So the Maajid Nawaz circus rolls on, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
There was a period of relative silence after he disgraced himself by tweeting offensive images of the Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Easa (peace be upon them). But last night BBC Newsnight decided to re-launch his career by giving him a full six minutes of self-promotion.
Newsnight has a history of promoting Nawaz, a man who has virtually no grassroots support inside the Muslim community and is reviled by Muslims of all stripes.
In fact I’ve lost count of the number of times that he’s appeared on the BBC’s flagship news magazine show since they effectively kick-started his “anti-extremism” career back in 2007. One day perhaps Nawaz’s name will appear at the end of the Newsnight credits as a producer.
Anyhow, back to the self-promotion. Nawaz managed to pack in a second-rate comedian (Adil Ray), a gay Muslim (Omar Kuddus) and an ex Muslim (Maryam Namazie) into his bleeding heart whine-fest. The only character he missed was a Muslim one armed dwarf.
Namazie, by the way, managed to mention alleged death threats made against her, as Nawaz himself often does. Between them I reckon they must have had more death threats than Charles de Gualle. And of course, the fact that they’ve had them makes any BS they spout beyond criticism.
So after the whine-fest ended the real circus started. Despite entreaties not to appear with Nawaz and thus give him the oxygen of publicity he craves, Mo Ansar and Mehdi Hasan couldn’t resist the opportunity to appear on such a prominent platform.
An unseemly shouting match ensued with guests (especially Nawaz) interrupting the others. I’m not sure why Ansar was there because he seemed to agree with much of what Nawaz was saying, while Hasan made a few good points when he was allowed to express himself. Meanwhile, Jeremy Paxman did nothing to control the debate and was relegated to hapless bystander.
The end result? We learned nothing about the supposed topic of debate “Who Speaks For Muslims?” and no one came out of it with any credit, unless taking part in a circus is something you want to boast about.
Frankly, Newsnight would have taught us more about “Who Speaks for Muslims” if they had commissioned a film by Borat and got a Muslim lesbian and pork-eater to debate it afterwards.
Personally I am not interested in hearing Nawaz express his views on mainstream television anymore as if he is some kind of legitimate Muslim commentator. The fact is that he would be nobody had not the government and mainstream media promoted him. He derives his legitimacy not from the community work that he has done but because his “anti-extremism” message chimes with that of the powerful establishment.
Some will doubtless say that Muslims have a duty to take him on and destroy his arguments on prominent platforms. I have been called a coward myself for refusing to do this. But ultimately I can take those criticisms on the chin because I am not interested in winning or losing a debate against Nawaz, I am only interested in marginalizing him from Muslim discourse.
And I think it’s safe to say that I speak for most British Muslims when I say that.
So it’s time we got strategic with the “Maajid Nawaz question.” If our goal is to marginalize him then I say the best way is to boycott him completely – refuse to share any platform with him and make him toxic. As a journalist I know that if a guest is so toxic that others won’t appear with him soon enough TV companies will stop inviting that guest. Why? Because TV shows don’t want to ruin their productions.
It is also very clear that the mainstream media will not listen to the plethora of voices in the Muslim community who implore them to deny Nawaz a platform to disseminate his unrepresentative fringe views. So we now have to kick the mainstream media where it hurts – the quality of their productions.
We also have to put pressure on Muslim commentators like Mehdi Hasan and Mo Ansar not to appear with Nawaz and thus perpetuate the circus. Hasan, especially, said some good things last night but ultimately that circus may not have happened without his participation.
I have long argued that Muslims are “getting played” – by the government and by the media. We are always in reactionary, defensive mode, responding to strategies that entrap us and always after it is too late. But we can only “get played” if we play the game. And the way to stop the circus rolling on is to simply stop playing the game.