Close to 10,000 British Muslims gathered at Downing Street earlier this month to protest against the offensive depictions of Prophet Mohammad in several western publications. Dozens of demonstrators participated in the protest, which was organized by Muslim Action Forum. They carried placards and banners expressing devotion and love for the Prophet and condemning the stance adopted by certain western media outlets, including the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was one among many to publish or republish offensive sketches related to Islam in the recent past.
Among those that headed the protest were some renowned personalities including Pir Fiaz ul Hasan, Pir Munawar Hussain Jamaati, Pir Irfan Meshhadi, Syed Zafarullah and Barrister Faiz ul Aqtab. According to the protesters, not only are the sketches in question offensive, also equally outraging is how some media outlets have made it their full-time job to ridicule Islam under the apparent guise of freedom of speech and expression. They went on to say it is unacceptable to Muslims that the most revered personality in their religious history would be dismissed and disregarded in such ways only so those in the west could make a point.
Muslim Action Forum alleged the recent publishing of sketches and depictions of the Prophet by Charlie Hebdo and subsequent republishing of the material by other media outlets was a definitive reminder of the fact that freedom of speech and expression is often used to insult personalities that certain religions consider sacred. Claiming to express deep regret over the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the protesters at Downing Street said the magazine’s content clearly violated Islamic Law and went on prove how the publication had turned into an “abuse factory” over time. Some of their placards quoted Pope Francis, who after the horrendous Paris attacks, spoke against Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of Mohammad and asked those involved with the caricatures to “learn some manners.”
Jamaati expressed gratitude to the British media for not republishing any of the controversial sketches, saying billions of Muslims from across the world had been hurt and saddened, as they wanted justice to prevail.
“The British media has refused to toe the hate-filled line of Charlie Hebdo magazine. This kind of self-restraint and mutual respect would ultimately lead to a harmonious society and would create more goodwill for Britain in Islamic countries,” he said.
Aqtab urged British Muslims to utilize their voting powers in the forthcoming elections to ensure their demands are met. He called on fellow brothers and sisters to lobby and vote for those candidates that vow to support them in their demand for fair legislation and equitable treatment for Muslims. He also labeled those attacking Muslims through offensive sketches extremists, saying there is no way in which they could be referred to as moderates.
Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for the Muslim Action Forum, said, “Perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society. The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.”
By the time the demonstration came to an end, Jamaati presented a petition with over 115,000 signatures from people who have called upon former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to address the needs of more than 3 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, all of whom want proper legislation to be implemented for the protection of Hazrat Mohammad’s honour. That apart, the petition also urged for global civility, which it explained is not in tandem with the production of sketches of Prophet Mohammad.
Across the road, dozens of members of a racist group called Britain First gathered to issue insults to those taking part in the demonstration organized by Muslim Action Forum. Some activists from Britain First managed to physically attack a few Muslim protestors as well but the strong presence of security personnel ensured the situation stayed non-violent.