PRISON chaplains who have been gathering intelligence on jailed extremists have spoken of their fears that they’ll be killed for passing information to the security services.
The faith leaders say taking part in Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, has made them targets.
Chaplains say they are particularly at risk from the followers of Tanveer Ahmed, who murdered shopkeeper Asad Shah in 2016.
One claimed Ahmed issued a “death warrant” against Muslim chaplains from his cell in Shotts prison where he is currently serving a 27-year sentence.
Ahmed, a Sunni Muslim, drove 200 miles from Bradford to carry out a religiously-motivated killing. He murdered Asad Shah as he believed the Glaswegian shopkeeper had “disrespected the messenger of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad”. Shah was a follower of the Ahmadi sect – a denomination of Islam which some fundamentalists see as heretical.
Muslim chaplains, who are paid to provide spiritual guidance to prisoners of the Islamic faith, say they fear Ahmed’s extremist followers will carry out copycat attacks and they have demanded more protection in crunch talks with the Scottish Prison Service.
JAILHOUSE TERROR: ISLAMIST MURDERER ISSUES DEATH THREATS FROM CELL AGAINST PRISON STAFF
SCOTTISH prison chaplains fear they will be killed by followers of a jailed Islamic extremist after gathering intelligence on the prisoner as part of Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism programme.
The Muslim chaplains met the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to demand reassurances that they will be protected after claiming a “death warrant” was issued by Tanveer Ahmed, who is serving 27 years for the murder of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah.
Ahmed has been described as the “biggest challenge” to Scotland’s fight against radicalisation. Sources say he has attempted to radicalise inmates he has met while behind bars.
The murderer is in the mainstream prison population and takes part in prayers and Islamic teaching sessions with other Muslims and the prison chaplains, who believe they have been put on a hit list by Ahmed.
He has been moved three times since he was first taken into custody following the murder of Shah in March 2016. He was first in Barlinnie in Glasgow before he was transferred to Kilmarnock prison and is now in HMP Shotts, according to insiders.
Ahmed’s contact with the outside world was restricted last year after it was revealed he was making hateful telephone calls in Urdu which were recorded and posted online by followers. When the calls were translated it was revealed Ahmed had encouraged supporters to “eliminate” enemies of Islam. It is understood he is again permitted to make calls.
An SPS source, who asked not to be named, said: “Intelligence services and the Scottish Prison Service are very aware of everything he’s saying and doing. It’s that intelligence which has put the Muslim chaplains in the firing line.
“The chaplains had to meet with the prison service and told them they are not doing any more intelligence gathering unless their safety and the safety of their families can be guaranteed.”
Ahmed, a Sunni Muslim from Bradford, drove to Glasgow in his Uber taxi to murder Shah, a member of the minority Ahmadi Muslim sect regarded by some fundamentalists as heretical because Ahmadi followers do not believe Muhammad was the final prophet.
Muslim chaplains say they fear being targeted for attack by followers of Ahmed.
The chaplains, who spoke to the Sunday Herald on the condition of anonymity, said Ahmed has “put out a death warrant” on them. Chaplains are paid by the prison service to provide spiritual guidance to prisoners.
“This is a vocation but I’m not going to put my family at risk for it,” said one chaplain. “Ahmed is promoting sectarian division which is much more dangerous to Scotland than ISIS.
“My experience is we do not have an ISIS problem in Scotland. I haven’t had any prisoners of that ilk. In my experience the biggest risk is this sectarianism within the Muslim community. And Tanveer Ahmed’s warped thinking is we’re spying on Muslims, so he’s put out a death warrant on chaplains. Down in England there are ghettos where his horrendous behaviour is regarded as heroic, and he is a leader of a cause.
“If someone wanted to take up his cause they could. This is our biggest challenge to the prevention of extremism in Scotland.”
Another chaplain, who also wanted to remain anonymous, claimed threats against chaplains were posted online. He said the posts did not name the chaplains, but he added: “It’s not too hard to find the names of Muslims providing chaplaincy services”.
The chaplains said they have spoken of their fears for the first time because Ahmed continues to preach extremism despite attempts to challenge his views.
“He isn’t interacting with any programmes and is adamant that he’s right to do what he did,” said one chaplain. “That’s very worrying because he is mixing with other Muslims. We will challenge anyone who has extreme views or criminal views on anything. Our only hope is by keeping him in the mainstream population and by treating him normally we can engage with him in classes and teach him.”
It has been claimed security services have spoken to Scottish police about fears the Muslim chaplains will be targeted, and officers are now “working on additional security and new procedures”.
A source said: “The new process has been developed as a direct response to threats made by Tanveer Ahmed.”
A spokesman for the Home Office, the UK Government department responsible for counter-terrorism, said the Prevent strategy in Scotland is overseen by Scottish police, therefore it is a matter for Police Scotland.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “It would be inappropriate for Police Scotland to comment on this matter which lies with the Scottish Prison Service.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said threats against prison chaplains are “taken very seriously” and warned “we can and will take action”.
He added: “If people have concerns about their safety, we are there for them. If anyone has concerns they should be telling us.”
The spokesman said the prison service will “certainly cooperate with different government agencies in terms of their activities around extremism and radicalisation” but he underlined that “any member of staff and any member of the public who are aware of potential criminal activity have an obligation to bring that to the attention of the appropriate authorities”. He added: “We employ chaplains as chaplains.”
The SPS spokesman also confirmed that Ahmed’s calls are recorded and translated “for the purposes of prevention of crime”.
THE SECTARIAN KILLING OF ASAD SHAH
Tanveer Ahmed drove 200 miles from Bradford to murder Asad Shah at his shop on Glasgow’s south side.
He confronted Shah and accused him of disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad in a heated argument in Urdu.
Ahmed, a Sunni Muslim, accused Shah of claiming to be a prophet. Shah was an Ahmadi, an Islamic sect which believes Muhammad was not the final prophet. The sect is banned in Pakistan from referring to themselves as Muslims.
Ahmed asked Shah to change his views and when he refused Ahmed pulled out a knife. In a frenzied attack, he repeatedly stabbed Shah in the head and body and stamped on his face.
Shah died in hospital from injuries described in court as “more commonly seen in victims of road accidents”.
Judge Lady Rae said Shah was a peace-loving man who went out of his way to respect people of all faiths.
She told Ahmed: “Your determination to kill Mr Shah was obvious. What is so chilling is that what you did was calculated and deliberate. You did not know the deceased, but you decided that you had a duty to kill him.”
Sentencing Ahmed to 27 years in prison, Lady Rae said: “I note with considerable concern that you have expressed no remorse whatsoever for this appalling crime.”
PREVENT: THE GOVERNMENT’S SECRET COUNTER-TERROR STRATEGY
Prevent is a key element of the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy which relies on public servants and community leaders to gather intelligence.
The information is used to assess whether vulnerable people are at risk of radicalisation by extremists.
In cases where an ideology was recorded, just over half related to Islamist extremism and nearly one in 10 were linked to far-right extremism.
Prevent puts a responsibility on public sector workers to be aware of the need to stop people from being drawn into terrorism. It covers prisons, schools, colleges, universities, health boards, police and local authorities.
The strategy sees those at risk of radicalisation “safeguarded and supported, while also enabling those already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate”, according to the government.
Prevent has been criticised as counterproductive by some MPs and Islamic groups. They fear the tactics used can make some more susceptible to extremism.