Scheduled for April 3rd, 'Punish a Muslim Day' was a vile new trend with a points system used to reward acts of violence towards Muslims. Whilst many counter-campaigns were launched across scotland such as the 'Love a Muslim Day' movement, the creation of 'Punish a Muslim Day' only reiterated that Scotland has more of an islamophobia problem than we care to admit.

'Scotland is a progressive nation built on the fabulous warmth of its people' is what the official website for the country says against a backdrop of the Highlands however with the recent news of how Scotland's two Muslim MSPs - SNP MSP Humza Yousaf and Labour MSP Anas Sarwar - are being treated this doesn't seem to be completely true.

From having deeply offensive comments made at them to receiving hate mail to carrying a personal attack alarm to increasing security at home to being unable to conduct surgeries alone to being threatened to be spat at one the street, the list is endless.

The response to Islamophobia in Scotland

Responses to such behaviour are often lacklustre. For example, when North Lanarkshire MP Hugh Gaffney made racist and homophobic comments during a Burns supper speech, he was not suspended and simply referred to diversity training which Yousaf dubbed 'a slap in the face' for every single ethnic minority in the country. Whilst diversity training is useful in its own right but it's meant to supplement understanding, not become the entire foundation of it. You shouldn't be able to say whatever you feel like and be rewarded with a training course that will give your CV a slight boost.

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Meanwhile, in response to Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Jim Dempster was suspended from the Labour Party after he said he was “deeply sorry” for the offence caused by his “totally unacceptable” remarks, but Yousaf was quick to label the photos he took at the local mosque in the aftermath "tokenistic" which is what Sarwar also suggested when he refused to sit next to Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard at Prime Minister's Questions. South Lanarkshire Labour councillor Davie McLachlan was also suspended by the party in January amid an investigation into a racist mark which he allegedly made towards Scottish Labour MP Anas Sarwar.

The general attitude of Scottish people towards Islamophobia

These issues are worrying for the diversity of a Scottish government. How are we meant to have a parliament which is reflective of the society which we live in today if young people who aspire to become MSPs see a job which comes along with such abuse? Far too often we like to presume that the statistics regarding rates of Islamophobia are confined to the south.

However, statistics show that the issue is also prevalent up here with a report entitled 'Rising to the Top' by Demos, Britain's leading cross-party think-tank revealing that over half of secondary school children have suffered Islamophobic abuse, with primary school figures rising even higher.

Meanwhile, a UK-wide disparity audit which found shocking results on how an individual's ethnicity impacted outcomes in justice, education, employment and health and also uncovered that the Scottish civil service is the least diverse in the UK, with only 2% of the workforce identifying as non-white. Notably, the Scottish Government didn't take part in the audit, saying that it was not in the best interests of the Scottish people, which is likely to be a sign of them trying to reinforce the common Scottish discourse of racism and Islamophobia being unable to stretch beyond the realms of England and Wales, to some extent.

Indeed the entire attitude towards racism and Islamophobia within Police Scotland is rather blasé with the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights' (CRER) research discovering that along with a lack of recruitment and retention levels amongst staff from ethnic minorities, Police Scotland once told a person who received a threatening and racist email that it could have been "just a prank" and asked whether it was "worth the hassle" to pursue the complaint.

What needs to be done

There have been countless statements of unity made and dozens of frameworks drawn up to counter Islamophobia in Scotland, including one sent to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by Sarwar as well. However, in addition to actually putting these into action, we urgently need to overcome this hurdle of assuming that Scotland is simply immune to issues such as Islamophobia and racism so we can actually consider the facts and take action to prevent them in the future.