Senior figures at Scotland’s largest mosque have pledged to broker a lasting unity in the wake of a divisive turf war and allegations linking its officials with extremists.
In an unprecedented move, leaders at Glasgow Central Mosque condemned those who perpetuate “violence, extremism or terrorism” and warned they would not sit “idly by” if anyone tried to “import such hatred” to Scotland.
The press conference in Glasgow followed months of bitter infighting between conservative and liberal factions at the mosque, but following the fatal stabbing of shopkeeper, Asad Shah, reconciliation efforts have intensified.
It comes after a week several members of the mosque described as the “worst” in its history, a period in which Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman apparently praised an extremist executed in Pakistan after murdering a politician. He has said his comments were “misconstrued”.
Yesterday, the mosque’s head of religious events, Sabir Ali, was alleged to have served with Sipah-e-Sahaba, an organisation proscribed by the Home Office since 2001.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar, a vocal critic of traditionalist figures at the mosque in recent months, chaired yesterday’s event at Hampden.
He 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 Scotgland carry out an investigation.
However he added: “There are no excuses for Sipah-e-Sahaba – from this platform, from our mosque, from the community.
“Sipah-e-Sahaba are a Sunni sectarian group of killers. A very, very small minority of our community may think it’s OK to meddle in the cesspit of violent, extremist politics in Pakistan, they may think that if it happens in Pakistan then it poses no concern here.
“But we are all united in saying that we do not want to import sectarian violence that has caused so much division and so much bloodshed in Pakistan to our communities and streets.”