British Labour MP Naz Shah questions why Prophet Muhammad disrespect permitted if statues protected

British Labour MP Naz Shah questions why Prophet Muhammad disrespect permitted if statues protected
Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah questioned whether it's acceptable to have a 'hierarchy of sentiments' when it comes to such serious disrespect.
3 min read
08 July, 2021
Naz Shah (centre) delivered her remarks during a parliamentary debate [Getty]

Comparisons to disrespect of the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures have been drawn by a British parliamentarian in relation to a bill that would give additional safeguards to statues.

Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah posted to Twitter a video of her speaking in parliament on Monday during a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently making its way through the legislative process.

The lawmaker explained in front of the Commons that if the bill becomes law anyone found guilty of defacing a statue could be given up to a decade in prison.

The shadow community cohesion minister added that this is a notable increase to the current possible punishment.

"Which begs the question, why? Why will a person be given a much more significant penalty for attacking a stone or an iron statue compared to if they were to damage a stone wall or an iron gate...?"

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Answering herself, Shah argued that this is due to statues' societal meaning, saying that they need to be safeguarded to ensure "civil order".

Appearing to support the measure, which has been criticised as excessive, she cited Conservative Justice Secretary Robert Buckland's comments in March.

Buckland had suggested the legislation would give adequate "sentencing power to punish the emotional harm caused by this type of offending".

Shah explained that being against characters from the nation's past is completely fine.

However, damaging statues of individuals such as Winston Churchill, celebrated by many for his actions during World War Two, is a danger to the country's unity.

Shah continued: "For me and millions of Muslims across this country and [the] quarter of the world's population that is Muslim too, with each day and each breath, there is not a single thing in the world that we commemorate and honour more than our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

"To those who say, 'It's just a cartoon'… I won't say, 'It's only a statue', because I understand the strength of British feeling when it comes to our history, our culture and our identity.

"It's not just a cartoon, and they're not just statues. They represent, symbolise and mean so much more to us as human beings."

Shah ended by reiterating that though the bill will prevent societal damage concerning celebrated individuals from "secular and political" life, it will not "necessarily" do the same in other areas.

She referred again to the Prophet Mhuammad, but also Jesus, Sikhism's Guru Nanak, Moses and more, posing the question: "Can there, and should there, be a hierarchy of sentiments?"

Naz Shah's intervention comes amid a difficult time for her party in its relations with Muslim voters.

Earlier this week, news broke of ex-Equality and Human Right Commission chair Trevor Phillips' reported reinstatement to Labour after a suspension for alleged Islamophobia, though The Guardian heard from a "Labour source" that the probe of his behaviour was continuing.

The move, which is said to have occurred at least three weeks ago, was criticised by the Labour Muslim Network among others.