Kenny MacAskill’s comment sparks row over racism

Members of the Muslim Forum destroy their SNP membership cards after comments by Kenny MacAskill. Picture: TSPL
Members of the Muslim Forum destroy their SNP membership cards after comments by Kenny MacAskill. Picture: TSPL
0
Have your say

A MUSLIM group in Craigmillar has accused SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill of using “offensive and inflammatory” language in a long-running row over the use of a community centre.

Some members of the East Edinburgh Muslim Forum, based at the Craigmillar Settlement at 63 Niddrie Mains Terrace, staged a demonstration yesterday, ripping up their SNP membership cards in protest.

The main thrust of our objection was the dark undertones of some of the rhetoric he was using”

MUHAMMAD WAHEED

A meeting of the city council’s finance committee this week decided the Muslim Forum should move to temporary alternative premises to allow another community group, Caring in Craigmillar, which previously operated from the centre, to move into the ground-floor of the building, and suggested the Muslim Forum could later occupy the first floor.

But addressing the committee before their decision, Mr MacAskill, MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, said he did not believe that the two groups could both be accommodated in the centre.

And members of the Muslim Forum were angered when he appeared to liken the forum’s potential presence in the building to a “Trojan horse”.

The phrase “Operation Trojan Horse” was recently used to describe an apparent covert plot to install Muslim governors at schools in Birmingham.

Mr MacAskill told the committee: “We are now at a situation where I don’t think it’s possible to have both organisations capable of being dealt with at the one venue. I do believe the intention has always been that Caring in Craigmillar would return to number 63. They do require the whole of the ground floor; there are obviously premises vacated on the first floor.

“But I think I would have to be quite candid and say I think the council would be well minded not to have a Trojan horse that could result in ongoing difficulties and challenges.”

Muhammad Waheed, vice-chair of the Muslim Forum, said Mr MacAskill had been a frequent visitor and supporter of the forum over the years, but now appeared “hell bent on getting us evicted”. Mr Waheed said: “The main thrust of our objection was the dark undertones of some of the rhetoric he was using. His use of the incredibly loaded and pejorative term ‘Trojan horse’ to refer to the East Edinburgh Muslim Forum was simply breathtaking for a politician in his position.

“A person of his political experience and background must have surely realised to use such a toxic term, especially in the current climate where Muslims are seen as a fifth column within or to be always suspected, as being incredibly offensive and inflammatory.

“The local Muslim community feels completely let down by this behaviour.”

Mr MacAskill said: “I’m sorry if anyone is offended. I was simply making clear my support for Caring in Craigmillar, which is revered not only in the immediate community but in wider Edinburgh.” He said he did not believe the term “Trojan horse” was inflammatory and said he had been referring to more than just the Muslim Forum: “I was talking about other organisations that would want to get in there who I think would be inappropriate.”