On 17th April 2009, Quilliam issued the following alert:

 

Later today, Friday 17 April, Osama Saeed will be endorsed by the Scottish National Party (SNP) as their prospective parliamentary candidate for Glasgow Central by Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson MP at a rally at the SNP’s spring conference in Glasgow. If elected to Westminster, Saeed, a former spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain (a front-group for the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s largest Islamist movement), will be the UK’s first ever openly Islamist MP.

Osama Saeed was a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) from 2002 to 2007 and has formerly worked for Alex Salmond. He then established the Scottish Islamic Foundation which has received over £400,000 from the Scottish government, allowing him to employ his brother Sohaib, another spokesman for MAB, and his cousin. Since its creation, the SIF has acted to provide a platform for a wide range of high-profile Islamists while also promoting religious separatism and a range of Muslim Brotherhood-style policies. Examples of Osama Saeed’s Islamist politics include:

Support for Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Saeed has described Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, as an “eminent scholar” and “a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy”, and written that Ken Livingstone’s controversial endorsement of Qaradawi “will be proved on the money in the fullness of time”. Saeed has criticised the BBC for accurately describing Qaradawi’s violent views, writing that its presenter Nicky Campbell “has also spoken about Shaikh Qaradawi being a man who promotes the beating of women and killing of gays. This is truly unacceptable from the BBC”. As well as justifying wife-beating, the murder of homosexuals and suicide bomb attacks on civilians, Qaradawi is also a notorious anti-Semite.

Support for the Caliphate

Saeed has written of the need for Muslims to re-create the Caliphate.  The re-creation of the Caliphate is promoted by a range of extreme Islamist groups which include Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. Saeed however attempted to put a positive spin of the re-creation of the Caliphate which he describes as the “idea of a united political leadership of the Muslim world” as an “economic bloc” which will “bring down trade barriers” and allow the “free flow of people across Muslim states”. In the IWitness, a now defunct online magazine for Scottish Muslims that Saeed previously helped run, this same article was entitled, “Caliphate should be our vision”.

Religious separatism and attacks on moderate Muslim scholars

Saeed is a prominent advocate for the creation of state-funded Islamic schools.  He has made clear that these schools would be specifically “Islamic”, saying: “We are not pitching for a ‘Muslim school’. There are already four schools in Glasgow which are 90 per cent Muslim. We are talking about an Islamic school, a school that has a certain ethos.” He has dismissed criticism that this is potentially divisive, telling The Times, “What we shouldn’t get hung up on is the separation thing.” Muslim faith schools are not necessarily problematic in themselves – although ones run or influenced by illiberal Islamists would be. Saeed has previously attacked the idea that wearing hijab is a personal choice, writing in 2005 that “instead of examining the roots of terror, the [British] Prime Minister has taken to attacking Islam … In response, Muslim “leaders” have been clambering over themselves to sell out our china, most notably Zaki Badawi with his now repeated edict that the hijab does not have to be worn.” Badawi , a leading British Muslim, was described by The Guardian on his death in 2006 as “a visionary Arab scholar who helped British Islam make peace with modernity.”

Urged Muslim “defiance” of police counter-terrorism efforts

In November 2006 Saeed was reported to have told Scottish Muslims not to co-operate with the police. The Dundee Courier quoted him as telling a public meeting that “here is no extremism to talk about [in Dundee] and they are barking up the wrong tree. But that’s my message to the police—‘lay off.’ But my message to the Muslim community as well is that we need to be stronger in our defiance of this. We need to stop, and many people have come to me and complained about police at their door or police at their Islamic society meetings, but it is also very clear that there aren’t people having the guts to stand up within Dundee itself and say, ‘no, you can’t do this.’ If you look at the history of our faith, what is there apart from the Prophetic example of standing up to tyranny, standing up to oppression?” Saeed later denied that he had explicitly called for “non co-operation”.

Gives platform to extremists
Through the Scottish Islamic Foundation, Osama Saeed has given a platform to some of the most prominent Islamists in the UK. For example, the SIF has arranged on two occasions for Kemal Helbawy, the founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, and Alamin Belhaj, the head of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, to lecture young Scottish Muslims on Islam. On other occasions, Saeed’s SIF has given platforms to yet more foreign Islamists, including two senior members of the Brotherhood-linked Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the former head of the US branch of the Saudi-Wahhabi group the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY).
Empowers extremists
Saeed has also used his contacts with the Scottish National Party to arrange meetings between other British Islamist extremists and senior members of the Scottish government. For example, in January 2008, Saeed arranged for Mohammed Sawalha, Anas al-Tikriti
and Ismail Patel, three members of a Muslim Brotherhood front- group called the British Muslim Initiative, to meet Linda Fabiani, the Scottish minister for Europe, to discuss Saeed’s plan to hold an Islamic festival in Scotland. Shortly afterwards, the Scottish government gave the SIF £215,000 towards funding the event. Sawalha later complained about the size of the grant, reportedly telling The Times: “£200,000 is not enough. The budget in London was £1.5 million.”

Calls for censorship

Saeed has advocated curtailing non-Muslims’ rights to free-speech while simultaneously defending Muslims’ rights to free speech. For instance, in 2006 he responded to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed by writing: “Much has been made of the right to ridicule and cause offence, even if I disagree there is such a right. I don’t remember it being in any UN charter or the Geneva Convention … The right to offend doesn’t work on the playground and it shouldn’t work on the international arena either. Even if there is a right to offend, surely there is also a right to be offended? And to complain and even boycott as a result. But the cartoons have nothing to do with ridiculing. You just don’t do pictures of the Prophet, period. It’s a cultural thing, accept it and respect it.” Many British Muslims would agree with this.  However, in a speech to MAB’s annual conference in Scotland in 2007 entitled ‘Time for Muslims to cry freedom’, Saeed accused the government of restricting Muslims’ freedom of speech, saying: “What was forgotten was the idea in our society that you can do as you please, as long as you do not bring harm to others. These principles have been all too easily forgotten in recent times.” Does this indicate double-standards? The idea that Muslims should have more rights than non-Muslims is a cornerstone of modern Islamist thought.

Ambiguous stance on Sharia punishments
Saeed has written that “the aim of Islamic law, despite popular belief, is not punishment by death or amputation of body parts. It is to create a peaceful and just society, with Islamic scholars over centuries citing its core aims to be for every man and woman: the freedom to practice religion; protection of life; safeguarding intellect; maintaining lineage and right to property.” This statement appears deeply ambiguous. The majority of British Muslims see the Sharia as being a core part of their religion but recognise that the hudood punishments (such as flogging and stoning) are not applicable in the modern era. Saeed should be publicly challenged over his view of the Sharia’s traditional punishments and asked whether he believes they are applicable anywhere in the modern world. Saeed should also be challenged to make clear his position on the freedom to change religion – and asked whether he believes states like Iran or Saudi Arabia are incorrect to seek to proscribe this essential freedom.
Conclusion:
If Osama Saeed is elected to Westminster for the Scottish National Party, it seems likely that he will pursue the same sectarian and divisive agenda that he has followed in the past – to the detriment of his constituents, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It is true that Saeed has denounced terrorism (in the UK) and forced marriages. But that is not enough. There are few indications that Saeed truly believes in equal rights for Muslims and non-Muslims or in the basic freedoms of a liberal, democratic society – such as freedom of conscience, freedom of speech or the right of Muslim women to chose whether or not to wear the hijab. There is also little indication that he even understands basic democratic principles. For example in June 2005, Saeed wrote that:
“I met a waiter in Dundee recently who originally hailed from Blackburn. I joked with him that MPAC [a Muslim pressure group] refer to Blackburn Muslims as the “Stupidest Muslims in the UK” for continually re-electing Mr [Jack]Straw. To my amazement, he went on to claim that Jack was an excellent local MP, that it was the Palestinians’ own fault that they had been terrorised from their homes, and the Iraq war needed to be put in its context.”
Similarly Saeed’s 2005 statement that “we need 646 George Galloways” in order to “to fill up the rest of Parliament” inspires little confidence in Saeed’s commitment to democratic pluralism. There are few indications that Saeed’s simplistic worldview has changed significantly since he wrote these lines. It is encouraging that the Scottish National Party is trying to promote more ethnic minority and Muslim candidates – however it is troubling that members of the party’s hierarchy appear unaware of the nature of Islamism and unaware that through their support for Osama Saeed they might be inadvertently promoting one of the more divisive and illiberal strains of modern Islamic thought.