Scottish pastor heads to European Court over ‘unfair’ dismissal

Church of Scotland minister the Rev Mahboob Masih was a volunteer presenter on Glasgow station Awaz FM when he was dismissed after six years following an on-air debate about the uniqueness of Christ.

|PIC1|In the July broadcast, listeners were invited to submit questions on a recent talk by prominent Muslim speaker and critic of Christianity, Zakir Naik, in which he had contested the uniqueness of Christ.

The station’s management later expressed concerns that Masih had not been balanced enough during the discussion and that Muslim listeners may have been offended after the programme’s guest contributor, Christian apologist Asif Mall, said Naik’s claims demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the Bible and the Koran.

Rev Masih says he was ordered by the management to issue an apology to listeners and in person to the Muslim community at Glasgow’s Central Mosque. He said he reluctantly agreed to read out an apology on air but refused to make an apology at the mosque.

Station director, Javaid Ullah, said Rev Masih had "failed to remain neutral and as such allowed the guest to make comments which led in (to) offending various members of the community".

Rev Masih was temporarily suspended by Awaz FM for breaching the station's code of conduct, despite Rev Masih’s insistence that the on-air debate had not contravened British law or Ofcom standards.

“This case shows the scandalous use of public monies to support unlawful acts under the guise of social cohesion,” said Rev Masih.

“I do not believe any other religious group could have acted like Awaz Radio. I remain grateful to the British courts.

“The Pakistani Christian community intends to protest to the Scottish Parliament to highlight discriminatory treatment of Christians.”

Rev Masih is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre in his bid to be reinstated. In a hearing at the end of August, employment judge Raymond Williamson ruled that the case should be referred to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on whether Rev Masih’s status as a volunteer was protected by anti-discrimination legislation.

Mr Williamson said: "I ask myself the question, 'can it be right that the respondent, a creature of statute, partly funded out of public funds and set up with the aim of promoting social cohesion, should be able to discriminate on religious grounds against the volunteer staff it is obliged to engage as a condition of its licence?'"

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and founder of the Christian Legal Centre said: “We are grateful for the brave decision of employment judge Williamson. This is a courageous ruling.

“We at the Christian Legal Centre believe passionately in the positive value of freedom of speech and will continue to fight to prevent the marginalisation of Christians.

“Rev Masih looks forward greatly to the European Court case as this will give Christians throughout Europe a unique opportunity to have their freedom to speak and live out their faith confirmed in law.''