GLASGOW, United Kingdom – As Scotland votes on independence, in a campaign led by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and a coterie of advisors, few can claim more influence than Member of the Scottish Parliament Humza Yousaf.
Yousaf was recently described by the BBC’s Andrew Neil as “the power behind Alex Salmond”. But how much do we know about the 29-year-old chalked up to be an independent Scotland’s Foreign Secretary and perhaps even Prime Minister.
We know he studied politics in his hometown of Glasgow, and according to the Guardian he became involved in politics just after 9/11. He was firmly opposed to the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was prolific in the Stop The War movement, helping to organise coaches from Glasgow Central Mosque to the two million strong rally against the war in Iraq.
But Yousaf was willing to go further than his contemporaries to get what he wanted. The Guardian reports he joined a human blockade of the Charing Cross exit of the M8 motorway. In 2012 he described his experiences: “We had our two hours, freezing our arses off. And that was it: I was hooked.”
Initially he was attracted to the Scottish National Party’s opposition to the War on Terror, but he also became interested in its socialist views. Like many in the party he sees leaving the United Kingdom as a good way to push a much more left-wing agenda in Scotland.
English voters are far more conservative than the Scottish and are perceived to be holding them back from creating a Scandinavian-style socialist state. He once said that: “You have to keep being radical with your ideas”. His age, looks and charisma have undoubtedly made it easier to entice the Scottish into his “radical” agenda.
Prior to his election to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, Yousaf had been a media spokesman for Islamic Relief, a charity that has been accused on a number of occasions of being a front group for radical Islamism. Yousaf was a volunteer for Islamic Relief since the age of 10.
Yousaf was also heavily involved in a community radio station for over a decade and helped organise food parcels for asylum seekers.
After just one year in the Scottish Parliament, he was appointed Minister for External Affairs and International Development, equivalent to Foreign Secretary. This senior role is bound to make him a genuine contender for Prime Minister once Alex Salmond steps out of the way. This would make him the first Muslim head of government in Europe since the Crusades.
But his rise to the top has not been without its hiccups. In 2005, whilst working for Scotland’s first Muslim MSP, he was rejected as a candidate. The selection process was reported on by the Scottish Herald because of allegations of vote rigging and the signing up of fake voters. In the end the allegations were thrown out, but the debacle delayed Yousaf’s entry into parliament by one full term.
He was also embroiled in a financial scandal after his cousin Osama Saeed – a former Muslim Brotherhood spokesman – was awarded £400,000 for a Muslim festival entitled “IslamExpo”. In the end no festival took place and the staff working on the project were reported to have mainly been members of his own family. In the end Saeed repaid £128,000 of the money that was awarded to him. As a director of the foundation the debacle undoubtedly caused Yousef public embarrassment but he did stick by his cousin.
Furthermore, the Scottish Herald reported on what became known as a “lunchgate” scandal, where Saeed and Yousaf collaborated to fundraise on the back of cash for access. It said at the time:
“…an amateur recording of the night obtained by the Sunday Herald reveals a tawdry hustling for cash as Salmond and Sturgeon laughed and clapped just a few feet away. At one point, Salmond was seen handling a cheque for £500.
“The tape will add to the criticism that the pair offered access to parliament and ministerial time in return for a large donation to SNP funds.
“The auctioneer was Humza Yousaf, who works for both Salmond and Sturgeon at Holyrood.
“Yousaf’s patter was wasn’t subtle. The link between cash, parliament and the ministers’ time was explicit.”
It is unclear what Saeed’s group, the Scottish Islamic Foundation, is doing now but in the past it has been accused of having extremist links. When they met with the British government they took Mohammed Sawalha – the subject of a BBC Panorama expose into Islamist terrorist group Hamas – with them.
The BBC alleged: “From London, Sawalha is said to have master minded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy. Wanted by Israel, he fled to London in 1990… In London, Sawalha is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah.
“Then, in January 1993, an operation Sawalha was involved in went badly wrong. Hamas would be forced to reorganise its funding arrangements. A senior Hamas man from America flew into London for instructions from Sawalha. Sawalha’s visitor was en route to the Palestinian territories.
“The two men travelled to Sawalha’s home. His visitor’s name was Mohammed Salah. Salah’s mission was to distribute funds. Sawalha told him who to meet in the Palestinian territories…. With Sawalha’s agreement Salah began distributing about a quarter of a million dollars to local Hamas operatives. “
“Some was ear marked for military activities. Some for missionary dawah. More money was in the pipe line from his bank in Chicago. But the Israeli’s had been tracking him. Stopped at a check point as he left Gaza, Salah was arrested.”
Somehow, Yousaf is now a respected figure in Scottish politics and is believed to have put much of his past behind him. If his plans come to fruition he will become one of the most powerful men in Europe, imbued with a firm belief that things have to change.
Yousaf is happily married to Gail Lythgoe, a red-headed Muslim convert. He recently called for Scotland to take in Palestinian refugees, and urged a full arms embargo of the State of Israel.
The YesScotland campaign and Scottish National Party refused multiple requests for further information and comment from Breitbart London journalists.