An overhaul of processes and governance arrangements at a scandal-hit mosque could take several years, according to one of its leading reformists.
The lawyer, Aamer Anwar, who chaired an event last week bringing together the various factions of Glasgow Central Mosque, said there was a “sense of urgency” about the need for change, but stressed it would take time to implement new procedures.
Aamer Anwar chaired an event last week bringing together the various factions of Glasgow Central Mosque and stressed it would take time to implement new procedures. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
The mosque, Scotland’s largest, has been rocked by allegations about its head of religious events, Sabir Ali. A BBC investigation claimed he had held senior positions in Sipah-e-Sahaba, a terrorist organisation banned in the UK and Pakistan.
Ali has not been suspended from his position although the mosque has unequivocally condemned Sipah-e-Sahaba as a “sectarian group of killers”.
With a Police Scotland investigation under way and the Muslim community still reeling from the fatal stabbing of shopkeeper, Asad Shah, the mosque’s warring conservative and liberal groups have vowed to put their differences aside.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Anwar, who has been a vocal critic of traditionalist figures at the institution, said the mosque could not allow the reconciliation efforts to fail.
“There’s a sense of urgency here. We need to move fast and can’t allow these matters to drift. We have to build on what has started in the past week,” he explained.
“The mosque themselves have taken responsibility and said they need to implement all sorts of action plans to ensure that the community is safe, that our young people are safe, and so they can ensure that no groups, no extremist organisations, no violent organisations can radicalise our young people or be involved in the community.
“We can never hope to stamp it out completely, there’s nothing foolproof. But people shouldn’t forget this isn’t just about the Muslim community, it’s about all communities.
“We’re trying to move mountains to get to that position very quickly, but this will take time. It’s a question of a five-year strategy, but it’s also a case of dealing with things week to week.”
In an interim report into the mosque, otherwise known as Jamiat Ittihad-Ul-Muslimin, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCAR) was critical of governance arrangements at the institution and made a series of recommendations, including an amendment to its dissolution clause so as to protect the charity’s assets and ensure it is compliant with charity law.
Dr Shafi Kausar, president of the mosque, said: “Glasgow Central Mosque will support any authority, including OSCAR and Police Scotland, in any investigation they want to take.