The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has called on the Liberal Democrats to drop Maajid Nawaz as a parliamentary candidate after he was filmed “harassing” a stripper a few months before he got married last year, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
Nawaz, who heads the “counter-extremism” think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, was the subject of a Daily Mail story today which said he was filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer.
Married father-of-one Nawaz is said to have asked for two private sessions at a strip club in east London. Footage showed the prospective parliamentary candidate – who calls himself an advocate of women’s rights – attempting to touch her arms and thighs, which is against the venue’s policy.
Staff said Nawaz had been pestering the girl all night and his actions had been “outrageous.”
In the film, Nawaz can be seen repeatedly trying to make contact with the girl as she dances naked for him in a private room during two £20 lap dances. Manager Jay Shah, who witnessed Nawaz’s behaviour, said he was “very drunk” and bouncers threatened to throw him out several times.
The full strip club footage, obtained by the Mail, clearly shows Nawaz receiving two five-minute lap dances an hour apart.
The Mail said he and two friends paid £10 entry to the small “gentleman’s club” in Whitechapel and were seen drinking heavily. He left the club alone in the early hours of the morning.
During the first session – in which the dancer gets naked – she has to repeatedly remove his hands from her body and pushes him away at one point.
During the second dance with the same woman, he also spends time chatting to her – whispering into her ear and trying to touch her hair. She later informed the manager, who told security to “keep an eye on her.”
Nawaz has been married to US-born writer and artist Rachel Maggart, 29, since October. They were engaged and believed to have been living together at his West London home when he visited the club on July 9 last year. He has a young son from his previous marriage.
A spokesman for Nawaz said he denied touching the dancer “inappropriately” and added that his reputation for advocating women’s rights was “in the context of Islamic extremism.” He said he had not been warned about his behaviour, and was not “out of control” through drink or breaching the rules.
The spokesman said: “The evening you refer to was our client’s stag night before his marriage. His best man took him to the gentleman’s club with the full knowledge of our client’s then future wife (now his wife).”
But Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the IHRC, said the Lib Dems should now drop him as a parliamentary candidate and the media should stop using him as an “Islamic expert.”
“Maajid Nawaz has tried to redefine what Islam is,” he said. “He’s been telling everybody else that ‘you’re not following the real Islam, what I follow is the real Islam.’ But going to strip clubs isn’t the real Islam.
“Nawaz has been trying to reform and secularise Islam. If some of the other Muslim MPs (who don’t claim to be practising Muslims and are only cultural Muslims) had done this I would have said it was irrelevant, but Maajid claims to be advocating the true Islam so he should be held to another standard.
“He is morally lacking and the Lib Dems should drop him. As for the media who have tried to put him forward as being the ‘good Muslim’, they should realise that there is nothing morally good about him at all.”
Since he established the Quilliam Foundation 8 years ago Nawaz has highlighted the growth of extremism amongst the British Muslim community while simultaneously down-playing the role of foreign policy and Islamophobia in radicalising Muslims.
He has been given a wide platform to disseminate his message – which chimes with that of the political and media establishment – by means of generous government funding for his organisation and huge mainstream media coverage.
A broad cross-section of opinion within the Muslim community has opposed Nawaz and his rhetoric over the past few years. Many consider him to be a vain attention-seeker whose voice has been artificially amplified by government finances, the BBC and the right-wing media.
Nawaz’s message of “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic reform” has also been trumpeted and exploited by Islamophobes such as the EDL, the Daily Mail and The Sun. In so doing many accuse him of stoking Islamophobia in this country.
In further reaction to Nawaz’s humiliation, George Galloway MP told 5Pillars that “this isn’t a private matter, not when you’re running for a parliamentary seat.” And quoting Oscar Wilde he added: “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.”
Meanwhile, a senior Islamic activist – who did not wish to be named because he didn’t want to give Maajid Nawaz any attention – said: “People give far too much publicity to that idiot, he’s a nobody. I’m far more concerned about the white supremicists at Whitehall than I am about him.
“He’s just a superficial fly-by-night character who has plugged into the Islamophobic vibe just to get government finances. He is just a front for Islamophobes. And now it’s apparent that he’s a mysoginist too. Allah gives justice in the end.”
And Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation said the Daily Mail story was very damaging for Maajid Nawaz although he suspected that the Lib Dems would stand by him.
He told 5Pillars: “I think the Lib Dems will take the view that this is a private matter although if it’s proved that he harassed the stripper that might be more difficult for him because he claims to be for equality and feminism and the rights of women.
“As for the media, well he seems to be the go-to person for them on issues of extremism and the reformation of Islam but as far as I’m concerned he’s never had any credibility in the Muslim community who see him as representing a neo-con agenda.
“But it’ll be interesting to see if his right-wing, liberal hawk and atheist friends defend him now.”