OPINION: If you wrote about a transgender Mohammed, you would be killed

Christians, right, protest outside Belfast theatre in protest at transgender Jesus play. If it had been about a transgender Prophet Mohammed, the theatre and participants would have gone on a hit list. ''Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker Press
Christians, right, protest outside Belfast theatre in protest at transgender Jesus play. If it had been about a transgender Prophet Mohammed, the theatre and participants would have gone on a hit list. ''Picture Matt Bohill Pacemaker Press

After the Paris atrocities on Friday, there was a global wave of revulsion.

But something has changed since previous western attacks by Islamic extremists.

Bataclan concert hall, Paris, one of the venues for the Islamic attacks in the French capital. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Bataclan concert hall, Paris, one of the venues for the Islamic attacks in the French capital. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

People are not as fast to parrot: ‘Islam is a religion of peace.’

Even David Cameron is now saying that our response must be more than such platitudes.

The overwhelming bulk of the world’s Muslims are moderate and peaceful, as has been apparent to me in the many Muslim countries I have visited.

But that truth does not contradict the fact that mankind has, at this point in history, a specific problem with fanatical Islam, and we should talk bluntly about it.

People hold up candles during a vigil at Trafalgar Square, in  solidarity with Paris after the attacks. Growing numbers of people know there is a problem with Islamic extremism, but are being restrained in their reaction to terror. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

People hold up candles during a vigil at Trafalgar Square, in solidarity with Paris after the attacks. Growing numbers of people know there is a problem with Islamic extremism, but are being restrained in their reaction to terror. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Imagine that the transgender Jesus play that was just staged in Belfast, upsetting Christians, had been about a transgender Prophet Mohammed.

The author of the play, the director and the actors would now be on a death list and might already be dead. The theatre might well be bombed.

The only imponderable is whether Islamic fascists would be able to carry out such a response in a place as removed from large Muslim populations as Belfast.

The Salman Rushdie Satanic Verses saga, almost 30 years ago, told us how the fanatics view free speech, and the Danish cartoons saga and Charlie Hebdo underlined it for anyone who somehow missed the point.

Ben Lowry News Letter deputy editor

Ben Lowry News Letter deputy editor

If a theatre company ever did dare to stage a transgender Mohammed play, many UK Muslims would support a violent response to it.

The BBC in February commissioned a poll of British Muslims that found that a quarter are at best ambivalent about violence (27 per cent said they had some sympathy with the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre and 24 per cent disagreed with the statement that violence against those who insult the Prophet Mohammed cannot be justified).

These were shocking findings weeks after a massacre at a satirical magazine.

But it was not so surprising when you think that hundreds of UK Muslims are fighting Jihad overseas.

The BBC is a fine organisation and not as biased as some people say, but Radio Four badly missed the point when it reported that survey by emphasising other less controversial findings, then mentioning almost as an afterthought the 24 per cent stat.

Islamic extremism has been high on my radar since I worked on The Times website monitoring news wires in the late 1990s and I read about Taliban brutality.

A key moment for me was a report about two young men – barely older than boys – accused of homosexuality. No doubt hoping for mercy, they confessed but were made to stand before a wall that was bulldozed on top of them.

Imagine the terror those kids felt as wizened savages passed the judgment and read the penalty, before some swines carried it out. If it had been me about to suffer that fate, I doubt I would have had the courage and dignity to stand upright in front of a wall that was soon to come crashing down on top of me.

Apparently there is an Islamic justification for such a disgusting penalty for sodomy.

The thugs who do this sort of thing are backed by Dr Raeid Al-Wazzan, a Belfast Muslim, although he hasn’t made his position clear on whether he supports such grisly details.

I was on Talkback with him on Monday and did ask if he supported people being thrown off buildings (another sick penalty for which there is some religious justification).

The programme was drawing to a close and a few of us were talking on top of each other in the last seconds so I do not know his answer. He seemed unable to say in response to my preceding question that he opposed Sharia law in the UK.

Dr Al-Wazzan did this year defend Isis rule in Mosul. Much has been made of the fact that he praised the peace in the city, not Isis barbarians, and he later apologised.

But imagine that a journalist wrote about how peaceful life had been in Warsaw during World War Two under the Nazis.

‘Ah,’ the writer adds, ‘I am not praising Nazis or the fact that they whisked Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the gas chambers (those who had not died from disease or been slaughtered in the uprising), I am praising the pacified city.’

There would be uproar and prosecutors would examine the article.

Did the authorities examine Dr Al-Wazzan?

They did move when he had the effrontery to report Pastor McConnell for his anti Islamic sermon – who is being prosecuted.

You could hardly make up such a sequence.

I am aware that Pastor McConnell is being prosecuted under the communications act and that he rejected an informed warning.

The law will take its course, but I can say now that if he is convicted the law must change.

I do not share Pastor McConnell’s beliefs but his comments were less objectionable than Dr Al-Wazzan’s.

This is not to say Dr Al-Wazzan should be prosecuted. You should be free to praise Isis rule in Mosul, and expose yourself as unpleasant or at best a fool.

On Talkback, after a massacre in Paris by the very group who brought about the ‘peace’ he had praised, Dr Al-Wazzan complained about the insufficient generosity towards Muslims who helped in the Paris aftermath.

On the contrary, I believe the western world has shown how civilised it can be by its restraint in the face of successive Islamic onslaughts and its rejection of anti-Muslim racist thugs.

But people do now realise what they are up against.

On the night of the Charlie Hebdo attack I penned a piece slamming years of western weakness and cowardice towards Islamic extremism.

That is now changing, but without turning ugly – an important combination.

• Ben Lowry is News Letter deputy editor