Edinburgh mosque leader’s link to terrorist group probed

Polwarth Mosque. Picture: TSPL
Polwarth Mosque. Picture: TSPL
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Police are investigating alleged links between a leading figure at a city mosque and a terrorist organisation which is banned in the UK and Pakistan.

The leader of Polwarth Mosque, Hafiz Abdul Hamid, is said to have held senior positions in Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), according to an investigation carried out by the BBC.

SSP has been held responsible for attacks in Pakistan and has been classed as a proscribed organisation by the UK government since 2001. It was banned by the Pakistan administration a year later.

The head of religious events at Glasgow Central Mosque, Sabir Ali, is also being investigated.

According to documents uncovered by the BBC, the SSP’s in-house magazine, Khalifat-e-Rashida, suggests Sabir Ali and Hafiz Abdul Hamid continued to have connections with SSP after it was banned and lists Mr Ali as the one-time president of SSP in Scotland.

Polwarth Mosque is said to have provided financial support to the SSP after it was banned.

Documents obtained by the BBC list Mr Hamid as the leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba in the UK in 2004.

In 1999, there was an attempt at the Court of Session in Edinburgh by other figures at the mosque to remove him from his post.

The judge found that he was the UK president of SSP but that as the organisation was legal in this country at that time he could not be removed from the charity which runs the mosque.

An October 2003 article in the SSP publication covers a memorial service at Glasgow Central Mosque for the party’s former leader and co-founder Azam Tariq, who had been assassinated in Pakistan that month.

Neither Mr Hamid or Mr Ali have commented on the allegations.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, a vocal critic of traditionalist figures at the Glasgow mosque in recent months, chaired a press conference yesterday at Hampden Park.

It followed months of bitter infighting between conservative and liberal factions at the mosque. However, following the fatal stabbing of shopkeeper Asad Shah recently, reconciliation efforts have intensified.

Mr Anwar said: “The tragic loss of one life from our community to such hatred is just one too many, so whatever our religions or beliefs, we as a community are taking an important step forward that is unique in our community’s history.

“The message is unequivocal: it is clear we are united in condemning any form of violence, extremism or terrorism.”

Addressing the “extremely serious” allegations facing Mr Ali, Mr Anwar said he was entitled to a “presumption of innocence” while Police Scotland carry out an investigation.

However, he added: “There are no excuses for Sipah-e-Sahaba – from this platform, from our mosque, from the community.”

President of Glasgow Central Mosque Shafi Kausar said he was “shocked” to hear of the allegations.

He added: “I have not yet seen documentary evidence and all the allegations stem from well over a decade ago.”