A Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate has received death threats after posting a cartoon image of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammed on Twitter.
Muslim politician Maajid Nawaz tweeted a picture of a t-shirt with a crudely-drawn cartoon entitled ‘Jesus and Mo’ which he describes as an “innocuous” and inoffensive.
However the image has caused fury among some members of the Islamic community who believe images of the prophet Muhammed are forbidden.
More than 7,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the Liberal Democrats to suspend Mr Nawaz.
Some have even suggested a fatwa should be placed on him while others have threatened they would be “glad to cut your neck off”.
Even the controversial MP George Galloway has waded into the row, tweeting: “No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL.”
Mr Nawaz, who is set to stand for Hampstead and Kilburn in next year’s general election, posted his controversial tweet on Sunday morning after two audience members wore the shirt for the taping of BBC’s The Big Questions.
The t-shirt, featuring a print of controversial comic strip Jesus and Mo, was at the centre of a similar scandal last year, when the London School of Economics banned two students for wearing it.
Mr Nawaz, who heads up the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, tweeted an image of the t-shirt along with the words: “This is not offensive and I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.”
But it sparked an immediate backlash, with Twitter user Sahara7865 writing: “Maajid Nawaz set on joining ranks with Rushdie on the fatwa-scale.”
Another tweeted: “Have spoken to someone in Pakistan. They will have a surprise for him on his next visit. He is used to surprises in Pak.”
And one user added: “I would be glad to cut your neck off, so your kufr [unbeliever] friends won’t be amused by your humour. In sha Allah [if Allah is willing] may my dua [act of worship] get accepted.”
Outspoken Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation (corr), said he would be making an official complaint to Lib Dem central office.
“His behaviour as a parliamentary candidate has brought the party into disrepute,” he said.
But Mr Nawaz has defended the tweet. He said: “Some are angry that I didn’t find an innocuous cartoon on the BBC as offensive and repeated my view that – as a Muslim – it wasn’t offensive to me on here.
“Others are angry that I am being censored and silenced. Please let’s all calm down.”
Many jumped to Mr Nawaz’s defence, including respected historian Tom Holland who tweeted: “Stop trying to take England back to the 1650s.
“Sexual harassment is against the law, tweeting a cartoon of Muhammed isn’t.
“Show me the law that says tweeting the picture of a 7th century holy man is illegal.”
A spokesman for the Quilliam Foundation said the organisation would not be commenting on the matter, after receiving advice from the police.