Islamophobia in Scotland - public inquiry report demands action to tackle everyday racism

A report on the first public inquiry into Islamophobia in Scotland has exposed the everyday racism faced by Muslims and makes a series of recommendations to the government to tackle growing levels of hatred.

Four-fifths of Muslims in Scotland said they had directly experienced Islamophobia, with individuals warning that verbal and physical assaults are intensifying, particularly on public transport.

The Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Tackling Islamophobia organised the inquiry, receiving a total of 447 responses.

CPG chair Anas Sarwar MSP said the findings should ‘shame us all’.

Read the executive summary

Read the full report

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The final report produced for the CPG by Newcastle University professor Peter Hopkins has now made several recommendations, including integrating an understanding of Islamophobia into Scotland’s education curriculum and recruiting more police officers from diverse communities.

It also calls on the Scottish Government to instigate a full independent review into Islamophobia.

Recommendations include:

  • The Scottish Government should work towards adopting a formal definition of Islamophobia to promote understanding, to encourage reporting and to indicate its commitment to addressing it.
  • All political parties in Scotland, at all levels, should proactively adopt a ‘no tolerance’ approach to Islamophobia.
  • The Scottish Government should actively support initiatives to recruit more officers from within Scotland’s diverse communities, including Muslim officers, into Police Scotland.
  • Integrate an understanding of Islamophobia into compulsory components of the Scottish education curricula and all teacher training education.
  • The Scottish Government should fund and support initiatives that educate the people of Scotland about the damage that Islamophobia does to Scottish society.

The inquiry revealed that 75 per cent of Muslims said Islamophobia is a regular or everyday issue in Scottish society.

A total of 78 per cent of Muslim respondents said that Islamophobia is getting worse, and this rises to 82 per cent of Muslim respondents with a Glasgow postcode.

Asked about where Islamophobia takes place, the street is most commonly referred to, after which it is public spaces such as shops or restaurants and public transport, then at work and places of education.

Of all respondents, 31 per cent said they have experienced Islamophobia at work, 18 per cent at school and 13 per cent at college or university.

As many as 83 per cent of Muslim respondents said they experienced Islamophobia directly and Muslim women are more likely to encounter Islamophobia than men.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow and chair of the CPG on Tackling Islamophobia (2018-2021), said:
“We pride ourselves on being a welcome and tolerant country, but it’s clear how much more work we have to do.
“There are people in Scotland who feel scared to leave their homes for fear of verbal of physical attack; are withdrawing from public services with devastating knock-on consequences on their health and education; and feel they are outsiders in their own country.
“This should shame us all.
“It is clear to me that we must redouble efforts to challenge and overcome hatred and prejudice.
“This requires politicians to come together on a cross-party basis, because the fight against hate is a fight for all of us.”

The report for the CPG was authored by Professor Peter Hopkins of Newcastle University, who has been researching issues of racism and Islamophobia in Scotland for 20 years. The report was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Peter Hopkins said:
“The evidence submitted to this inquiry makes it clear that Scotland has a very serious set of issues to address in relation to everyday Islamophobia and racism.
“Inquiry evidence included numerous references to verbal and physical abuse, attacks in and around mosques and religious buildings, and experiences of threatening behaviour on public transport.
“Almost four fifths of respondents were fearful of experiencing Islamophobia and this had real consequences for how they lived their lives.
“Islamophobia permeates all domains of Scottish society; it is not only restricted to one context. It threatens education, limits employment prospects, and impacts everyday issues including health, wellbeing and housing.
“It is time to address the issue of Scotland’s Islamophobia rather than denying its existence.
“The recommendations make it clear that we all sectors, agencies and departments need to make long-term changes to eradicate Islamophobia from Scottish society.”