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Sects & Violence
Islamophobia, Issue 1467
asad-shah.jpg
Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah was murdered for his Ahmadi faith
A GOVERNMENT quango set up to combat hatred against Muslims is proving oddly muted when it comes to intra-Muslim violence. Why?

Asad Shah, a Glasgow shopkeeper, was an Ahmadi – a branch of Islam which believes other prophets, including its founder, have come since Muhammad. Most Muslims disagree. What ought to be a point of theological difference has become an excuse for ferocious persecution in Muslim-majority countries and beyond.

After seeing Shah affirm his faith on Facebook in 2016, Tanveer Ahmed drove from Bradford to Glasgow and demanded Shah recant. Shah refused but offered his hand in friendship. Ahmed stabbed him, and when Shah had managed to stagger out of his convenience store, he kicked him to death on the street outside. “Here I am present, o prophet,” Ahmed cried as the judge jailed him for 27 years.

Vicious sectarianism
This is the kind of vicious sectarianism the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group is meant to deplore. It’s sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and supported by the Cabinet, Home and Attorney General’s offices: worthy bodies with no sympathy for apologists for sectarianism. Or so one would think.

The most prominent member of the working group is a commercial property lawyer from Leeds, Qari Asim, who received an MBE for “services to inter-faith relations and the community”.

Inter-faith relations are not going too well in Pakistan, where Mr Shah’s murder did not go unnoticed. The Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik builds support by lionising Muslims who murder alleged “blasphemers”. Party leader Khadim Rizvi has plastered Tanveer Ahmed’s image on posters and promoted his videos railing against Ahmadis, which staff at Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison somehow allow to be smuggled out. Ahmed is “a hero”, Rizvi declared, “a hero even beyond judgement day”.

The hatred of Ahmadis does not confine itself to celebrating their executioners. Rizvi led tens of thousands of militants on to Pakistan’s streets last year to stop minor administrative changes he claimed weakened laws stopping Ahmadis holding public office.

So how has the UK government responded to the intra-Muslim hatred in Britain? Far from denouncing prejudice, members of the anti-Muslim hatred quango whitewashed anti-Ahmadi Muslim hatred, while taking care to say that Shah’s murder could not be justified.

Heart of government
Qari Asim MBE posted on his Facebook page a statement from British Muslim Scholars, an organisation he founded. The Scholars are backed by Whitehall, and with Asim have won a place at the heart of government because they say they “stand united against terrorism”. Do they?

Rizvi and his friends were “peaceful”, Asim’s scholars insisted. (Rizvi’s lionising of a murderer as “a hero even beyond judgement day” was forgotten.) The protesters were merely “exercising their democratic rights” when they demanded that Ahmadis should not have equality before the law.

Multiple sources tell the Eye that the communities department was warned that, with British Ahmadis being murdered, it had a duty to ensure the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group took a principled stand. Civil servants wouldn’t have it. If they insisted “community leaders” defended Ahmadis, they might refuse – then what could the government do? On no account would the department say men and women who wanted quango posts and official recognition had to endorse basic democratic values and universal human rights.

More to the point, the mandarins sensed danger. If they confronted Asim and his friends, there would be a fuss and the story might leak. Better to keep quiet than let the press find out about the sordid compromise. That worked well, then.

’Ratbiter’

More top stories in the latest issue:

PASSPORT CHEQUES
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TRUE GRIMES
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SHAHMIR CAMPAIGN
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WICKET WHISPERS
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BLIND DATA
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A MOVING TALE
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Private Eye Issue 1466