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Tuesday, January 28, 2014 

Why I'm speaking up for myself against everyone who has criticised me.

You've probably never heard of me, as no doubt you have better things to do with your life than follow the online adventures of the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, but a couple of weeks ago I tweeted something which has the potential to be truly revolutionary.

I tweeted a picture of the online Jesus and Mo cartoon, the one that both Viz and Private Eye would reject as being a bit pathetic and transparent.  For those not in the know, this has caused controversy in the past, mainly among those who are always looking to be offended.  If nothing else, I know a controversy I can exploit when I see one.  After all, I was the person who felt Tommy Robinson or whatever his real name is (he hasn't actually told me it, but it's not important) was just desperate to get away from the far-right organisation he created.  That Robinson has now been sent to prison again and tweeted after the sentence that it was a "stitch-up" in no way means I was wrong to try and get him to slightly rebrand his unique critique of Islam.

I tweeted it not because I was seeking to speak for anyone other than myself, but because I know the only way to keep my think-tank Quilliam going is to make ever greater attention-seeking gestures.  I'd noticed you see that there's a certain section of the left-wing Twitterati/commentariat that is outraged by everything and anything some Muslims do politically.  A month ago the issue of the week was the voluntary segregation that fundamentalists at universities were insisting upon, and which the official guidance had acquiesced in.  Somehow Downing Street intervened, and soon everyone was backtracking.  It didn't matter that this essentially means fundamentalist women won't be able to attend speeches by their favourite extremist, and I speak having previously ploughed that furrow, or will just mean that such meetings will have to happen off campus, clearly an important wrong has been righted.

Why then shouldn't I join in?  There was never any chance of Nick Clegg or the Liberal Democrats deselecting me down to my tweet; look how they've dealt with Lord Rennard and Mike Hancock for goodness sake, so there was next to no risk.  Death threats?  I was in prison in Egypt for goodness sake.

You see though, this isn't about me.  Honest, it isn't.  No, I was speaking up for my religion.  Not all of us Muslims are mouth-breathers without a sense of humour, or who are offended by someone drawing a line and writing "Muhammad" next to it.  Some of us are also extremely ambitious and know how to get people like Nick Cohen writing columns.  I did it to create a space for people to speak out without being immediately accused of blasphemy, for Salmaan Taseer, Muhammad Asghar, Malala and Salman Rushdie.

Fundamentally, I believe in the same things as you do, just like most ordinary Muslims.  I'm not ordinary obviously, but you get the point.  I believe in the ability of those on social networks and in the modern media to blow extremely minor spats out of all proportion, presenting them as though they are about the very fundamentals of freedom of speech; I believe in making the most of such outbreaks of bullshit; and most importantly, I believe in myself.

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