‘A planned and sustained attack campaign against reform-minded Muslims. My reply to recent allegations.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in the right. It doesn’t matter if lots of ‘ordinary people’ do the same. In times such as these, the public wants a hero. They do not want an ‘ordinary’ person”. These words were uttered to me by my ever wise wife Rachel, after footage of my stag night in London was vindictively leaked to the press.
In writing this statement I had to think long and hard about whether to come out guns blazing in robust defence of my perfectly legal private actions, of which Rachel had full knowledge, or whether to focus on what I could learn from this episode. Should I wax lyrical about the evident set-up sprung upon me by a bitter club owner who felt perfectly comfortable being a Muslim himself, and owing a strip club, yet felt religiously affronted that I – another Muslim – should be taken to his establishment by my best man to celebrate during my last few months of bachelorhood? Should I focus on that Daily Mail headline: “Married”? It was a stag night. I was obviously not yet married. But no, Rachel’s wise words and grace in the face of such a public violation of our privacy continued to play on my conscience: “people will be people, Maajid. You must be better”.
Indeed. So here I will deign to present a brief explanation of some salient points, and then seek to offer some contrition, because Rachel has been dragged into this mess through no fault of her own, yet has handled it with more grace than I would have were I her.
I have already mentioned that this was a stag night before my marriage. However, even if it were after my marriage, Rachel had already known about it. As a liberal, what consenting adults do in private – whether in or out of wedlock – is not for me to judge. In current times, our moral uproar is best reserved for those who aspire to stone men or women to death, not those who consensually watch women, or men for that matter, dance. In fact, please be prepared to see me again around London sometime, you may even catch me dancing. As long as Rachel is happy, I will not suddenly stop going out. And if you see me, do come over and say hello.
A main question that arises here is the question of hypocrisy. Of my being a Muslim, and a self-described feminist. On being a Muslim, I have lost count of the number of times I have stated that I am a “non-devout” Muslim, including in the Mail newspaper itself (www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Maajid-Nawaz-Why-I-Muslim-believe-vei…). I certainly do not claim to be a religious role model. My work through Quilliam in challenging extremism and promoting human rights is political and social work. I do not proscribe “good” religion. I never describe myself as a representative of Muslims in media, and speak as a liberal, who happens to be a non-devout Muslim, with a unique experience and insight into Islamist extremism. Therefore, my fellow Muslims, I am genuinely sorry that my being in a strip club during a stag night offended you, but I never claimed to represent our religion.
Objections to my describing myself as a feminist might seem at first sight to have more merit. Some feminists take the view that visiting such gentlemen’s clubs objectifies women. Others, many women too, take a more sex-positive view, and believe that erotic dancing is empowering to women. My feminism, as intended by me, extends to empowering women to make legal choices, not to judge the legal choices they make. My fight is for rights. The right of men or women who choose to cover their heads, or their right to uncover their bodies. As long as both are by choice, I will defend people’s right to do either. Others may have their own view, but that is the extent of my feminism. And again, therefore, there is no hypocrisy in me visiting a strip club for a stag night.
This leads to another allegation made in the article by the staff: and it is important that our language remains precise when repeating these: ‘pestering’, and ‘repeated attempts’ to touch the dancer. It has not been suggested that the dancer herself has levied these allegations. In fact, it was the club’s staff, who have already made their political views known in the piece. I wonder, does the club have a “no Muslims we disagree with” policy, only approving conservative Muslim customers?
Let us remember that this was an incident that took place 10 months ago at “Charlie’s Angels” in Aldgate (https://www.google.co.uk/…/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x487603…), and the CCTV footage was unscrupulously leaked just weeks before a General Election.
Look at the video. Contrary to the the Mail’s claims in writing you can see that I was tame and compliant to the dancer’s instructions in the footage. I refute any suggestion therefore of ‘pestering’ and can confirm that I was certainly not issued a warning at any time by the club. It is widely known that in establishments such as these the slightest infraction will render the misbehaving visitor out on the street within seconds. Yet, I left unhindered and on my own accord.
So what could possibly explain all this? Followers of my counter-extremism work will be aware that for years liberal Muslim voices like mine have been subjected to sustained personal attack. Organised incitement (hurryupharry.org/…/more-horrifying-death-threats-against-m…/), death threats (www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Lib-Dem-candidate-receives-death-thre…) and even physical assault (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/…/world_n…/article176412.ece) are frequent occurrences. The article mentions my son from a previous marriage, the truth is I have been denied contact with him for three years now for very similar reasons. Challenging the Muslim status quo today is mercilessly punishing business.
There is no doubt in my mind that this breach of my privacy was part of a pre-planned regressive-Muslim campaign (https://storify.com/Andrew_Nolan/maajid-nawaz-hatchet-job). My wife Rachel had in fact been receiving scary unsolicited emails very soon after my stag night last July from this strip club’s staff member. This staff member calls himself “Shah Free Gaza Jahan” on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jahan79). He began planning this sting last year, immediately after my wedding, in collusion (https://www.facebook.com/jahan79) with a smear site called Mushy Peas. This site had already published (mushypeas.org/maajid-nawaz-wife/) photos of Rachel’s home, family profiles and private email address inviting people to harass her. To quote “Shah Free Gaza Jahan” from as far back as last October 2014 from the screen grab (https://plus.google.com/…/11546…/albums/6137636038894699329…) of that smear site on his motives:
“I have a very interesting story regarding this fraud. Who can I contact to get his out? I was reluctant to let this out as we should cover another Muslims sins. But he’s an atheist (sic) now. So we good”.
After explaining that atheists seem to be fair game for him (for the record I am a Muslim), Shah Jahan was promptly redirected by a known caliphate supporting Islamist Dilly Hussain (hurryupharry.org/…/bullying-women-is-not-one-of-the-5-pill…/) to make contact via his infamous regressive 5Pillarz blog. This is all there in that screen grab for all to see. And thus last October, the plot was hatched.
This is how a politically conservative newspaper unwittingly cooperated with religiously regressive Muslims, to discredit my politically and religiously liberal voice.
It is no surprise to me that this latest episode of my dehumanisation culminated yesterday in yet another call from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism branch, who warned of new specific ISIS calls for my death after this latest smear campaign went viral. Yesterday evening and for the first time, counter-terrorism police ordered the installation of a direct panic alarm in my home from fear of a terrorist attack.
I humbly advise journalists, therefore, who are in touch with Islamist smear merchants to maintain a healthy skepticism around the credibility of those coming to them as sources against reform-minded Muslims.
This brings me finally to what I wish to express contrition for. I am indeed sorry for many things. I am sorry that though I have every right to behave as I like within the law, many will have seen that footage and wished that I had chosen not to go. I am sorry to Rachel, my son, and my family. Though Rachel knew that I had gone, this has thrust her and others into the spotlight unnecessarily. I am sorry to my Liberal Democrat colleagues, for distracting them from important campaign work due to a decision made in the moment. I am sorry to those who respect the counter-extremism work that I do, for placing them in a position of having to defend my rights, rather than praise my choices. And I am sorry to my fellow Muslims, because though I never claim to speak on their behalf, their widespread offence indicates that perhaps they wish I was a better role model for them. For all of you, I will try harder to live better, not just remain within my rights, but to do what is right. Rachel was correct, in times such as these, people need more than just ‘ordinary’.
(Background to the story can be read here)