Police Scotland are investigating a series of credible death threats made against a human rights lawyer, after he denounced the sectarian murder of a Muslim shopkeeper by an Islamist and called for unity against terrorism.
Aamer Anwar, who lives in Glasgow, said he could not disclose the nature of the threats due to the investigation, but has reason to believe that they have come from within the Muslim community.
“Having been a campaigner for human rights for over 25 years, I have grown used to the bile and hatred directed at me,” Mr Anwar said. “On occasion when I have had my life seriously threatened, I have informed the police but have always chosen to keep it private. On this occasion I could no longer remain silent, because of a small minority who believe they can silence me by creating a climate of fear.”
Mr Anwar added that over the last few weeks, “abuse and hatred” had been whipped up on social media, and people had been calling his home in the middle of the night.
“I hold these people directly responsible for creating an atmosphere which has given some the confidence to make threats to my life,” he said.
Last Thursday the prominent lawyer chaired an event at Glasgow Central Mosque which brought Ahmadi Muslims, a Sunni Imam and Pakistani Christians together for the first time to share a platform, calling for unity and an end to violence and extremism following the death of Asad Shah at the hands of an Islamic extremist.
Mr Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim, was knifed to death outside his shop in Glasgow just hours after wishing the community a “happy Easter” online. His death was celebrated online by Muslims who believe his brand of Islam is “false” and “heretical”.
Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford in West Yorkshire has appeared in court charged with his murder.
Mr Anwar has called on more people within the community to stand up and not be silenced by the fanatics among them.
“With a young family I could be forgiven if I had chosen to shut up and walk away. The pressure from the community, friends and family to protect myself from the fanatics has been enormous,” he said.
“It is a terrifying and deeply lonely place to be when you say goodbye to your children and wonder if it is for the last time, but the death of Asad Shah should be a wake-up call to our community that we must not be silenced.
“Our so-called community leaders must do much more, they have avoided tackling hatred to preserve their status and that is deeply shameful and hypocritical.”
Rafiq Hayat, national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which renounces jihad and promotes tolerance and harmony, said: “We have been warning about the signs of hate being preached in the UK for many years and our concern is that if left unchecked it will destroy the harmony of our society.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We can confirm that police are investigating these threats and our inquiries are continuing.”