Prominent members of Glasgow’s Muslim community have called for calm and solidarity following the fatal stabbing of a shopkeeper whose messages of interfaith harmony united his multicultural community.
Following the revelation, Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government’s only Muslim minister, immediately responded in a tweet: “No ifs, no buts, no living in denial – vile cancer of sectarianism needs stamped out wherever it exists – including amongst Muslims.”
Asad Shah, whose final Facebook update, posted a few hours before his death, offered Easter greetings “to my beloved Christian nation”, was a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
This minority Muslim group faces persecution – most recently in Pakistan and Indonesia – and is treated with open hostility by many orthodox Muslims.
Shah was discovered with serious injuries outside his newsagent shop in the Shawlands area of Glasgow, a few miles south of the city centre, just after 9pm on Thursday. He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth University hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police Scotland announced on Friday evening that a 32-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the death, and that they were treating the attack as “religiously prejudiced”.
Aamer Anwar, the human rights lawyer and one of Scotland’s most prominent advocates for reform within the Muslim community, said faith leaders needed to “step up” and speak out publicly against all forms of religious sectarianism.
Anwar said: “In a city like Glasgow, we have known for too long what hate crime and sectarianism means. We do not want to see the importing of sectarian bigotry and hatred from Pakistan to the UK. It is extremely important for Asad Shah’s family to know that their brothers and sisters in the Sunni community will not tolerate this.”
A statement on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community called on the government to root out extremism in all its forms: “In any society, all members of the public have a right to safety and it is up to the government and police to protect members of the public as best they can. It is up to the government to root out all forms of extremism and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has been speaking about the importance of this for many years.”
Mian A Wahab Mahmood, a senior figure at the Baitur Rahman mosque where Glasgow’s 400 Ahmadiyya Muslims worship, urged the community to wait to draw its conclusions until the police have completed their investigations.
Referring to the persecution faced by the community in Pakistan, he added: “When this happens in Pakistan it is very different because the authorities are not in our favour. But in this country our safety and security is with the police and the investigation is in good hands.”
Over the weekend tributes have continued to flood in for the shopkeeper, who moved from Pakistan to Scotland in the 1990s and was the eldest of seven siblings. Shawlands residents described a gentle man who cared deeply for his community and every year would print out his own Christmas cards with personal messages for customers.
More than 400 people, including Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, attended a candlelit vigil on Friday night organised by two local women – one Muslim and one Christian – and publicised on social media with the hashtag #thisisnotwhoweare. Speaking at the event, members of Shah’s family called for Glaswegians to stand side by side.
Another gathering to lay flowers outside Shah’s shop, organised by local teenagers, attracted a further 200 people on Saturday, despite heavy rain.
Almost £45,000 in donations have been collected for the Shah family by the fund-raising site Go Fund Me since Friday.
Shah’s younger sister, who travelled from England to be with the rest of the family after his death, told the Scottish Mail on Sunday: “Asad was a humble, gentle man – he did not deserve this. He was also a very social man, always laughing. A real gentleman. He embraced Scotland and Glasgow. He was so proud to be a Glaswegian and so loyal to the city. He knew so many people.”
“I haven’t been able to bring myself to visit the floral tributes near his shop as it is still too raw. But I want to thank everyone for their support. It will never bring him back but it is nice to know how much support he has got.”
Shah’s Facebook page, which includes videos of him praying and messages of peace, displays a final missive posted on Thursday at 5.10pm.
Good Friday and a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation … Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.