Muslim leaders ask Holyrood to block suicide law

The Grim Reaperat a wheelchair protest outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of a reading of the assisted suicide legislation. Picture: Gordon Fraser
The Grim Reaperat a wheelchair protest outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of a reading of the assisted suicide legislation. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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THE spiritual leaders of Scotland’s 80,000-strong Muslim community have written to MSPs urging them to oppose controversial proposals to legalise assisted suicide ahead of a vote on the issue.

Holyrood will decide tomorrow whether to back the first stage of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill that would allow people with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their life.

“Life is a divine gift – all Muslim scholars agree”

Letter from Scottish imams

However, the Council of Imams Scotland today issues a plea to parliament, in a letter to MSPs, to block the legalisation of assisted suicide, which it says is prohibited under Islamic law.

Politicians will have a free vote on the proposed law change from Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who took it over following the death of independent MSP Margo MacDonald. Her previous attempt to legalise assisted suicide was defeated in the last parliament.

Patients would be able to inform their GP of their wish to die and, after a series of checks, a licensed facilitator, or “friend at the end”, would be supplied with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place, if the legislation is eventually approved.

However, the imams say assisted suicide will put vulnerable people at risk, subject them to physical and mental coercion and lead to “incremental extension” and “mission creep”, fearing some practitioners will extend the categories of those who could be eligible for assisted suicide.

In a letter to all MSPs, the imams said: “Life is a divine gift and trust, that cannot be terminated by any form of active or passive voluntary intervention by the patient, physician or family members.

“All Muslim scholars unanimously agree that this action is strongly prohibited under the Islamic law.”

However, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said Holyrood should “not turn our back on people suffering” and called for other politicians to allow the bill to make progress through parliament.

Mr MacKenzie called on MSPs who had doubts about the legislation to allow it to go through to its next parliamentary stage so that added protection for vulnerable people could be included in the bill before it became law.

He said: “I have the greatest respect for the opinion of the imams, but I happen to disagree with them on this issue.

“I’ll be advising my colleagues to agree to vote for the bill at this stage, although if they feel we haven’t managed to deal with any concerns, they could vote against it at a later stage.”

Mr MacKenzie added that parliament had to “give it our very best shot” to examine the bill, which would have to pass through two further stages before becoming law.

Mr Harvie, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s vote on the bill, said: “The current law is completely inadequate. There is a complete lack of clarity.”