Let's work together to eradicate religious hatred in Scotland - Foysol Choudhury
I was proud to once again support this campaign and I cannot stress enough how vital it is to raise awareness and educate people on Islamophobia, and every other form of religious hatred and intolerance, which too many people in Scotland still sadly face today.
Throughout my time in Holyrood, I have fought tooth and nail to bring the issue of Islamophobia and other forms of religious hatred to the top of the political agenda, which I am continuing through my new role as Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Challenging Racial and Religious Prejudice.
The theme for this year’s Islamophobia Awareness Month was Muslim Stories, which was encouraging Muslims to share their experiences of Islamophobia to expose the extent of Islamophobia in Scotland and give power to the stories behind the statistics.
The statistics alone are harrowing. Figures show that many people are still subject to Islamophobic abuse, which can include harassment, hate speech, violent attacks, religious profiling and being prejudiced against Muslims.
The Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Challenging Racial & Religious Prejudice, which was previously Convened by my colleague and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar MSP, recently received an update on its 2021 inquiry into Islamophobia in Scotland.
The 2021 inquiry found that 75 per cent of Muslims say that Islamophobia is a regular or everyday issue in Scottish society and 78 per cent of Muslims in Scotland believed that Islamophobia was getting worse. Over 80 per cent of all Muslim respondents to the survey have a friend or family member who has experienced Islamophobia.
The recent update received by the CPG re-launched the Islamophobia Inquiry recommendations, highlighting that Islamophobia is still a prevalent issue in Scotland and that key recommendations such as improving on the reporting and recording of Islamophobia in schools should be urgently progressed.
I lodged several questions in the Scottish Parliament, including to ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to ensure scrutiny of Education Scotland and the Race Equality Action Plan, in light of these recommendations.
I also asked the Scottish Government what action it has taken to improve the reporting and recording of Islamophobia in schools, colleges and universities, as well as probing about initiatives to tackle the gendered nature of Islamophobia.
I hope that improving reporting and recording of Islamophobia in several areas of our society, including within schools, will ensure that these damaging events will be fully investigated and dealt with.
I have also questioned the Scottish Government on the support offered to Police Scotland to help them identify and tackle Islamophobic abuse.
In March 2023, the Scottish Government introduced its Hate Crime Strategy for Scotland. It is my hope that this strategy will bring together the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the public in a joint effort to make our streets a safer place for Muslims and any other groups who are victims of hate crimes.
The fight to stand up against and end Islamophobia, and other religious hatred, is a challenge that requires everyone who believes in a society free from hate and discrimination to stand together in solidarity.