The classification of discrimination is important if we are to ever rid our society of the abuse that people with protected characteristics face. In essence, if we do not call out sexism as being sexism how will we stop men from targeting women negatively. If we don’t call out racism as being racism, how do we think we will ever achieve a society that treats people of all backgrounds equally?  

If we are ever to rid our society of Islamophobia, we must call out Islamophobia when it occurs. But what is Islamophobia? 

A dictionary definition explains  Islamophobia as: A form of discrimination against Muslims and their religion, Islam. It is an expression of fear, hatred, or intolerance towards Muslims and their religious beliefs and practices.” 

However, how does one know when someone is being Islamophobic towards an individual because of their religion? How does Islamophobia manifest as discrimination outside of a dictionary definition? How can we incorporate mechanisms to tackle Islamophobia within policy? Is there a difference between a legitimate criticism of Islam and being Islamophobic? 

There are difficulties for many people distinguishing between racism and Islamophobia, which could be seen as a valid issue as many Muslims living in the UK are often from a minority ethnic background.  

To tackle this issue, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia was established to define a working definition of Islamophobia. In 2018, the “Islamophobia Defined: the inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia” was published with the following definition:  

“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” 

This month MEND Scotland (Muslim Engagement and Development) have released their open letter calling for all Scottish local authorities ahead of the May 2022 Council elections to adopt the All- Party Parliamentary Group definition of Islamophobia. CEMVO Scotland has signed up to supporting their campaign alongside 30 other organisations. 

 Last year, the Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia published the ‘Islamophobia in Scotland’ public inquiry report, where substantive research found over 80% of all Scottish Muslim respondents have a friend or family member who has experienced Islamophobia’. After verbal abuse, the second largest form of Islamophobia in Scotland involves acts of aggression such as Scots pulling off Muslim women’s headscarves. These actions have significant ramifications on the mental wellbeing of Muslim women in Scotland where victims have stated paranoia of being assaulted on the streets again. The Muslim Council of Scotland has stated Islamophobia actively prevents Muslims from accessing opportunities. Muslim women are the most susceptible to harm as they are often most visibly Muslim. Within the workplace alone, 43% of Muslim women have reported experiencing abuse at Scottish workplaces. 

Anti-Muslim hatred across the United Kingdom has become both more prevalent and insidious to the point where we witness the likes of Former Transport Minister, Nusrat Ghani, being allegedly demoted because of their faith. However, we should all remain aware that these issues are also impacting society as a whole and will be in some form impacting your Muslim friends on a regular basis. If we seek to create an equal and inclusive Scotland for all there are steps we can take to ensure that all Scots feel welcome in this country by supporting those with different faiths to freely profess themselves as they are in their daily religious practice. 

Junaid Ashraf
Junaid AshrafCommunity Engagement Officer

March 3rd, 2022