The SNP's other superwoman and chief "look at me" Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh has a lot on her CV, including: MP (May 2015 to June 2017), OBE, solicitor and equity partner in a law firm, businesswoman, former actress, television programme producer, founder of the Scottish Asian Women's Association, mother of four, and a practising Muslim. Never one to underestimate her own abilities, Chelsea-born Tasmina has made known: "People listen to me because they hear my conviction. It's at the heart of everything I do whether that's our independence, politics, motherhood or the equality agenda. I'm tough and tenacious. I can persuade, push, coax, cajole and convince …". Also, it is said she is "popular with the former SNP leader Alex Salmond … also close to Salmond's successor Nicola Sturgeon". On the flip side, an SNP colleague says she has "an unusual personality" and one of her former election agents griped that: "She was desperate for a high profile and has a huge ego but she was very politically naive." Looking at Mrs Ahmed-Sheikh in more detail:
Unlike la Sturgeon, nationalism has not always coursed through the Ahmed-Sheikh veins: she held a Labour Party membership card for two years in the mid-1990s, otherwise was a member of the Conservative Party between 1986 and 2000, and finally was given a transfusion of SNP blood in 2000. Regarded as a political opportunist by many critics, including some SNP supporters, and dubbed a "political butterfly" more kindly by some, her pronouncements certainly tease us:
As a Conservative candidate in the 1999 Scottish parliamentary election she enthused: "If there's one thing you can say for the Tories, you know where you are with them. You either like us or you hate us … I am evidence of how the Conservative party has tried to change since the last general election." Also in 1999 she stated: "I am a Tory because I believe in Tory values … Tory values and Asian values are the same." Then her verbal attack on SNP leader Alex Salmond was stinging, calling him "hopelessly naive", saying he should "hang his head in shame", and that "His comments [about war in Kosovo] expose the stark truth about him - that truth being that he is hopelessly out of his depth in the arena of real politics, national, and international … He has shown shallow understanding of a great swathe of Scotland's population."
Having failed to get elected as a Conservative, she decided the Tories were "stuck in the past" and defected to the SNP in 2000, remarking: "When I spoke to people on the street, it was clear the Tories couldn't deliver what they wanted. I realised it wasn't the right party to deliver the things I wanted either - a multi-cultural, all-embracing, equal Scotland."
She declared at the SNP conference in 2012: "Becoming independent runs in my veins" and "I believe I was destined to be a Scot".
When pressured, Ahmed-Sheikh often claims victimhood. For example, she joined Labour only "as a favour to her father-in-law" in canvassing for council elections, and as an SNP candidate in the 2015 general election, she said: "I didn't choose the Conservative party, I was born into it." During questioning by Andrew Neil about why the SNP failed to robustly condemn threatening and bullying 'cybernats', including the cruel treatment of the late Charles Kennedy, she tried to turn the argument around by comprehensively pleading: "I am a victim of abuse myself - it's misogynistic, it's rascist, it's Islamophobic … I'm a Muslim female [who has] been described as a fascist by the Labour party."
Ahmed-Sheikh's typical utterances aren't especially troubling as they exhibit little originality or profound political thinking, but some of her less-publicized statements and activities do raise significant concerns about Islamic issues and her objectives:
Ahmed-Sheikh's practice as a solicitor went on hold when she became an MP, but she retained a shareholding in the now-bust firm of Hamilton Burns WS Limited (leading to a sequestration action against her by HMRC, which was resolved out of court). Following allegations of financial impropriety, she is being investigated by the Law Society of Scotland for possible professional misconduct relating to her legal work. Her LinkedIn profile states that she has expertise in sharia law and Islamic finance, specifically providing advice on these to Hamilton Burns between 2005 and 2010. In 2010 the firm was reported as "being the first in the country [apparently UK] to offer clients conventional legal representation alongside advice on sharia law." The report added: "Employees at the law firm admit that their groundbreaking decision has been controversial." In an interview, Ahmed-Sheikh refused to condemn the Islamic legal system, saying: "I'm a perfectly confident individual, confident in my profession, confident in my religion and I don't feel that for my own experience that sharia is discriminatory towards me in any way." In February 2016 she defended sharia again at an "islamophobia" conference in Dublin. This Scottish Asian Businesswoman of the Year 2010 has promoted, and profited from, the role of the discriminatory and oppressive sharia in Scottish law practice.
Following the Tunisian hotel massacre in 2015, Ahmed-Sheikh declared:
"It's clear to us all that the use of terminology such as Islamic State, ISIL and ISIS gives a veneer of authority to what is a terrorist organisation. This group is not a recognised state, is categorically not Islamic, and has no support from our Muslim community, who all believe that actions like last week's senseless shootings in Tunisia are despicable."
This is dangerous apologist cant and she must know it: the Islamic State acts on a literal interpretation of the Islamic holy texts and it cannot be called un-Islamic as justification for its actions can be easily found in the main doctrines of Islam. Also, the behaviour of the Islamic State has considerable similarities with that of the undoubtedly Islamic entities of modern Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the old Ottoman Empire. Opinion polls show that around a quarter of British Muslims sympathize with those who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria, and 3% of the UK strongly favour the Islamic State, with another 6% somewhat favourable.
Ahmed-Sheikh reacted to Lee Rigby's murder in 2013 thus:
"I am shocked and horrified every time I hear of attacks being carried out purportedly in the name of Islam. The Prophet Mohammad never, ever, condoned violence among Muslims or against others. So to try to claim suicide bombings or other attacks on innocent people of any or no religion are somehow accepted by - or at worst encouraged - in Islam is wrong. That is clear to all of us ordinary, practising Muslims. There is no ambiguity."
No reasonable person can support these assertions in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence: the Quran contains over a hundred verses that exhort Muslims to wage war against unbelievers for the sake of Islam; and a third of the Quran and Sunna is devoted to jihad, with ten times more politically violent text than the Old Testament. Further, polling indicates that 24% of British Muslims (35% of the young) believe suicide bombings are justified, and 27% sympathize with the Charlie Hebdo attackers. Is Ahmed-Sheikh being ignorant, deceitful, or delusional?
When Ahmed-Sheikh espoused Tory values as Asian values in 1999, she said: "All those who came over here from the Asian nations 30 or 40 years ago had to sustain themselves without any handouts: if you wanted to put food on your family's table, you had to find a job. That's very similar to what we feel." Now in 2015, as an SNP MP, she buys into her leader's assertion that "Scotland is ready to help as many people as we can" and wants "a fact-based, humanitarian, compassionate approach to immigration", receiving "guests … who should be welcomed and given every help and support." Unfortunately, Ahmed-Sheikh has not apprised the public of the relevant facts from statistical data on illegal migrants to the EU, including: four out of five migrants are not refugees from Syria; two-thirds of Mediterranean migrants are adult men; 81% of migrants to Germany have no qualifications; 2-3% infiltration by Islamic State jihadists; and northern Europe is suffering a rape epidemic which is mostly attributable to Muslim immigrants and their descendents.
On a honeymoon visit to Pakistan in 1993, Ahmed-Sheikh was surprised at people's ignorance of her home country, and she said in 1999 (emphasis added):
"They had this idea that Scotland was full of racists, that Asians were not successful here and all the girls were running away from home, which is not true. We get on brilliantly with one another."
But by 2013, to protect Scotland from so-called 'islamophobia', she was scaremongering in a bid to gain independence: "We are not so hugely different or distant from England that the intolerance we have seen down south in recent weeks cannot spill into Scotland."
Ahmed-Sheikh met with the Network for Animals (NFA) organisation in June 2015, who said: "So what can we do to help the SNP?". Then, in July, SNP MPs blocked a vote on fox hunting which affected only England. A month later, the SNP accepted £10,000 from NFA's sister organisation.
The Scottish Asian Women's Association (SAWA), founded by Ahmed-Sheikh, was given £16,160 of public financial support in 2012 for its lavish launch at Stirling Castle's Great Hall, with First Minister Alex Salmond both approving the payment and hosting the event (Nicola Sturgeon also attended). However, the Association only applied for charitable status two days prior to the launch and was only given the seal of approval by Scotland's charity regulator 3½ months later. At this time, Ahmed-Sheikh just happened to be an upcoming SNP European parliamentary candidate and a leading activist in the 'Yes Scotland' campaign. While she was chairwoman (resigning in May 2015 when elected an MP), SAWA donated only 2.8% of its income to good causes. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) was concerned that SAWA trustees might have breached their "legal duties" but SAWA deflected their queries for nearly a year. This has led to claims that public money was used to kickstart what was effectively a publicity vehicle for Ahmed-Sheikh's political career with the SNP. Rules forbidding the promotion of political parties by charities may also have been broken.
Ahmed-Sheikh is apparently Alex Salmond's personal lawyer and, until elected an MP, she was one of the two directors of Salmond's 'The Chronicles of Deer' company, set up by him to maximise earnings from his bestselling referendum diary The Dream Shall Never Die.