Attempt to smear Osama Saeed and Azad Ali

A radical Muslim cleric alleged to have inspired the Fort Hood gunman has been praised in the past as “a preacher of peace” by a prominent SNP candidate with close links to Alex Salmond.

The FBI is investigating communications between Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at the US Army base in Texas, and Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim cleric now based in Yemen. Mr Awlaki has a large following in Britain and counts prominent mainstream Muslims among his supporters.

In 2006 Osama Saeed, who has been selected as the SNP candidate for Glasgow Central for the next general election, wrote that Mr Awlaki “preached nothing but peace”.

Last night Mr Saeed, who was researcher to Mr Salmond before he became the Scottish First Minister, distanced himself from Mr Awlaki, saying that he now felt “cheated” by the cleric. Mr Saeed said: “I completely disagree with what he has said about Fort Hood, and a host of other matters which he has more recently written and spoken about.”

Mr Awlaki, 38, who on his blog described Major Hasan as “a hero”, has been a regular visitor to Britain and delivers frequent lectures to audiences here by video or via the internet.

Azad Ali, president of the Civil Service Islamic Society, wrote last November that Mr Awlaki was “one of my favourite speakers and scholars”. Mr Ali, whose society’s patron is Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, distanced himself from the cleric’s views last night. He said: “I reject them and disassociate myself from them completely.”

An SNP spokesman said last night: “Anwar al-Awlaki formerly expressed moderate views – his more recent comments are disgraceful and have been condemned by all right-thinking people, including Azad Ali and Osama Saeed. Any attempt to smear any individual in the UK over this would be appalling.”

Times, 12 November 2009

Needless to say, this witch-hunt originates with Harry’s Place, Standpoint and the Spittoon.

Update:  See Osama Saeed’s post, “Times run with Centre for Social Cohesion briefing”, Rolled-up Trousers, 12 November 2009

Further update:  And here is the Quilliam Foundation’s helpful contribution, headed “Quilliam calls on Muslim organizations to reject jihadism”.