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Hampstead and Kilburn – it would be a disgrace if the Lib Dems don’t back Maajid Nawaz to the hilt

27 March 2014

In the past 30 years British English has received a number of loan words from Arabic, words which would have meant very little to our young grandparents but are now familiar enough to be used metaphorically: jihad, fatwa, taliban, dhimmi. Almost all refer to religion and religious conflict, and have a slightly unwelcome ear to most people. (It wasn’t always like this, of course; Arabic has in the past given us a number of terms, from zero to orange to racket and nadir, not to mention countless scientific phrases).

One word I would like to see imported, however, is asabiyyah, a term which is best translated as ‘cohesion’, but more specifically refers to a historical cycle; as societies grow richer and more cultured their sense of cohesion diminishes until they are overrun by less advanced but more cohesive groups from abroad, who in turn lose their asabiyyah.

One could say that Islam invented the concept of ‘social cohesion’. I’m sure that Mo Ansar, the social commentator who is so unaccountably exercised by a drawing of Mohammed and Jesus, would say that. But then he also apparently believes that Muslims were trading with South American tribes centuries before Columbus.

Ansar was on Newsnight this week debating with Maajid Nawaz, the Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, who posted images of the ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon on his Facebook account to make a point about the over-sensitive nature of some religious leaders. Ansar thereafter raised a petition calling on the Lib Dems to drop Nawaz.

I used to think that Ansar was a rather harmless, slightly humorous figure; apparently he’s worked in diversity for 17 years, whatever that means. But this struck me as hugely irresponsible, seeing as such protests in the past have escalated.


Now it seems that Ansar has effectively won. That is saddest of all.

On the plus side Ansar has at least inspired the very amusing King of Dawah, a ‘community leader’ who goes around spouting self-contradictory platitudes that both agree with and totally contradict secular liberalism; Dawah is the creation of a British Muslim and gives hope that European Islam will go through the same moderating pressures that my faith did.

Vital to that moderating pressure (as Irshad Manji states in her cover piece about the reclamation of Islam from Islamists and literalists in this week’s Spectator) is the freedom to insult or mock religion and religious believers, whether we like it or not. As it is, the Jesus and Mo cartoons are not remotely offensive; indeed, like all good satire about religion, it mocks not the religious founders themselves but some of the absurdities of their followers. It’s gentle, even good-humoured stuff, something no God could be insulted by. That was Nawaz’s point.

My advice is that if you’re offended by such things, take yourself off the electoral register and let the grown-ups decide who runs the country. Being part of a free society means sharing the political and cultural sphere with people whose worldview repulses you; if you can’t accept that side of the bargain, stay out of that sphere.

What makes it disgraceful is that I imagine most of the Liberal Democrat hierarchy share this view. If the Lib Dems are abandoning Nawaz, I can only assume that they are making a calculated decision about possible lost Muslim votes elsewhere, which would be disgracefully cynical and disgracefully stupid.

Stupid because a lot of Tories and Labour voters in Hampstead and Kilburn would vote Lib Dem if they made this a free speech issue. If I lived in the constituency I probably would, just out of principle; rather than doing what I will do next year, which is spoiling my ballot by writing LIBLABCON LIES, ‘Common Purpose controls Britain’, and something about chemtrails.

If not, then the Tories should make a stand and offer him a winnable seat instead; he’s put his neck on the line for the Lib Dems so there would be no dishonour for him.

What this comes down to is whether people wish to stick up for the beliefs of their society, or go down the asabiyyah cycle.

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  • Mr Grumpy

    Let me check that I’ve understood the cunning plan. First off, we bring in this lesbian academic from Canada who’s going to lead an Islamic Reformation and turn the average Muslim into a metrosexual hipster who thinks religion is a bit of a giggle. Then if any die-hard traddies remain, we invite them to disenfranchise themselves on the grounds that they are far too ludicrous to have any business voting.
    Problem solved. Who says multiculturalism is dead?
    What have they been putting in your tea, Ed?

  • Marcus Smith

    I’ve followed this story and Ansar’s statements on the BBC and Muslim Channel which he posted on Twitter. I watched Newsnight. Can anyone tell me where he is exercised or offended by the cartoon. I can’t see it. Thanks.

  • Fergus Pickering

    But practically everything LibDems do is a disgrace. Why should this be any different?

  • SpookySpook

    Well said, Ed.

  • Robert Rea

    Why do you assume the Lib Dems are ditching him? As far as I can make out, they’re not.

  • Smithersjones2013

    My advice is that if you’re offended by such things, take yourself off
    the electoral register and let the grown-ups decide who runs the
    country. Being part of a free society means sharing the political and
    cultural sphere with ; if you can’t accept that side of the bargain, stay out of that sphere.

    Which by definition means ‘sharing’ with the very people West is now criticising.

    Given West’s clear inability to tolerate ‘people whose worldview repulses’ him, I look forward to West taking himself off the electoral register immediately. After all he wouldn’t want to be considered a rank hypocrite now would he?

    Seriously the idiocy of Coffee House commentators never ceases to amaze!

  • Captain Caustic

    waiting to meet a real Muslim who has not been accused of not being a
    real Muslim.. by another real Muslim.
    Sadly, there is no one who can speak for Islam since Islam is completely made up….. of real Muslims.

  • Caramel Abdul Jizzbar

    Doesn’t it strike anyone as ironic that the so-called good muslims are the ones who take their religion the least seriously? Eventually, we’ll have to come up with a new term to describe all these muslims and jews and christians who don’t really believe but just go along with the traditional mumbo-jumbo with varying degrees of apathy because it’s something to do.

    • La Fold

      Good point well presented. What is the Islamic equivalent of christian apologists and secular jews?

    • JoeDM

      Just look at Northern Ireland to see what happens when people take their religion seriously.

      Religion + Politics = Social Poison

    • Fergus Pickering

      Caramel, your post is silly. And annoying. What does ‘really believe’ mean? What you say it means, I take it.

      • Caramel Abdul Jizzbar

        If you think it’s silly, articulate why.

        My point is, in the public sphere – media, politicians – there is a pervasive sense that “good” muslims, the ones worth emulating, are the ones who don’t take their religion literally. Those bad fundamentalists, they’re not the real muslims because they’re taking the religion too literally. Good muslims these days should pick from the quran like a buffet, taking the flowery nice bits and ignoring the not so flowerly nice bits. There’s an inherent irony there, to my mind.

        By “really believe”, I’m referring to a growing demographic of people who don’t really believe in a supernatural being but still associate themselves with a religion due to apathy, tradition, fear, social pressure, familial pressure, etc.

        • Fergus Pickering

          My apologies. What you said is now clear to me and not silly. A muslim MUST accept all the rubbish in the Qran. But a Christian has no need at all to accept all the rubbish in the Bible. Only extreme protestants do that. Catholics don’t and never have.

  • James Strong

    And surely, as a professional writer, you know that English has loan words from other languages too.
    So really: nadir, rocket, orange and zero are not so remarkable, are they?

  • James Strong

    What are the ‘countless scientific phrases’ that have come into English from Arabic?
    Can you give us 20? Or 15?
    I hope you are not trying to slip in any suggestion that the mohammedan world has made a contribution of any significance to science in the last 400 years.
    Let’s dismiss any idea, or suggestion of an idea, that all cultures are equal.
    Western science is superior to mohammedan science.
    How many mohammedans have won a Nobel in the hard sciences? I think it’s one, but if I’m wrong and if you double or quadruple my estimate, it’s still insignificant.
    Away from pure science, how does the mohammedan world compare with western achievements in technology? Would you prefer to fly in a plane designed and built by Europeans or Americans, or one designed and built by Egyptians and Saudis?

    • Tom M

      That specious phrase jarred with me too.

    • Rocksy

      ‘Mohammedan’ I love that word. Haven’t heard it in years. It’s a good word and deserves to be used more often.

    • Makroon

      I think our “young grandparents” might surprise Mr West. I seem to recall 8th army veterans introducing quite a few arab words into the English language- some too rude to mention, but ‘bint’ and ‘casbah’ were popular.

  • Mark

    It’s growing, however slowly – the recognition of Ansar for what he is.

    • Captain Caustic

      You mean the bloated self publicist distended with narcissism and who isn’t even the ‘myth polishing Islamic scholar’ he pretends to be? That Mr. Ansar?

  • swatnan

    He’s in the wrong Party; and are Dwayne Brooks, Lady Warsi and Shaun Bailey.
    After suitable vetting and induction and signing a loyalty oath, they should all move over to Labour.

    • Caramel Abdul Jizzbar

      The Warsi who married her own first cousin in an arranged marriage? That Warsi?

      • Fergus Pickering

        What is your point? There are many arranged marriages. It is not a specifically muslim practice. Prince Charles’s first marriage was arranged, though it didn’t work out too well.

        • Caramel Abdul Jizzbar

          My point is that she’s a douchebag and should not be seen as any example to emulate.

  • Frank

    Ed, what is your religion (since you refer to it)?
    Slightly surprised that you have only just discovered that the Lib-dems are disgraceful.

  • Shazza

    What’s the Arabic for ‘adios’?

    • La Fold

      Ma alsalam.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Hang on a ‘mo. How can you expect muslims not to be offended by insults to their religion when almost every other minority group in Britain now has a hair trigger mechanism for taking offence? Suppose those cartoons were making fun of two gays, or two Irish travellers, or two disabled people? All this relaxation over insults is fine enough if it applies across the board. But it doesn’t. People lose their jobs or get prosecuted for insults. Or is it just religion that should be singled out as fair game for insults whilst quasi-religious agenda groups can get all worked up about facsimile football shirts for 10 year olds with Carlsberg adverts on them and people who say the wrong thing about men and women?

    New Labour’s barmy hate speech laws have sown more hatred, more division and even more confusion about what is and what is not acceptable. When I was a lad one of the common retorts to any objection about an utterance in public was “Well, it’s a free country”. Well it isn’t now.

    • SpookySpook

      I agree with you on the hate law subject; the New Labour approach was counterproductive and illiberal – and I say that as one of the ‘gays’ you refer to. I don’t see why we need special laws to protect us – the same laws that protect everyone else would surely have done just fine? Legislating against speech and thought is an absurd proposition. How I wish we hadn’t gone down that road as a society.

  • HookesLaw

    Far be it for me to offer the LDs advice, but if they think their candidate has a chance of winning then they should sensibly support him, if not they should use their scarce resources elswhere – not least defending the seats they already have.

    As ever from Mr West – this post is a mess of rambling rubbish.

  • La Fold

    I find several things offensive, such as One Direction or people taking excessively long at self service checkouts. Something I found highly offensive was Stweart Lee’s Jerry Springer the Opera. Not because of its content and subject matter but because somehow this overgrown sneering sixth former and his childish daubings is seen as somehow… relevant.
    But thats the point, in grown up world people have differing opinions and views and we simply dont ban dissenting views. This is an attack on our freedom of expression dressed up in a culturally senstive sheeps clothing.

    • Bert3000

      I find several things offensive, notably people who think that their pompous self important offense has any value or importance.

      Steward Lee’s Jerry Springer at the Opera showed more talent than a thousand twits ranting about ‘our freedom’ with contempt for actual freedom could produce in their collected unimportant lifetimes.

      • La Fold

        Big fan then eh? Pull your tongue out his harris, dogs do that.

        PS Where do I have contempt for freedom anywhere in my post? I didnt deny him the right to write, stage and produce his play. I just found it boring and fairly predictable.

      • IainRMuir

        Missed the point entirely, didn’t you?

      • Smithersjones2013

        I find several things offensive, notably people who think that their
        pompous self important offense has any value or importance.

        Mega Irony alert!

        I wouldn’t look in the mirror then. You might be offended………

        • La Fold

          Ace picture and name

      • Rocksy

        Did you read the second part of La Fold’s post?

        • Kitty MLB

          Some here do not bother reading posts in the correct manner,
          it somewhat interrupts their pre destined rattling.

          • La Fold

            ha ha I initially thought that too, but his dig at me about having contmept for freedom makes me think he did read the whole thing. Hes just upset cause I had a go at Stewart Lee.

    • Fergus Pickering

      No you don’t find those things offensive. They annoy you. The views of someone who wants to shoot homosexuals dead on sight are offensive. And the views of the muslim jihadists who murdered Lee Rigby. They are offensive. Do you see the difference?

      • La Fold

        I fully concur their views are offensive but we dont ban them, we call them out on it and tell them they are idiotic and offensive.

        And who are you to tell me what I am or i am not offended by?

        • Fergus Pickering

          I am somebody who knows what words mean. You don’t own them, you know.

          • La Fold

            What are you gibbering on about now, you sign? YOU are trying to tell ME what i am saying not the other way round. THIS IS MY POINT EXACTLY! different people are offended by different things. What might deeply offend one person may make another person laugh, this is why we dont go around banning anything that somebody somewhere might take offense to. Its called living in the real world.

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