Scottish National Party (SNP) politician Humza Yousaf is currently one of the leading contenders to replace Nicola Sturgeon as the next Scottish First Minister. While many are familiar with Yousaf’s advocacy for Scottish independence and anti-racism, fewer are aware of his historical ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
Yousaf was born on April 7, 1985, to Pakistani immigrants in Glasgow, Scotland, where he was raised. He attended the University of Glasgow and went on to hold a number of positions with the Scottish Government, including serving as a parliamentary assistant for Bashir Ahmad, Scotland’s first Muslim MSP. Following Ahmad’s death, Yousaf worked for First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon before being elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, becoming the youngest MSP in Scottish parliamentary history at the time.
Yousaf has held various ministerial positions since his election, including Justice Secretary and Health Secretary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following Sturgeon’s resignation announcement, he declared his candidacy for the 2023 SNP leadership election.
While Yousaf is known for advocating for Scottish independence and anti-racism, his ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood are less well-known. In 2008, while working for Bashir Ahmad, Yousaf met at the Scottish Parliament. with Mohammed Sawalha, a fugitive former Hamas commander living in exile in the UK. Sawalha was a representative of Islam Expo, which received a £2 million grant from Qatar and hosted events in London in 2006 and 2008. He and Sawalha were joined at the 2008 meeting by two other activists who have publicly supported Hamas, Anas Altikriti and Ismail Patel, who were also listed as part of Islam Expo. Altikriti is one of the most important leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK while Patel was the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, a pro-Hamas British organization based in Leicester which advocated Israel’s elimination.
When asked by the media about the meeting and if he was aware of Sawalha’s background. Yousaf did not respond directly but said he himself had a “strong track record of standing up against every form of hatred, including antisemitism.” Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “Yousaf must address the circumstances in which he judged it appropriate to have close contact with Hamas supporters. He has to face these questions head-on were he to become First Minister.” A senior Labour source said: “If these allegations are correct, then Yousaf will come under serious pressure to justify the company he has kept and the interests he has represented.”
In addition to his ties to Sawalha, Yousaf was a director of the Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF) until 2009. In 2008, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch (GMBDW) began reporting on the SIF as well as the other GMB ties of Hamza Yousaf. The GMBDW reported that SIF was headed by Yousaf’s cousin Osama Saeed, a former official with the Muslim Association of Britain, part of the UK Muslim Brotherhood. Saeed’s controversial background included calls for an Islamic Caliphate and equivocal stands on terrorism, as noted by the GMBDW. Shortly after the meeting with Yousaf, the SIF was awarded £405,000 in grants from the SNP government and announced the country’s biggest-ever celebration of Islamic culture in Glasgow in June 2009. However, the project collapsed, and SIF was forced to repay £128,000 of the taxpayer funds it had received, with £72,000 already spent. Saeed had been a candidate for the Scottish Parliament on the ticket of the SNP and resigned as head of the SIF following an audit of its accounts.
The GMBDW also reported in 2010 that Yousaf had been a volunteer for Islamic Relief since the age of 10 and had worked as the media spokesman for Islamic Relief Scotland. Islamic Relief Worldwide has close ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and was banned from operating in Israel for allegedly sending cash to Hamas. As a minister, in 2013, Yousaf signed off on a £398,000 Scottish government donation for Islamic Relief.
The GMBDW also noted Yousaf was an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Learning Programme,” which has facilitated networking between US and Global Muslim Brotherhood groups perhaps explaining the 2008 partnership between the SIF and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a key part of the US Muslim Brotherhood and also historically close to Hamas.
The GMBDW additionally reported in October 2008 on meetings between Humza Yousaf and Osama Saeed and the Turkish AKP as well as with Wadah Khanfar, at that the Director-General of Al Jazeera but also close to Hamas and the Global Muslim Brotherhood. Saeed was employed at that time as the Head of Media and Public Relations at the Al Jazeera Media Network.
Of course, these historical but extensive links to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-supporting groups do not demonstrate that Hamza Yousaf is either a “member” of the Muslim Brotherhood or shares an Islamist ideology. However, he has demanded that Israel be placed under an arms embargo and that Palestine be acknowledged as a sovereign state. A practicing Muslim, he has said: “I do not use my faith as a basis for legislating,” adding that policymakers “have to look at what we think is in the best interest of society as a whole.” However, critics have speculated about the depth of his commitment to human rights. For example, just last week, questions were raised about why Yousaf had arranged a meeting that clashed with a critical vote on gay marriage. Whatever Yousaf’s actual beliefs may be, his record represents a genuine concern about the possible influence of the Global Muslim Brotherhood on a future Yousaf government in Scotland.