Summary of the Findings
The findings in the survey detail the escalation of Islamophobia in Scotland. 75% of respondents reported that Islamophobia is a regular everyday issue for them, with 78% saying Islamophobia is getting worse and 79% fearing experiencing it. For 115 of the respondents, the streets are where they most commonly experience Islamophobia, which is similar to evidence submitted by the AMINA Muslim Women’s Resource Centre. After streets, public spaces such as shops and restaurants (46%), public transport (40%), education (29%) and work (27%) are where Muslim respondents reported experiencing Islamophobia. Physical assault/violence, verbal abuse and social exclusion are all reported as being experienced by respondents.
Glasgow is identified as the area in which Islamophobia is getting worse, specifically on the streets and in schools where 65% of respondents have experience verbal abuse. In a quote from a respondent “more recently, we have to think twice before going out alone or going out after dark or going to certain areas in Glasgow. When people have nothing to lose then they don’t care if they get arrested for violence against someone they perceive as being from the Islamic faith”.
Mosques and Islamic centres are also reported as being attacked more frequently. According to the report the surprising fact was that attacks were increasing and occurring in more rural areas, where the Muslim communities are smaller. For example, the vandalism on the Elgin mosque in May 2019.
The gendered nature of Islamophobia is also observed in the inquiry, with the negative and disproportionate impact it has on women. According to findings “Muslim women are more likely to encounter Islamophobia than men: 56% survey responses say that women are at most risk, and 58% of Glasgow residents think that women are at greater risk of experiencing Islamophobia”. Respondents report experiencing Islamophobia specifically because they wear a hijab. The gendering of reporting incidents of Islamophobia is also considered in the report where “men are more likely to report physical assault and damage to buildings/property, while women report incidents that occur at college”. However, of all those who experience direct Islamophobia only 22% report to the police. According to the report, those who experience Islamophobia in the workplace / places of education say that their complain was not taken seriously, or dismissed.
Focusing on non reported incidents , 58% of the men and 41% of the women, declared that they are not incline to report, especially in the young generation. They provided the following reasons to explain their silence: lack of confidence in the police and justice system, institutional racism in the police, lack of evidence, scale or knowledge, frequency of events and fear of reprisal.
The inquiry also identified three key factors enabling Islamophobia in Scotland: 1) Scottish politics, politicians and elections, far-right politicians and Brexit, 2) military intervention abroad and problematic counter-terrorism policies, alongside terrorist incidents, 3) poverty and austerity. Findings related to factor one show that “Islamophobia tends to intensify before and during election campaigns”, where the problem starts in parliament due to the presence of right-wing politicians whom comments or actions are not questioned. Brexit was also considered a factor here. Not only did “several participants connect Brexit with anti-Muslim British nationalism and xenophobia but it was also associated with “wider language, actions and policies of those politicians who fuel and legitimise Islamophobia“, with specific reference made to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The second element refers to military interventions and counter-terrorism policies which are perceived as stigmatising especially through news coverage of terrorist incidents. The respondents especially in the younger generations, describe how they experience Islamophobia at school or on the journey to/from school. More broadly, 93% of the Muslim respondents consider that the print media promotes Islamophobia, by reinforcing stereotypes of Muslim men and women. 84% of the respondents also argued that social media contribute to the increase in Islamophobia. The final factor focuses on poverty and austerity. Here, respondents report that they “feel that Islamophobia is increasing since Muslims are a convenient scapegoat for broader and economic problems“. This, they argue, is because by focussing on policies such as immigration and terrorism, which puts Muslims under the spotlight, politicians are able to deflect attention away from economic inequalities.
The ways that the respondents respond to Islamophobia are also considered. 53% reported that they alter their behaviours as a result of experiencing or fearing Islamophobia, which includes concealing their Islamic identity, being hyper vigilant in everyday spaces and withdrawing socially. In addition to this, some respondents reported that they changed their behaviour proactively through educating others. For some this has been through communicating that Islam is inclusive, peaceful and open, whereas some respondents have reported it is something necessary to be “defensive, argumentative and, in some cases, aggressive to those who are Islamophobic”.
The final section of the report focusses on the barriers that are created for Muslims by Islamophobia in Scotland. 77% of the respondents felt Islamophobia impacted on educational outcomes from school through to university, 86% think that it affects their employment opportunities (particularly finding or retaining employment), and just over half of respondents mention the negative influence of Islamophobia on their ability to access Scotland’s public services. This figure increased to 69% in Glasgow.
Respondents, particularly women, also reported the impact Islamophobia has on their everyday life. Respondents in the inquiry were quoted as saying “it creates division, it creates a ‘them and us’ that is extremely unpleasant” and “it simply is a barrier to a healthy and safe existence”.
In response to the report, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims released a statement on twitter including their invitation to the Scottish government to consider adopting their definition of Islamophobia. Their definition, which was proposed in 2019, states “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”
Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain responded to the report through multiple media platforms. In an interview with the Sunday Post she stated “for many Muslims, an inquiry findings Islamophobia in Scotland is no surprise but the sheer scale of the problem had the power to shock“. She went on to add that “to build a truly diverse Scotland, one that gives all young people equal opportunities, requires meaningful partnership. I have every hope that this report will not reflect our values as a society in the years ahead and that we can, and will, come together to overcome these problems“.
The Church of Scotland also reacted to the report. Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact forum spoke of the “need to intensify that interfaith commitment” and “support our political leaders and faith leaders to work together to address the realities highlighted and seek ways to implement the recommendations that have been highlighted”.