In very few contexts can even fewer people, in public life, make me feel like heroism is even a thing today! But it is, in private lives and in public services. Every day, individuals, quietly, definitely, are heroic. Covid-19 is one example that reveals it. We do know really. The frontline staff, the medical practitioners, the aid workers, the military personnel, the peacekeepers. But amongst leaders or in politics or culture, at large? I recall seeing pictures of Charlie Chaplin with Gandhi decades before my era. And in my youth, when I marched through London, whether against apartheid or for peace, I had role models. I remember when Richard Attenborough and Peter Ustinov were involved with efforts for Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, respectively, and indeed, respectfully. It rarely dawned on or hardly mattered to, Gandhi or Mandela or Gorbachev, probably, that they were heroic, they were aware they were merely human. It had of course fully dawned on and mattered very much to these men in the arts, because they knew the support they had for them. These two greats from the performing arts of my youth, Richard Attenborough, whom I worked with, Peter Ustinov, who I met as a very young man, made such an impact on me and many. But they also utilised their roles, in filming, writing about, as well as speaking, campaigning against, injustice, on the side of the great Man…dela, and Gorbachev! Sometimes you need to take a side, to hold a stance.
The scale or level might be smaller or less, yet Maajid Nawaz makes me feel it today. Feel that is, like those men in the arts, who influenced me, might have felt about the causes of the men they admired, from their own era in politics, when they inspired them. Maajid today on a particular subject, is inspiring me and others. He is a man who deserves our help. He needs it.
Maajid Nawaz is someone I regularly, and often, strongly agree with, and rarely, but sometimes, strongly disagree with. But he is more than a man who became as a youth, an Islamist who spent five years in an Egyptian prison. He is more than a man who became as a young man, a liberal who took part in democratic elections. And he is much more than a man who became as a mature man, a broadcaster with a successful radio show. Today Maajid is on hunger strike. To alert the world to the plight of the Uyghur people in China. A people who are becoming victims of cultural wipe out, already, and actual wipe out, possibly, unless more act, from now. He wants only signatures on a petition to the UK government. He wants a debate about support for sanctions targeted at the powerful in China, to stop the imprisonment of a minority, turning into what is a genocide in the making.
Hunger strikes are a brave as well as blunt instrument to attract attention to a mission. Here in this situation, that mission is a petition. In this era of social media, such courses of action can gain traction. They shake things up, get publicity, and with shared awareness, get things done. Others campaign over days, weeks or months and with eloquence, speak, write and can, by whatever method feels and is best, achieve an outcome. Or labour in the vineyard unheard or unnoticed. I admire all, in a good cause, who do both or more.
Maajid is asking us to do this in a good cause. An important one. He gives weight to the cause of liberty and is on the side of humanity. If you agree or disagree with him in politics or on issues, if you know of him or not, this is worth agreeing with and knowing about. We must sign in support too, if we care and we ought to! Maajid Nawaz today with this effort is heroic. It is good to know what Sir Charles Chaplin, Lord Attenborough and Sir Peter Ustinov must have felt sometimes. It is great to know that someone like Maajid is here in our times. Maajid encourages, not a hunger strike as herein, but a hunger to protest injustice.
Please sign the petition if you are a citizen of the UK, if not, as a citizen of the world, protest in your own country…