British Muslim news in April 2015 was dominated by Maajid Nawaz’s public humiliation after a tape of him emerged with a stripper during Ramadan. But April was also the month when one of the UK’s most prominent Muslim politicians – Lutfur Rahman – was forced to step down as mayor of Tower Hamlets.
On April 10th, The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) called on the Liberal Democrats to drop Maajid Nawaz as a parliamentary candidate after he was filmed with a stripper a few months before he got married in 2014.
Nawaz, who heads the “counter-extremism” think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, was the subject of a Daily Mail story 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.”
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.”
Writing in 5Pillars, activist Amar Alam said the story exposed Nawaz’s lack of credibility as a representative of Islam and Muslims in the UK.
He wrote: “The great irony behind Maajid Nawaz’s exploitation of vulnerable women is that on Newsnight in 2013 he declared himself to be a ‘feminist’ and regularly paints himself to be a champion of women’s rights. However, it is now clear that Maajid is happy to exploit women for his own needs and has no issue in using them as degraded commodities.
“Abdul Malik, the owner of the night club, made it clear that he made the video accessible to the public to highlight the clear hypocrisy in Maajid’s behaviour because he portrays himself as a ‘feminist,’ a ‘family man’ and acts like a ‘spokesman for Islam,’ yet he is nothing of the sort, especially as he visited the club during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“Furthermore, Maajid Nawaz frequently speaks about the need to reform Islam from its ‘misogynistic practices,’ so is going to strip clubs and treating women like objects the standard that he wants Muslims to adopt when he calls for a reformation of Islam?”
Also in April, Lutfur Rahman was forced to step down as mayor of Tower Hamlets and leave the Town Hall after a judge ruled that his election in May 2014 was void because of a range of illegal interventions, including ghost voters and the use of “spiritual influence”. He is barred from office for five years as was his agent, Cllr Alibor Choudhury.
Rahman said he would be appealing the High Court judgement.
In a statement published on his website Rahman said “he continues to reject all claims of wrongdoing” and holds “that the integrity of the court system was marred by the bias, slurs and factual inaccuracies in the election judgment.”
The statement continued: “Tower Hamlets First councillors reject the election court’s claims that we are nothing more than a ‘one man band.’ We support Lutfur Rahman as a party because he has led in delivering record numbers of social and affordable homes, investing in our young people with maintenance allowances and university grants and standing up to Tory and Labour austerity.”
Writing in 5Pillars, PHD student Jennifer Izaakson, who attended the Lutfur Rahman court hearing in London, forensically dissected the verdict and argued that a huge miscarriage of justice had just taken place.
She said: “37,000 people voted for Lutfur Rahman in a record turnout. He has now been deposed – not by an election, not by arrest and not by a jury trial, but by four local politicians who took him to court.
“Sitting in judgment was one man only – not a qualified judge, only a barrister (assumed by the media and even myself to be a judge) – who has demonstrated previously a peculiar interest in Muslims and elections. This man found Lutfur Rahman guilty of multiple offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983…
“Whilst it’s not racist to criticise Lutfur, most of the criticism of him is overlaid with racism.”
In the international arena, French footballer Nicolas Anelka lamented over the increasing Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims in France.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, the 36-year-old Anelka said that while French people with a North African background attempt to assimilate, the system discriminates heavily.
“French people of North African background try to make things work for them, but French society keeps them in check. There are a lot of obstacles in the way,” he said.
“For example if you send a CV with the ‘wrong postcode’ and a Muslim sounding name then you won’t be considered for a job. It is only in France that you need to hide your name and picture in the hope of getting work. That level of discrimination is unacceptable.”
Malaysia anti-terror bill
Finally, Malaysia passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill in April which the government said was needed to tackle the threat from “Islamic extremists.”
The bill reintroduces indefinite detention without trial – something the prime minister had repealed in 2012.
Human Rights Watch called the move “a giant step backwards for human rights”.
It was passed hours after the police announced the detention of 17 suspected militants believed to be planning attacks in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said those arrested, the youngest just 14, were planning to attack police stations and army bases to gather weapons.
Two of the suspects had just returned from Syria, police said.