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Originally published in The Evening Standard.
A London preacher and his friend sparked outrage today by praising a fanatic who murdered a Pakistani politician for criticising the country’s strict Islamic laws.
Former imam Qari Mahmood, 38, and Khalid Iqbal Malik, 43, who attend Lea Bridge Road mosque in Leyton, hailed killer Mumtaz Qadri “a hero” and “a martyr”.
Qadri was convicted of killing Punjab governor Salman Taseer after shooting him 28 times over his support for liberal reforms of blasphemy laws in 2011.
In an online video published last month, hours after Qadri’s funeral following his state execution, Mr Mahmood, of Waltham Forest, hails him “a hero” and blesses his “martyrdom”.
He adds: “We are praying to Allah that he will grant us the same martyrdom… this is a man who loves God and his Prophet.
“People are crying for him and praying for him…. and you can see how moving the funeral is… God help us to take his mission forward.”
The video appeared on online media channel Zara Sochoo — run by Mr Malik — which has more than 60,000 followers.
Hannah Stuart, an extremism researcher at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said: “To call Qadri a martyr is to continue to justify fanatical vigilantism as religious duty.”