, who gave his life for freedom of conscience, but you must certainly know that his murderer was held up as a hero and showered in rose petals? And as we consistently see this kind of behavior from followers of your faith, and your faith alone, how seriously are we supposed to take you when you claim your faith is being “hijacked”, rather than, heaven forbid, there is something fundamentally wrong with it and it should be reformed-say, some of its violent doctrines be abandoned?
As for those Muslims who disagree with him, Nawaz has this to say.
Other Muslims are free to be offended, and the rest of the country is free to ignore them.
Oh for heaven’s sake, that is not even funny.