Nick Clegg defends Maajid Nawaz’s right to “express himself”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended Maajid Nawaz’s right to express himself after he tweeted a caricature of Prophet Muhammad and Isa (pbut).

In a letter to some of those supporting the petition to remove Nawaz as the PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn, which has exceeded 20,000, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems were a “party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty”.

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Mohammed and colleagues,

Thank you for your letter of the 22 January concerning a recent tweet by Maajid Nawaz linking to a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus.

I very much recognise and respect that the visual depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is regarded as deeply offensive and distressing to you and many other Muslims in the UK and beyond. But I recognise too that there are also Muslims, including devout ones, who take a different view.

I would always urge all Liberal Democrat candidates to use moderate language, be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence. These too are Liberal principles.

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Maajid expressed his view in his personal capacity. He was not representing a view that is Liberal Democrat policy, and his tweet was not discussed or agreed with the Liberal Democrat party centrally before he made it.

However the Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression in an open, liberal and free society and therefore strongly defend Maajid’s right to express his views. Maajid was commenting on a recent BBC programme which covered this issue and wanted to make the point that as a Muslim he did not regard depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as being offensive.

It is my understanding that Maajid has made it clear that he therefore tweeted in order to contribute to a live debate rather than out of any intention to deliberately offend, and that his tweet reflects his genuinely and sincerely held religious views. I hope that those who take a different view would respect his right and sincerity in doing so. I’m sure it goes without saying that the death threats and threats of violence Maajid has received are totally unacceptable, and I’m sure you will join me in whole-heartedly condemning them.

That said, I understand that Maajid has reflected on his use of language in his tweets in reply to some of those who disagreed with him and has expressed regret through a statement on Facebook for any inappropriate language he used – I welcome this. This was intended to resolve this area of contention and hope it will be taken in this spirit.

If you would like to discuss these issues further then please contact the Chair of the Liberal Democrat 2015 General Election campaign, Paddy Ashdown, to do so. This can be done through Sarah Morris on

I would also like to take this opportunity to restate my personal commitment, and that of my party, to continue to work closely with the Muslim communities of the UK. I was proud to support the Muslim community using a verse from the Quran to defend Islam at an inter-faith community event in the wake of the Woolwich attack. And I know that we share many common values on issues, such as opposing the war in Iraq and preventing illiberal counter-terrorism legislation.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Clegg MP

Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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