Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Saturday, 7 February 2009

Funeral held for first Muslim MSP

About 1,000 people attended the funeral at Glasgow Central Mosque
About 1,000 people attended the funeral at Glasgow Central Mosque

The funeral has been held for Scotland's first Muslim MSP Bashir Ahmad, who died on Friday.

About 1,000 people, including politicians from across the political spectrum, attended the 68-year-old's funeral at Glasgow's Central Mosque.

Mr Ahmad, who was elected in 2007 as an SNP member for Glasgow, had previously served on the city's council.

First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute, saying he was the kindest, most decent human being he had met.

Mr Salmond, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Iain Gray were among those who attended the service.

The first minister said: "Bashir's election to Holyrood in 2007 marked a change for the better - both for the parliament and for Scotland as a whole.

Bashir Ahmad
Bashir Ahmad took the oath in Urdu when he was elected in 2007

"As the first Scots-Asian MSP, Bashir symbolised how Scotland's democracy reflects all of Scotland, and is for all of our nation's rich and diverse communities.

"When he launched 'Scots-Asians for Independence' in 1995, Bashir electrified the party conference when he said that what matters in Scotland is not where we come from, but where we are going - together."

Mr Gray said: "The turnout at the funeral from Scotland's Muslim community and Scotland's political community is a measure of the esteem in which Bashir Ahmad was held. He was a kind and decent man.

"But he also changed the Scottish Parliament forever by becoming the first Asian and first Muslim MSP. He blazed a trail in which I am sure others will follow."

Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown said: "It is evident from all I have spoken to that Bashir Ahmad was a man held in the highest regard.

"Comments made at the mosque make it clear that he will be greatly missed in his community and by the parliamentary community who came together to mourn his passing."

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie described him as "a real gentleman, much liked and respected across the political spectrum".

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "I'm so sorry that he had such a short time at Holyrood, but his contribution to political life goes back long before he arrived here, and his memory will be respected by very many people both inside and outside Parliament."

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said: "Bashir Ahmad demonstrated the possibility and the need for British Muslims to be civic champions serving the people around him for the common good.

"The despondent reaction from across the political spectrum only serves as a reminder as to his standing in the community and politics as a whole.

"He will be greatly missed, but always remembered for his historic achievements."

Presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament Alex Fergusson, Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, Tory MSP Bill Aitken and Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar were also at the service.

Mr Ahmad leaves a wife, five daughters and two sons who were all at the service, which was led by Imam Habib Rauf.

Political interests

Born in India before partition, Mr Ahmed arrived in Scotland aged 21.

He worked as a bus conductor and bus driver before buying his own shop.

He subsequently owned shops, restaurants and a hotel before retiring from business.

He was elected five times as president of the Pakistan Welfare Association.

In 1995 he founded Scots Asians for Independence and he had been a member of the SNP's national executive committee since 1998.

In 2003 he was elected as councillor for the Pollokshields East ward of Glasgow City Council.

He was elected as an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow region and Scotland's first and only Asian MSP at the 2007 election.

He served on Cross Party Groups for Carers, Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Older People, Age and Ageing, Palestine and Tartan Day.

He was also a member of Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee.

As well as his political interests Mr Ahmad was an active member of the Asian and Muslim communities in Glasgow attending a number of the committees of various mosques in the city.

Mr Ahmad was a regional list MSP, which means there will be no need for a by-election to replace him.

The next person on the list is Anne McLaughlin.

An SNP spokeswoman said there had not yet been any discussions on who would take Mr Ahmad's place.

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