“This preacher is a strong supporter of Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox MP. But he doesn’t support Anders Breivik. And he’s speaking at a peace conference in town. That’s very positive, isn’t it? Let’s join him on the stage!”
This would be an absurd move by any local council. Especially if the person doing it was tasked with tackling extremism.
Now step away from the hypothetical and meet reality in Oldham:
EXTREMIST clerics from Pakistan have been back to Oldham to speak at a counter terrorism conference.
Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman were part of a group of faith leaders who spoke at The Werneth Suite Conference Centre, in Oldham, last month. They are on another tour across the UK and Europe which ends on August 27.
The aim of the conference, organised by the Ramadhan Foundation, was to “bring communities together and address terrorism”.
However, the Pakistani clerics have led a high-profile campaign in their country in praise of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed in January, 2016, after murdering Pakistani politician Salman Taseer in 2011 for opposing Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. Qadri had claimed it was his religious duty to kill the Punjab governor.
Yes. As readers know, Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman can be seen on video shouting his support for Mumtaz Qadri, a “martyr of Islam”. You don’t need to understand a single word to get the sickening fervour. Note that a big picture of Qadri is on the wall behind Rehman. His father Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman is seated beneath it, watching the tirade with approval.
And what was the council take? Let’s go to this, it’s “positive”.
Cllr Barbara Brownridge, the Oldham Council cabinet member who leads on tackling extremism, said: “Oldham Council was invited to attend a Counter Terrorism Conference and – given the stated aims of the event – bringing together people from a range of public and private sector organisations, religions and beliefs to unite against terrorism, which I’m sure we can all agree is a positive thing – representatives attended.
“We had no control or responsibility for the invitation list or organisation of the event.”
The Mayor of Oldham councillor Shadab Qumer and councillor Ateeque Ur-Rehman attended the event, along with Gorton MP and former North West MEP Afzal Khan.
How about strongly opposing all supporters of political and religious murder? That would be quite “positive”, wouldn’t it?