THE religious head of Scotland’s biggest mosque has apparently praised an extremist who was executed after murdering a politician.
Glasgow Central Mosque imam Habib ur Rehman is said to have made favourable comments about assassin Mumtaz Qadri.
Qadri is a polarising figure in Pakistan. He was hanged in February for the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who opposed Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. Fundamentalists view him as a martyr, but others see him as an extremist.
The imam said a series of Whatsapp messages about Qadri in which he reportedly called the killer a “true Muslim” had been “taken out of context” and were in fact about his opposition to Quadri’s hanging and the Pakistani justice system.
However, Scots lawyer and activist Aamer Anwar accused the imam, who recently condemned the Brussels bombings, of “rank hypocrisy”.
Mr Anwar said many people were scared the imam’s views would “filter down the Muslim community and radicalise our children”.
In a statement, the imam said the messages had been “misconstrued”.
He said: “Mumtaz Qadri’s execution is condemned as it is not in accordance with due process, nor is it in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles.
“Capital punishment on this particular occasion was inappropriate and any expressions of sympathy or compassion are extended in my capacity as a private individual and not in any professional or public capacity.”
Qadri was employed as a bodyguard for the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, before turning on him in 2011 and shooting him 28 times. After the shooting, Qadri reportedly told journalists that he was “proud” and that he had killed a “blasphemer”.
The case has sparked huge controversy in Pakistan and the killer’s funeral was attended by thousands, many carrying “I am Mumtaz” placards.
Mr Rehman was challenged over Qadri on social media by a member of his congregation who said he was a “murderer”.
Mr Rehman responded: “According to some he was a murder[er] but according to many others he did what was the collective responsibility of the ummat [the Muslim community]. Just [as] when France was occupied by the Nazis, French did all they had to do to protect their nation. They were national heroes.”
Charity watchdog OSCR has been investigating the mosque’s governance for months. A preliminary report last year was hugely critical of the mosque’s historic and conservative leadership.