Pakistani rift behind turf war at Glasgow mosque
THEY are the angry words of Pakistan’s bitter sectarian and religious politics. But they are echoing in Scotland.
“Slanderer”. “Unbeliever”. “Distorter of Truth”. The insults flew at lawyer Aamer Anwar after he condemned the spiritual leader of the country’s biggest mosque for praising an Islamist assassin.
“They said I wanted to close down Glasgow Central Mosque,” he said. “They said I was bringing shame on the community.”
The man Mr Anwar was criticising, Glasgow Imam Habib ur Rehman, has also come in for online abuse since The Herald and the BBC revealed he had described extremist murderer Mumtaz Qadri as a “true Muslim”.
Social media lit up yesterday with calls for the cleric – who has previously condemned terrorist violence in Paris and Brussels – to be “lynched” or “deported”.
The bile stems from a brutal turf war for control of Glasgow Central Mosque, the biggest single place of worship of any faith in Scotland, between liberals and progressives in parallel with a much greater battle for the political soul of Pakistan.
But long-standing convention against “washing laundry in public” within Scotland’s Muslim community – most of whom have Pakistani origins – means there is a groundswell of anger against anyone who speaks out.
This, said one thoughtful community elder, is because so many Scottish Muslims feel what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured above, this week called their “double burden”: revulsion at atrocities such as those in Brussels this week and the unfair weight of blame.
Mr Rehman at prayers yesterday in Glasgow Central Mosque once again prayed for the victims of terrorism.
But his remarks about Islamic assassin Qadri – recorded on the Whatsapp messaging service as he spoke to a handful of people – have brought to the UK a huge row that is polarising Pakistan.
Police officer Qadri, who was executed last month, had shot the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province, after the politician stood up for Christians persecuted under the country’s vague and controversial blasphemy laws.
His victim, Salman Taseer, is a hero for liberal Muslims. But the hanged Qadri – for a minority of fundamentalists – has become a martyr.
Mr Rehman said he was pained by the death of Qadri and added: “A true Muslim was punished for doing [that] which the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.”
The imam says his words were misunderstood and that he had, in fact, been condemning capital punishment, not praising the assassination of a moderate.
Glasgow Central Mosque, which claims to welcome all branches
of Islam, is dominated by the Deobandi revivalist sect of Sunni Islam, common in both Pakistan and Pakistani-dominated mosques in Britain. Qadri belonged to a different strand of the faith.
Mosque funds, as revealed by The Herald, have been used to finance the Tablighi Jamaat ultra-orthodox offshoot of Deobandism, which is now banned from teaching in Punjab schools but is legal in the UK.
Liberals, such as Mr Anwar and the liberal leadership of Glasgow Central Mosque ousted earlier this year, have questioned such funding and become concerned about the transparency of accounts, especially in respect of money sent to Pakistan.
Mr Anwar, meanwhile, cited threats and abuse in person, by text and by social media.
He said: “Many Muslims were angered and upset by the Imam’s remarks, but know they will be subjected to bigotry, abuse and vile threats if they condemn the remarks.”