Tuesday, 28 April 2009
SNP urged to drop 'sectarian and divisive' Muslim candidate
By Angus Macleod, Scottish Political Editor
From The Times
April 23, 2009
An organisation set up to counter Islamic extremism in Britain has accused a Scottish National Party parliamentary candidate of being “sectarian and divisive” and alleged that he is using the Nationalists as a front to campaign for his radical views.
The Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank set up by two former activists to foster better relations between Islam and the West, is urging Alex Salmond to drop Osama Saeed, formally adopted last week as the SNP's general election candidate in Glasgow Central, unless he changes his views.
The foundation claims that Mr Saeed, a former spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain and who has set up the Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF), has written in support of a global Caliphate that would see the world's 1.3 billion Muslims united in a superpower under one leader - a position, says the foundation, that is also espoused by al-Qaeda.
Ed Husain, the director of the foundation, told The Times last night: “It is encouraging that the Scottish National Party is trying to promote more ethnic minority and Muslim candidates - however it is troubling that members of the party's hierarchy appear unaware of the nature of Islamism and unaware that through their support for Osama Saeed they might be inadvertently promoting one of the more divisive and illiberal strains of modern Islamic thought.”
“Osama Saeed should be told by Alex Salmond to change his views or stand down. He is more interested in politicising Islam as a global revolutionary movement.”
Last night, the Nationalists accused the Quilliam Foundation of a “disgraceful smear” and Mr Saeed himself said the comments from the think-tank were “utterly disreputable”.
In an “alert” on its website, Quilliam says that the Scottish Islamic Foundation has since its creation by Saeed acted to provide a platform for a wide range of high-profile Islamists while also promoting religious separatism and a range of Muslim Brotherhood-style policies.
It adds that Mr Saeed has also used his contacts with the Scottish National Party to arrange meetings between other British Islamist activists and senior members of the Scottish government.
For example, in January 2008, Mr Saeed arranged for several known activists to meet Linda Fabiani, the (then) Scottish Minister for Europe, to discuss Mr Saeed's plan to hold an Islamic festival in Scotland. Shortly afterwards, says Quilliam, the Scottish government gave the SIF £215,000 towards funding the event.
Quilliam also alleges that on his website Mr Saeed has advocated curtailment of non-Muslims' rights to free speech while simultaneously defending Muslims' rights to free speech, quoting a comment he posted about the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in which he said: “Much has been made of the right to ridicule and cause offence, even if I disagree there is such a right.
“I don't remember it being in any UN charter or the Geneva Convention ... The right to offend doesn't work on the playground and it shouldn't work on the international arena either ... you just don't do pictures of the Prophet, period. It's a cultural thing, accept it and respect it.”
Quilliam also says that in an article in The Guardian newspaper, in November 2005, Mr Saeed defended Sharia. He wrote: “The aim of Islamic law, contrary to popular belief, is not punishment by death or amputation of body parts. It is to create a peaceful and just society, with Islamic scholars over centuries citing its core aims: the freedom to practise religion; protection of life; safeguarding intellect; maintaining lineage and individual rights. This could be the basis for an Islamic Bill of Rights.”
In a response to the Quilliam website, an SNP spokesman said: “This disgraceful attack is untrue from start to finish, and shows that the politics of smear is not confined to websites.
“The Quilliam Foundation has zero credibility ... this smear must be seen for what it is. We have strong community relations in Scotland, and when we are all working to build unity, the very last thing we need is people with no knowledge of Scotland spreading nastiness and smears.”
In a statement issued through the SNP at Holyrood, Mr Saeed said: “This is a politically motivated smear and is utterly disreputable.”
Quilliam, established last year, received almost £1million of public money as part of the UK Government's strategy to combat the radicalisation of British Muslims.
Mr Husain, 34, and the think-tank's co-founder Maajid Nawaz, a former political prisoner in Egypt, were both at one time members of the radical Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir. They travel the world to lecture on the threat of Islamist ideology. Mr Husain's autobiography, The Islamist, has sold 87,000 copies. Quilliam says that it is working to tackle extreme Islamist ideology coming out of mosques, universities and madrassas in countries such as Syria and Pakistan. It also gives advice to the police and security agencies on counter-extremism methods.