Alex Salmond has boosted the cause of radical Islam in Scotland in his response to the Glasgow Airport attack, a leading Scots academic on religious affairs has claimed.
In a fiercely controversial commentary, Tom Gallagher, the chair of Peace Studies at Bradford University, said that Salmond had courted “radical voices” in the Muslim community following the attempted bombings, lending them a false layer of legitimacy. He also accuses Salmond of deliberately setting out to exploit the attack to win favour with Muslims in Scotland, comparing the First Minister’s style at one point to former Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The comments triggered a furious backlash last night, with claims they amounted to Islamophobia. Salmond’s aides meanwhile described them as “ridiculous”.
Gallagher’s attack, published on the website Open Democracy, was aimed primarily at the Scottish leader of the Muslim Association of Britain, Osama Saeed, who was also an SNP candidate in this year’s Scottish elections. Saeed was among the most prominent figures to speak for the Muslim community following the bombings, which he unreservedly condemned. However, Gallagher accuses Saeed of being an “unapologetic advocate of the hardline Islamism” and accuses him of deceiving Scots following the attack by hiding his real agenda. He attacks Salmond for giving Saeed a platform.
He said: “The Muslim community has been done a great disservice by the SNP which has courted the more radical voices in the community and the result is that it will alter the balance of power in the Muslim community. I’m all for Muslims playing a full role in Scottish life but I think we need to do all we can to question those who just want Muslims to be oppositional and to have international loyalties.”
Saeed has now accused Gallagher of Islamophobia, saying there was no basis for the academic’s attack. He added: “What he is arguing is that everyone who believes in Islam needs to have some kind of witch-hunt placed over them.”
Predictably, Gallagher finds support at the virulently anti-Muslim US website Jihad Watch.
For Osama Saeed’s comments, see Rolled Up Trousers, 22 July 2007