Tehrik-e-Labaik Islamist Party in Pakistan Lionises the Murderer of Glasgow Shopkeeper, Asad Shah

The murder of Asad Shah, the Glasgow based shopkeeper was a brutal affair. We know this, partly because the spiritual leader of the Islamist group Tehrik-e-Labaik, Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, described in detail the actions that the convicted murderer, Tanveer Ahmed, undertook on the defenceless Shah.

The description of the murder of Asad Shah was not made in dusgust by Hussain Rizvi, the spiritual leader of the Islamist group in Pakistan. Yet, it was made in a manner which lionised the murderer, calling him a ‘Ghazi’ or warrior for the defence of Islam.

In September of this year, the Islamist party won over 7,000 votes in a local election and the Party was born from lionising another convicted murderer, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri was the bodyguard of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, who subsequently went onto murder him at an Islamabad market in January 2011. Taseer was an outspoken critic of the country’s Blasphemy Laws and he had defended the rights of Christian minorities and individuals like Asia Bibi. Out of this brutal murder was born the Tehrik-e-Labaik Islamist party which has also acquired recorded phone conversations with Tanveer Ahmed, from Barlinnie prison in Scotland. Ahmed’s ‘messages’ to people in Pakistan have been played to Tehrik-e-Labaik audiences in the country who sit around their spiritual leader Hussain Rizvi. Rizvi has used the audio-tapes to whip up his audiences into frenzies, using deeply emotive language around the defence of Prophet Muhammad, whilst urging listeners to defend their faith. This has been code for the use of threats and violence.

The recorded phone conversations are used to whip up audiences into a frenzy around Hussain Rizvi who regularly has made a point of lionising Tanveer Ahmed,  now in Barlinnie prison. The main theme for Tehrik-e-Labaik has been the ‘defence’ of Islam and the vilification of those who ‘blaspheme’ against Islam, yet it is so easy to forget the brutal actions of people like Ahmed in this extremist charade which is being played out in Pakistan. It is important to reflect on the comments of Judge Lady Rae who presided over the murder trial of Tanveer Ahmed.

Summing up after the guilty verdict of Ahmed, Judge Lady Rae told him:

“This was a barbaric, premeditated and wholly unjustified killing of a much loved man who was a pillar of the local community.”

“He, (Asad Shah), was described as a peaceful and peace-loving man and family man who went out of his way to show respect for those of any faith.”

The Judge went onto describe the actions of Ahmed as being,

“an appalling display of merciless violence”.

Campaigning Using the Imagery of Murderers and Extremists

The use of imagery depicting Qadri and Ahmed demonstrates a chilling new twist in Pakistani politics with mobs of young men openly stating that blasphemers against Islam should be targeted for violence. Tehrik-e-Labaik’s footsoldiers are mainly young men brought up in their madrassas and whose only access to basic shelter, food and welfare comes from their networks on the ground. Yet, the link to the United Kingdom and the lionising of an extremist murderer who drove from Bradford to Glasgow to brutally murder a man just because he disagreed with his religious views, shows how such groups in Pakistan are trying to promote their extremism to British born young men of Pakistani heritage. Tehrik-e-Labaik’s You Tube videos are still available on the channel and their Facebook page regularly pumps out sermons from Hussain Rizvi which support violence against ‘blasphemers’. The promotion of such extremist material, aimed at Pakistani and British audiences of Pakistani heritage is deeply worrying. This international arc supporting the promotion of extremism needs to be countered and electronic disruption action taken to stop this group from pumping out such material.

Finally, the picture associated with this article is a good indicator of the extremism link to this group. Reuters recently interviewed Muhammad Shafiq Ameeni, a candidate and member of the Tehrik-e-Labaik party in Pakistan. The interview took place in Peshawar and behind Ameeni, were the images of two murderers, namely Mumtaz Qadri and Tanveer Ahmed. So the point is this. Would you consider supporting a party that lionises and campaigns using the imagery of convicted murderers? The answer should be no, but for 7,000 local individuals in Pakistan who voted for this Islamist group, they clearly thought to the contrary. It seems that the lionising of convicted murderers pays dividends in Pakistan.