LABOUR MSP, Anas Sarwar revealed this week the extent of institutional racism after he lost the vote to become Scottish Labour Leader. He revealed that a Labour councillor told him that he couldn’t vote for him because Scotland wasn’t ready for a “brown, Muslim Paki”. The MSP revealed the comments, made last year during his bid to become Scottish Labour leader to highlight the issue of institutional racism.

The issue of ingrained institutional racism isn’t something exclusive to Labour, nor is it something that is exclusive to politics. The very basis of British society is founded on racist ideals and it is something everyone must realise to move forward.

Legitimisation of racial slurs

The past of our society is far from pleasant and the British Empire was fundamentally built on the extraction of resources from other countries to fuel our economic growth at the expense of the local communities. Furthermore, terror was used by our politicians and leaders to subdue any potential uprising within those regions. The Mau Mau Uprising in 1952 being one of those conflicts that highlight the atrocities caused by the Empire. However, the racist violence can be traced further back to the power of the East India Company, a private company with significant political influence who monopolised trade with the British colonies (a law was passed to declare it illegal for anyone else to impede on the monopoly of the East India Company and trade within its controlled territories).

But away from history for a moment, the language and idea behind that statement by the Labour councillor is important. Imagine for one moment that they were talking about a Jew and they had said “Scotland wasn’t ready for a Jew”, suddenly this resonates a different response altogether because people from all sides would be in uproar over anti-Semitism (rightly so), yet the response to the report by The Mirror has been almost non-existent.

Society has allowed ‘Muslim’ to become a legitimate racial slur, despite the obvious fact that it is merely a description of someone’s faith. But much like the term ‘Paki’ was used in the 1960s by the tabloids as a derogatory term for peoples within the colonies, Muslim is slowly becoming the same within the psyche of the British public and its politicians.

This is entirely down to the way politician’s use nationalist rhetoric and the press report about those of the Muslim faith and order them to condemn anything bad by their religious counterparts. Whereas if someone such as the Finchley Park Mosque terrorist, Darren Osborne – who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, where he will have to serve a jail term of a minimum 43 years – those same tabloids don’t feel the need to condemn him on behalf of those who are right wing. Right wing and violence are synonymous with each other, the more extreme, the worse it is but importantly their use of language infects the psyche of the public where someone’s faith can be used as a legitimate racial slur. This idea is not being challenged enough and it is the fault of every politician, political party and media outlet.