Imam at Scotland’s biggest mosque uses WhatsApp to praise an extremist who was executed for murder in Pakistan
- Imam Habib ur Rehman said to have praised extremist for killing politican
- Mumtaz Qadri murdered moderate Punjab governor Salman Taseer
- He was hanged in February and seen as either a martyr or extremist
- The Imam ‘sent social media messages calling him a ‘True Muslim”
- But in a statement he said his messages had been ‘misconstrued’
The religious head of Scotland’s biggest mosque has praised an extremist who was executed after murdering a politician.
Glasgow Central Mosque imam Habib ur Rehman is said to have made favourable comments about assassin Mumtaz Qadri via WhatsApp.
Qadri is a polarising figure in Pakistan who was hanged in February for the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who opposed Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
Mumtaz Qadri, left, was hanged last month for murdering Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, right, in 2011
Habib ur Rehman is the imam at Glasgow Central Mosque, pictured, which is the biggest in Scotland.
Fundamentalists view him as a martyr but others see him as a crazed extremist.
The imam said a series of Whatsapp messages about Qadri in which he reportedly called the killer a ‘true Muslim’ had been ‘taken out of context’ and were about his opposition to Quadri’s hanging and the Pakistani justice system.
According to the BBC, the Imam said that he is ‘disturbed’ and ‘upset’ at the news of Qadri’s execution, before writing ‘rahmatullahi alai’, a religious blessing usually given to devout Muslims and meaning may God’s mercy be upon him.
In another, he said: ‘I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.’
Relatives gather around the body of Mumtaz Qadri, pictured, after he was executed in Rawalpindi
In the port mega-city of Karachi, protesters blocked main intersections and some petrol stations were closed after Qadri supporters ordered them shut
Protests were launched after the execution with many seeing Qadri as a martyr, including his ‘proud’ father.
Further messages from the Imam called Qadri a ‘brother’ and said the murder was the former bodyguard ‘carrying out the collective responsibility of the ummat’, with his execution a collective failure of Pakistani Muslims’.
Lawyer and activist Aamer Anwar accused the imam, who condemned the Brussels bombings, of ‘rank hypocrisy’.
He told BBC Scotland many people within the community were scared the views would ‘filter down the Muslim community and radicalise our children’.
In a statement, the imam said the messages had been ‘misconstrued’.
He said: ‘Mumtaz Qadri’s execution is condemned as it is not in accordance with due process nor is it in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles.
‘Capital punishment on this particular occasion was inappropriate and any expressions of sympathy or compassion are extended in my capacity as a private individual and not in any professional or public capacity.’
Qadri served as a bodyguard for Governor Taseer in the Punjab province of Pakistan but turned on him in 2011, shooting him nine times.
He was executed in a move that risked angering Islamist supporters who had feted him as a hero and threatened violence if he was executed.
An estimated 100,000 people attended the funeral earlier this month. Qadri had said he was angry at the politician’s calls to reform the blasphemy law.
The governor had been vocal in his support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet.
But civil society activists lit candles on the anniversary of the death Governor Taseer to show their support
Riot police, pictured, were used to keep the peace in Pakistan during the protests after Qadri’s execution
The Imam is said to have sent WhatsApp messages that praised Qadri and called him a ‘True Muslim’.
Within hours of the news of Qadri’s execution, hundreds of supporters began gathering at the man’s family home in Rawalpindi.
His body was being displayed to supporters at his family’s home in the city, where paramilitary Ranger forces and police in riot gear as well as ambulances and dozens of police vehicles were stationed, an AFP reporter said.
Security was stepped up at flashpoints across the country, including Lahore and near the international airport in Karachi.
Qadri’s lawyers drew on Islamic texts to argue that he was justified in killing Taseer, saying that by criticising the law the politician was himself guilty of blasphemy — an argument rejected by the lead judge.
A Supreme Court decision to uphold the death sentence last December sparked rallies. Islamist groups told those protests that if Qadri were executed those responsible should also be put to death.
Pakistan ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014. Last month authorities announced they had executed 332 people since then.