SHAFAQNA – High profile Scots Muslims have spoken of the racist abuse they and their friends and families have suffered in the wake of the terror attacks across Europe this summer.
Many have had to endure everything from verbal abuse to physical attacks – which are not always reported to the authorities.
Despite this, high profile Muslims were keen to praise the vast majority of Scots who offer support after such incidents.
Scottish Government minster Humza Yousaf, who has often been a target of abuse from right-wing extremists, said: “I find it so sad that, following barbaric attacks such as those committed across Europe over the past two weeks, ordinary, peace-loving Muslims who contribute to their local economies and communities every day are made to feel unwelcome because of brutal acts committed wrongly and perversely in the name of their faith.
“Just recently my own mother – who wears a hijab and has lived her whole life here in Scotland – told me that for the first time since the month following the 9/11 attacks she feels like people regard her with suspicion. I am sure there are many other Muslim Scots who have sensed a similar shift in atmosphere, which is disheartening.
“Saying that, after speaking with Muslim friends across Europe and in the US, I am very glad to live in Scotland. Of course bigotry rears its head on occasion, but each and every time I, my family or my friends have been victim of racist or Islamophobic attacks, the messages and demonstrations of support from Scots of all backgrounds have easily drowned out the perpetrator’s hatred.”
Glasgow councillor Soryia Siddique said several Muslim women she has spoken to have been singled out by racists in recent weeks.
“Some Muslim woman have described an increase in verbal abuse, in particular females that wear the hijab,” she said. “Some have described a spike in abusive comments recently. One said she felt the consistency and recent recurring nature was startling.
“Having experienced institutionalised and open racism I can empathise. Muslim woman that wear hijab can be particular targets due to evident symbols of their faith.”
Mona Siddiqui, a professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Edinburgh University, said: “A lot of Muslims I talk to feel Scotland is a more welcoming place and a less divided place. I’m not necessarily certain of that but if you’re going by personal sense of belonging and a stake in society there is certainly more cohesion.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t have racism. For the first time in my life I feel like we are in a period of toxic narrative, politically and socially.
“Whether it’s because of Brexit, what’s happening in the United States, or these recent attacks, there is a sense that people are being caught up in all kind of attitudes that maybe they weren’t even aware they had.”
Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar spoke of a “climate of fear” and “an underlying tension”.
“You cannot help but feel that many expect us to speak out and apologise even though we bear no responsibility for the actions of mindless murdering thugs who happen to kill in the name of Islam,” he said.
“Non-Muslims have been known to demand answers and a justification for our very being by focusing on our religion.
“There is also the feeling that people have the green light to discuss Islam and ignorantly attack Muslims quite openly in the community or workplaces in a way they would never have dared before.
“Despite this, I think we are in a much better place than England or the rest of Europe, but many wonder how long before we feel the impact.
“What can we do? I suppose we must carry on as normal, after all we are more often than not victims of the terrorists around the world.”
Ahmed Owusu-Konadu, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Scotland – which was the target of an extremist attack when Tanveer Ahmed murdered Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah in March – said atrocities on the continent can “feed mistrust and seek to divide communities”.
However, he added: “The reaction of local communities in Glasgow when a member of our community was murdered shows that Scotland has a strong bond and a resilient, caring nature.”