A crackpot in a corner shop or mini-cab near you

The brutal murder of self-styled Muslim prophet and Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah, by fellow Muslim and Bradford mini-cab driver, Tanveer Ahmed, was like something out of the Middle Ages, writes Christopher Goff.

When Asad Shah was brutally stabbed to death at his shop in Glasgow earlier this year the media went into one of their frenzies. Newswires started to bristle with the story of how an Asian shopkeeper had been killed at his business premises after some kind of incident involving a visitor to his store, the presumption being that the perpetrator of this crime was a white customer of his. Glasgow's bleeding hearts were quick off the mark, leaving flowers at the spot where Shah had died. And later, not one but two candlelight vigils were held in his memory, with one of these even being attended by First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon. Meanwhile, a fund-raising page set up on the GoFundMe website had quickly raised in excess of £20,000 for the family of the victim.

That a white racist did not kill Pakistan-born Asad Shah came, I think, as a disappointment to some. The news stories of pillar of the community Shah being viciously knifed to death by a white racist had no doubt already been written before a clearer picture of who had actually killed him came to light. Police Scotland took the unusual step of releasing a statement to clarify the situation and help ease the fears of any Asians who might be thinking that there was a crazed white racist on the loose. In their statement, Police Scotland said that while they were indeed treating the attack on Asad Shah as "religiously prejudiced", it was in fact the case that both Shah and the man suspected of killing him were Muslim.

In the aftermath of this shocking crime it came to light that Shah and his family had in the 1990s moved to the UK from Pakistan in an attempt to escape religious persecution in that country. Shah was an Ahmadiyya Muslim, and these are people considered kafir by mainstream Muslims because of their belief that the Prophet Muhammad was not the final prophet. In Pakistan, Ahmadis are even banned under the constitution from calling themselves Muslims. And if there is one thing a radical Muslim hates more than a kafir it is a kafir claiming to be a Muslim, only that is not strictly true because a kafir claiming to be a Muslim prophet would out-trump that by some margin – this being something that hints at the motive behind Asad Shah's horrific murder.

Against this background it was hardly surprising if at first the police thought the attack on Shah was a straightforward sectarian one given the fact that the man arrested on suspicion of murdering him, a mini-cab driver from Bradford called Tanveer Ahmed, was known to be a Sunni Muslim. However, a couple of weeks after his arrest Tanveer Ahmed issued a statement through his lawyer giving the reason why he had carried out the attack, saying it was his belief that Shah had 'disrespected' Islam by claiming to be a prophet.

It materialized sometime later that Shah had bizarrely been styling himself as some kind of Muslim prophet and from his convenience store in Glasgow had been broadcasting his antics over the Internet via hundreds of videos that he had uploaded to YouTube, in between serving customers that is. While his audience was not said to have been particularly large, his YouTube broadcasts had nevertheless managed to capture the attention of an equally crackpot believer in the supernatural from Bradford, this person of course being his eventual killer, Tanveer Ahmed. Incensed at Shah's claim that he was a Muslim prophet, mini-cab driver Ahmed drove from Bradford to Glasgow on 24 March 2016 and brutally murdered him. Ahmed confronted Shah in his shop and after having taken the time to explain to his victim the reason why he was going to kill him stabbed him a number of times with a large knife. With blood streaming from his wounds Shah managed to run out of his shop but was caught by his attacker and stabbed again, after which Ahmed began stamping-on and kicking his victim as he lay dying in the street.

On 9 August 2016, Ahmed was jailed for life for what the Court described as his 'religiously motivated' murder of Asad Shah and was told he must serve at least 27 years in prison. In sentencing, Judge Lady Rae said: "This was a barbaric, pre-meditated and wholly unjustified murder of a much loved man who was a pillar of the local community". She added, "No-one in any civilised country, including Scotland, has the right to take the life of another whatever offence that individual perceives that he or she has suffered".

However, the words of Judge Lady Rae seem not to have had much effect on Tanveer Ahmed, or indeed his band of supporters. Ahmed has shown no remorse for his brutal killing of Asad Shah, and even from inside prison he appears able to communicate his dangerous beliefs to others. It has been reported that an audio message of his sent from prison was uploaded to Facebook to mark the Muslim festival of Eid, and that Ahmed has gained a large social media following of radical Muslims is hardly surprising.

During Ahmed's trial the Court was told of Shah's posting online of videos in which he had been claiming to be a prophet, and that this activity of his had come to the attention of a group known as Dawat e Islami, to which it was said Ahmed belonged. Dawat e Islami have their origins in a Pakistani sect known as the Barelwis, and who are notorious for their unforgiving approach when it comes to perceived insults to the Prophet Muhammad. One of Ahmed's inspirations for his attack on Shah was thought to have been Mumtaz Qadri, this being the Pakistani Police bodyguard who in 2011 shot dead a prominent liberal politician, Salman Taseer, and who had been proposing a reform of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws. Qadri was tried and later executed for his crime, but a great many Muslims view him as a hero and someone who was just defending the 'honour' of the Prophet Muhammad. It has even been reported that Ahmed wrote letters of support to Mumtaz Qadri while the latter was in a Pakistan prison awaiting his execution, and supporters of both Tanveer Ahmed and Mumtaz Qadri have apparently produced an online collection of photographs praising their 'good work'.

The story of Asad Shah's murder is a truly shocking one – the motive completely unfathomable for lots of Europeans who are these days brought up in a healthy climate of disbelief in the supernatural, be that Islamic, Christian or whatever type of belief in the supernatural. Really, one has to wonder which of these two men, Asad Shah or Tanveer Ahmed, was the more crackpot? Was it the Glasgow shopkeeper seemingly living under the delusion that he was a prophet? Or was it the mini-cab driver from Bradford who decided to commit murder in his belief that someone had 'disrespected' Islam?

One thing which is clear though, is that out of these two crackpot believers in the supernatural it was Tanveer Ahmed who was the more dangerous. I find it very hard to believe that the activities of this individual, and in particular the letters of support he reportedly sent to Mumtaz Qadri while he was awaiting execution in a Pakistan prison, had not come to the attention of the police. Ahmed was clearly one crackpot believer in the supernatural who the Intelligence Services should have known about, and no doubt just like a good few other members of the deeply worrying, green turban-wearing Dawat e Islami group.

The fact that neither Asad Shah nor Tanveer Ahmed was British-born is also concerning – Ahmed was a Pakistan national who had come to live in the UK just like Shah had, only sometime after Shah's arrival. That this country allowed these two crackpot believers in the supernatural to settle here was clearly a mistake. One of them in his time spent living here managed to cause a whole load of trouble by claiming to be a prophet – I would add, something for which he did not deserve to die – while the other one ended up brutally stabbing the former to death. That this pair ever belonged in a British community bound by shared Western values is very questionable indeed, and it would have been a whole lot better in terms of national security if both of these men had never set foot on British soil.

This case, along with a whole host of other Islamist-inspired incidents, raises serious concerns about just how many crackpot believers in the supernatural there are out there. While these people are quite usually findable, it is often the case that when they are found the Security Services don't know what to do with them given the mammoth task of surveillance. Which leads me to my suggestion: Stick crackpot believers in the supernatural in front a psychiatrist, and if they give the slightest indication that one day they might be inclined to use some measure of violence in order to protect the 'honour' of some or other make-believe individual, like Jesus Christ or the Prophet Muhammad, or some or other supernatural construct, like God or Allah, well then stick them in a secure mental hospital and where they will hopefully not be able to harm anyone. Whether someone claiming to be a prophet should be put in a mental hospital is a different matter, but if so that institution need not be of the secure type.

It really is time that we as a society started to question supernatural beliefs more rigorously, be they beliefs held by Muslims, Jews, Christians or whatever group of people, because it is believers in the supernatural who continue to be the source of so much violence and conflict.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Religion
Uploaded: 16 August, 2016.