Muslims launch bus posters campaign against extremism

Muslims launch bus posters campaign against extremism

Community rocked by stabbing death sends out message of unity

STRONGER TOGETHER: Roy Henderson, Fariha Thomas, Paul Morron, Charandeep Singh and Ahmed Owusu-Konedu at the launch of the campaign.

A MUSLIM community has launched a campaign that will see posters displayed on the side of buses in three Scottish cities as part of the fight against extremism.

The move by the Ahmadi Muslims follows the death last month of one of their members, Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, who was found fatally stabbed.

They are putting the slogan “United Against Extremism” on the side of 75 buses in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

A man has been arrested and charged with Mr Shah’s murder. The accused, Tanveer Ahmed, made what legal experts call a remarkable declaration two weeks ago, that Mr Shah had “disrespected” Islam.”

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Mr Ahmed added: “If I had not done this, others would.”

There will be 50 buses in Glasgow carrying the poster over the next two weeks, while the capital and Dundee will also have 25 buses with the same message.

Ahmadi leaders said community members were “healing over time following Mr Shah’s death, which led to an outpouring of grief and anger from the local community in the southside of Glasgow where he lived. They added that police reassurances had helped them feel safe.

The campaign was launched in George Square, Glasgow, by Abdul Abid, president of the community in Scotland. Sikh, Jewish, Christian leaders and the police were present, but despite being invited, nobody from the city’s Central Mosque and the Muslim Council of Scotland attended. They are understood to have sent their apologies.

Mr Abid said: “The wounds are being healed with the passage of time. Hopefully people will be back to normal soon. With reassurances from the authorities and the steps taken by them, it’s also helping.

“We are moving toward normalisation.”

The campaign had been intended to launch later this year. However organisers brought it forward following the attack on Mr Shah on March 24.

Mr Abid added: “This is part of a larger campaign throughout the United Kingdom.

“Before the [death] of Asad Shah we had 100 buses in London with the same message, and there was, in the pipeline, a campaign for Scotland but we have brought it forward. All the other faiths are united on this front with us and accept that some Muslim groups are still reluctant.”

Charandeep Singh of the Glasgow Sikh community said: “Standing in unity with a community that is facing the most horrific incident, solidarity becomes really important in these cases. We are hoping it brings a sense of empowerment for communities to be celebrating the contribution they are making to Scotland.”

Roy Henderson, a Church of Scotland parish minster in Pollokshaws, said: “This is trying to send out a good message at a tough time.

“It’s very important to show that, while we acknowledge our differences, we live together in the same world as neighbours and communities. People who live, go to school and work side by side. We have to get on together. Out of our diversity,we can enhance the depth of community spirit.”

Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities also attended the event and said the number of hate crimes reported since Mr Shah’s death has stayed relatively stable in Scotland.

He said: “After the Paris attacks there was an increase in hate crime reported to the police, but since the Brussels and Lahore attacks, and the incident with Mr Shah we haven’t seen that spike come up.

“The worry is always that it is not being reported, but we have increased our engagement heavily with communities and they are not experiencing that increase we may have anticipated.”