Leaders: Asad Shah’s murder does not represent Scotland | Chilcot Report

Asad Shah. Picture: Contributed

Asad Shah. Picture: Contributed

Tucked among the vast number of floral tributes left outside Asad Shah’s shop was a note that read “This is not who we are.”

The brutal murder of the popular Glasgow shopkeeper on 24 March, motivated by his religious beliefs, stunned his community and sent waves rippling outwards well beyond those who knew him.

The 40-year-old, who was an Ahmadiyya Muslim, had posted hundreds of videos online about his religious beliefs, including a poignant Facebook message wishing people Happy Easter just days before he was stabbed by Bradford cab driver Tanveer Ahmed.

Ahmed was shown Mr Shah’s Facebook page by a friend in Glasgow and became incensed by the views he shared there.

After watching videos of Mr Shah, Ahmed decided to return to Glasgow to commit the attack.

Lady Rae, sentencing the attacker yesterday, said this was “a truly despicable crime”, that was motivated “by your sense of offence at a man’s expression of his religious beliefs, which differ from yours”.

In the immediate aftermath of the crime, many people came together to reject the hate-filled sentiments of his attacker and to demonstrate that those views did not represent the people of Glasgow and beyond.

Despite this, Mr Shah’s family have decided they can no longer lead normal lives in Scotland and intend to leave.

It is heartbreaking that his wife, parents and six siblings felt that they cannot remain safely within a country that was supposed to provide them with a safe haven from the persecution they had repeatedly suffered in their native Pakistan.

The words on that note, and many others, must be kept in mind as the soul searching begins over what can be done to prevent this sort of atrocity happening again.

The concern is people will feel they are less able to voice their opinions, whether online or in their daily life, which can only serve to further polarise the narrative by stripping the conversation of more sensible views.

There is certainly a place for community action but it is important to consider how individual action can also serve to combat extremism and hatred of all forms.

As the nation prepares for an anxious summer, with tensions simmering in the background over Europe and conflicting views of nationalism, this is a moment to take stock on how to stop hatred from taking root.

This is not just about the complexities of Islam but the freedoms of speech and belief that British society holds so dear.

Finding a way to become more inclusive and respectful of other people’s views is the only way to navigate these choppy waters.

The answer has to be that each and every single one of us tries to be more tolerant of others’ views, more interested and engaged 
in narratives and worlds that are not our own.

As a society and as individuals we must try to promote this tolerance, putting aside our prejudices to build a better society.

Politics first, troops last

As the nation reels from the publication of the long-awaited Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, the news that hundreds of British troops are to be sent to the Estonian border as part of a show of strength by Nato will certainly give pause for thought.

David Cameron will use his final Nato summit in Warsaw today to announce that a 500-strong battalion will be deployed to Estonia, with 150 troops stationed in Poland on an “enduring basis”.

Defence is a matter that needs careful discussion in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, as Britain’s commitment to the safety of Europe remains of crucial importance.

There is no denying that Russia has become increasingly assertive and provocative in Crimea and Ukraine.

Nato has a clear role in ensuring the freedom and security of its members, and the UK must show it is still committed to the project as well as playing a leading role on the world stage.

But as the headlines continue to be dominated by the catalogue of failures which occurred in the build up to the 2003 war, it is worth remembering that the way forward must be through politics rather than boots on the ground.

When there starts to be a build up of troops around disputed borders, this can only serve to exacerbate tensions.

The only sure way to take the heat out

of military build-ups is to find a political solution and although Nato has always been the body responsible for our and our allies’ defence, from now on political solutions might need a bit more work and thoughtful planning after the UK vote to leave the European Union.

Back to the top of the page