Nick Clegg will not drop Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nawaz who tweeted a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus

Clegg will not drop Lib Dem candidate

 

Nick Clegg has said he will not drop a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate who sparked widespread protests among some Muslims by tweeting a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

Maajid Nawaz says he has received death threats since posting the image earlier this month, while a petition calling for him to be ditched as Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn in next year's general election has gathered more than 20,000 signatures, and a rival petition in his defence has more than 7,000.

Mr Clegg told LBC 97.3 radio that he would not personally have tweeted the controversial cartoon - which shows a stick figure of Jesus saying "Hi" to a stick figure called Mo, who replies "How you doin'?" - and said it was important to show "respect" to people of all faiths and none when discussing religious matters.

But the Lib Dem leader said: "He is not going to be dropped as a Liberal Democrat candidate. He has the right - as any Muslim, non-Muslim or anyone of any faith or none in this country has - to say things even if that causes offence to other people.

"It so happens that what he did does cause real offence to many, many Muslims in this country. All I would say is that we have to make sure that that debate, sensitive though it is, is conducted in a respectful way in moderate terms.

"I would not have tweeted that thing, clearly. I will defend anyone's right to deploy the freedom of expression in this country. I'm not going to start censoring people in a free society."

Mr Nawaz, the co-founder of counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, posted the image after appearing in a BBC television debate about religious tolerance which featured two students wearing it on T-shirts.

He said that he was sending out the "bland" cartoon to show that, as a Muslim, he did not feel it was a threat to his faith and to demonstrate that "Muslims are able to see things we don't like, yet remain calm and pluralist".

"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," Mr Nawaz has said.

"My intention was to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge, on pain of death."

Speaking on his LBC Call Clegg show, Mr Clegg said: "I know how very strongly people feel about this. The cartoon and subsequent debate has caused a lot of offence to many Muslims across the country.

"But we simply cannot tolerate anyone in a free country - where we have to protect free speech, even if that free speech might cause offence to others - being subject to death threats and them and their family being put under extraordinary pressure to recant what they said.

"Having said that, I would be the first to say that when you are dealing with issues of religion and deeply held faith, you have got to express yourself moderately and sensitively and with respect one to the other.

"That is the corollary of freedom of speech, it is also the freedom to deploy that freedom of speech in a sensitive and moderate way. That's why Maajid has been right to express and acknowledge regret at some of the ways he has responded in the debate."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash