Welsh politicians have paid tribute to their larger-than-life colleague Mohammad Asghar for his support for Israel and work building bridges between Jews and Muslims, after he died unexpectedly on Wednesday aged 74.
Known to many as ‘Oscar,’ he was the first Welsh Assembly Member (AM) to invite the Israeli ambassador to speak at the Senedd “to discuss peace, harmony and understanding between the Muslim and Jewish communities”.
Colleagues this week described how there had been “no greater advocate for Israel” in the Welsh Assembly.
Born in Pakistan, Asghar was a devout Muslim and member of the Conservative Party, having previously joined both Labour and Plaid Cymru. He was the first Member of the Senedd from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Fellow Conservative Angela Burns recalled their visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. “The sun was beating down on us. We were standing on the roof of the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem, and I was chatting to Oscar and he waved his arms around, as he often did.
“He said, ‘Look, Angie, there is Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and over there the Holy Sepulchre, and there’s the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives. We are all here. We can live together!’”
She added: “By the time we finished our trip, it was Oscar who knew the names of the drivers and the bellhops, where they lived and their family stories. He always sought to bring people together.
“He was passionate about bridging the gaps between Pakistan and India, about bringing Muslims and Christians and Jews together, about uniting people with faith and people with no faith.”
Colleagues in the chamber described him as “funny, warm, hugely politically incorrect at times,” with “belief and charisma, and immensely kind”.
Assembly Member Darren Millar said some of his fondest memories were with Asghar during their visit to the Holy Land. “There was no greater supporter of Israel and an advocate of peace in the Middle East than Oscar,” he said.
“While we were both from different faith traditions, Oscar and I prayed together for the peace of Jerusalem at the Western Wall and we also prayed for one another’s families as we sat, arm-in-arm and with tears in our eyes, in St Peter’s Church.”