Muslim Action Forum (MAF)

Muslim Action Forum (MAF)


* Seeks to combat “the vilification of Islam”

Based in the United Kingdom, the Muslim Action Forum (MAF) was established in September 2012 for the purpose of protesting “the vilification of Islam” wherever it might occur. The group’s formation was prompted most directly by the publicity surrounding a 14-minute YouTube video titled Innocence of Muslims, which disparaged the Islamic faith and the Prophet Mohammad. Produced in the United States by an Egyptian Coptic Christian, the video was first posted on the Internet in July 2012 but did not gain any significant public attention until September 11—the eleventh anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks—when groups of Islamist protesters cited it as their motivation for storming the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where they destroyed an American flag and replaced it with a black Islamist flag. Innocence of Muslims subsequently gained even greater notoriety when President Barack Obama and leading members of his administration falsely cited the film as the cause of a deadly attack that occurred against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya later on September 11, 2012.

MAF grew out of a September 19, 2012 gathering in Birmingham, England, where more than 100 leading Muslim scholars and spiritual leaders as well as representatives of major Muslim organizations “unreservedly condemn[ed] the preposterous film vilifying Islam and desecrating the sanctity of the Holy Prophet Mohammad.” The participants in this event decided to formally create “a united platform … by the name of Muslim Action Forum,” which would spearhead a “Campaign for Global Civility” advocating a ban on speech that was critical of Islam or any other faith. Most immediately, MAF declared Friday, September 21 as a day devoted to expressing “Love of the Prophet Muhammad.”

On September 23, 2012, MAF organized a rally where 7,000 Muslims gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in London to express their outrage over Innocence of Muslims. At this event, MAF spokesman Saraj Murtaza said: “We condemn the violence which has come from this film, it is terrible. But we don’t need to keep saying that. We want people to understand how deeply this has hurt and angered us.” Asserting, further, that his group was “genuinely horrified that the government, the Prime Minister, and Muslim MPs have not condemned this film or spoken out about it,” Murtaza expanded: “The only route left is the legal route. Petitions and protests can only go so far. We want to ask politicians here in the UK and the UN to take action to protect against religious defamation—any religion, not just insults to Islam.”[1]

On October 14, 2012, MAF held yet another large demonstration, this time outside the London headquarters of Google Inc., where approximately 10,000 Muslims rallied to demand that the company make Innocence of Muslims unavailable to Internet users.[2] The protesters carried placards bearing such slogans as: “Campaign for Global Civility”; “Don’t they teach manners in Google?”; “We love our Prophet more than our lives”; and “[Google executives] support terrorism.” Some 800 imams in mosques across Britain helped to organize the protest.

One of the featured speakers at the October 14 event, Sheikh Faiz Al-Aqtab Siddiqui, said: “Terrorism is not just people who kill human bodies, but who kill human feelings as well. The makers of this film have terrorised 1.6 billion people. Organizations like Google are key players and have to take responsibility for civility. You can’t just say it doesn’t matter, that it’s freedom of speech. It’s anarchy.”

In response to the protesters’ complaints, Google said that Innocence of Muslims was “clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

[1] MAF chief executive Mohammed Saleem Khan concurred with Murtaza: “We have set up to write to the Government, to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Minister of Communities and call for a law to protect religious rights. We will also be writing to Bishops to the Sikh, Hindu and Jewish faiths asking them to call for this protection from blasphemy.”
[2] Police estimated the crowd size to be about 3,000.

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