Such is the audacity of extreme Islamists that we now have the remarkable situation where a Muslim member of parliament, Sadiq Khan, is being told by the police to review his security arrangements after having his life threatened.
Khan provoked the rage of radicals earlier this month after voting in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. On his website, Khan explained:
I firmly believe in marriage. Marriage is an important statement of love and long term commitment, and has long been the main way that the state recognises and shows support for loving relationships. I believe that couples who love each other and want to make that long-term commitment to each other should be able to have a civil marriage regardless of their gender or their sexuality. Same sex couples should have the same recognition from the state as everyone else.
Imams from major mosques in Bradford and Southfield responded by denouncing Khan as an apostate. Excommunicating him, they declared his own marriage null and void, and potentially opened the door for others to attack him (exploiting an extremist view that apostates should be killed).
Radical groups including Hizb ut Tahrir and Izzharudeen were also irate. The former argued:
‘Some people hold up these [Muslim] MPs as examples for young Muslims to follow. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.’
Izzharudeen took it further by demanding:
‘[It’s] time to account these apostate MP’s, they changed something that Allah made Haram [forbidden] to Halal [allowed] by voting for gay marriages.’
Such threats have sometimes inspired direct attacks on MPs. When the radical al-Qa’eda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki (who once lived in Britain) encouraged young Muslims to avenge Iraqis killed in the war, it resulted in the attempted murder of an MP. Roshanara Choudhry, a university dropout from Newham, stabbed Stephen Timms in the liver during his constituency surgery because he had voted for the Iraq war. Timms survived, but the point was made.
The political class has done itself no favours in recent years with scandals ranging from the abuse of expenses to the protracted deceit of individuals like Chris Huhne. Yet, Khan’s stand also reminds us of the very real dangers that lots of MPs face when holding on to points of principle – a feature of their work that should demand our full support.