10:30AM, Friday 15 December 2017
Concerns surrounding two sheikhs who spoke at a tribute evening at Baylis House have been dismissed by the event’s host, the head of an anti-extremism charity.
On Thursday, December 7, an event was held at Baylis House in memory of Shazad Yaseen Shaheed, an aid worker from Slough who died following a car accident while delivering aid in Pakistan last year.
Among the invited speakers were Pakistani sheikhs, Muhammad Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman and Muhammad Naquib ur Rehman, who Slough resident Paul Jones expressed concerns about.
The 44-year-old voiced concerns over the pair’s attendance at the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed in Pakistan for the assassination of Salman Taseer, a politician who spoke against the country’s blasphemy laws.
International media reported that Haseeb ur Rehman described Qadri as a ‘martyr’ on Facebook but the original link to the Facebook post has since been deleted.
When the two Sufi sheikhs visited a Glasgow mosque in August 2016, the Daily Record reported that MP Siobhain McDonagh said she thought the two men ought not to have been let into the country due to ‘radical preaching’.
“I just think it needs investigating and reporting on,” said Mr Jones, a self-employed courier.
“I would like to know what their message is.”
But the host of last week’s event, Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of anti-extremist charity The Ramadan Foundation, has defended the sheikhs, saying they support religious tolerance.
“I can put my hand on my heart and say they have got absolutely nothing to do with terrorism,” he said.
“These two gentlemen have never supported any violence and they have always supported peace.
“If there was any involvement at all of terrorism I certainly would never be seen with them on any platform.”
The pair have appeared at a number of multi-faith events promoting peace including the We Stand Against Terrorism event in Oldham in July and have met the likes of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mr Shafiq said the duo spoke out against terrorism and extremism at Thursday’s event and have been criticised by some members of the Pakistani community in the past for speaking about terrorism too much.
When asked about Qadri’s funeral, Mr Shafiq said: “They were very reluctant to go,” suggesting that all Sufi sheikhs were told to go by the Pakistani government to maintain stability.
“When they hanged him [Qadri] there was a real fear in Pakistan that there could be a civil war,” he added.
He said that had they not gone, it could have made matters worse and that the pair condemned Qadri’s actions after the funeral.
He defied critics to produce any evidence of their involvement in extremism other than their presence at Qadri’s funeral.
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