Muslim extremists target Jemima Khan with death threatsBy DAN NEWLING – More by this author » Last updated at 10:37am on 23rd April 2008
Islamic fundamentalists have threatened Jemima Khan with death for supporting a Muslim think-tank which preaches religious tolerance.
Mrs Khan is a patron of the Quilliam Foundation, recently set up by two reformed members of the outlawed extremist organisation Hizb ut Tahrir.
The organisation has received death threats by phone and email for all involved – one has even referred to Mrs Khan by name, it is believed.
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Meanwhile, comments on fundamentalist websites have condemned the 34-year-old’s decision to get involved with the group.
At the think-tank’s launch yesterday, Mrs Khan admitted that since the threats she had been “a little wobbly” about voicing her support for the foundation.
But she added: “If there was no response from the dark side, then we would be failing.”
The organisation was set up by Maajid Nawaz, 30, a former extremist who spent four years as a political prisoner in Egypt.
It is named after William Quilliam, a 19th century Liverpudlian who converted to Islam, and says it aims to reflect mainstream, moderate, British Muslim opinion.
Other backers include the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown and the Tory MP Michael Gove.
However, the group has been criticised on some Muslim websites – an apparent attempt to strangle it at birth.
One site labels Mrs Khan a “fujiar” – an Arabic word meaning someone who unashamedly and publicly commits sin.
Posting pictures of Mrs Khan in a bikini and kissing a female friend at a nightclub, the site says: “This is the same ‘socialite’ Jemima who is regularly pictured in chick-mags in miniskirts and low-cut dresses hopping in and out of nightclubs – and she is going to be lecturing us on true Islam?!”
It continues: “Getting unmarried, public fujiar, clad in miniskirts and bikinis, to lecture us on true Islamic values, man what has the world come to?”
The site also criticises Mr Nawaz for engaging in “un-Islamic” behaviour, such as visiting nightclubs and being friendly with a former girlfriend.
Mrs Khan, who was married to Imran Khan, the former cricket captain of Pakistan, was accompanied by a bodyguard at the launch in London.
She said: “I can’t claim to speak for Muslims. I am certainly very far from most people’s image of what a good Muslim is and that makes me an easy target for those who don’t want Quilliam to succeed.
“Someone has to stand up and tell the truth that there is no conflict between being British and being Muslim. Someone has to give moderate Muslims a voice and I believe that Quilliam is that organisation.”
The group’s co-director Ed Husain, who wrote an award-winning book about his experiences as an extremist, said: “All of this is designed to discredit us in the eyes of members of the Muslim community.
“The leaders of these movements are fearful because they know that members have been in touch with us and they want help in order to leave.”
Mr Nawaz also revealed that he was threatened two weeks ago by disgruntled members of Hizb ut Tahrir.
“It was in Copenhagen, in Demark. I was just walking down the street and suddenly three cars full of guys pulled up. They said they were from Hizb ut Tahrir.
“They accused me of supporting democracy, which is a crime for them. I felt threatened but luckily managed to get away.”