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OFFICIALS in Scotland have been told to “redouble” their efforts to tackle hatred, as it was revealed that Islamophobia is an everyday issue for a significant number of Muslims across the country.
Results published today of a public inquiry into Islamophobia in Scotland showed that more than a third of Muslims experience racism on a daily basis, while four out of five have faced racism in their lifetime.
The report, the first of its kind in Scotland, found that around 80 per cent of people contacted felt Islamophobia was a “growing issue,” with verbal abuse at work and online the most common forms of hatred.
According to the findings, three-quarters of people said that they had been verbally abused, while more than 90 per cent feared Islamophobia.
Anas Sarwar, Labour MSP and chair of the cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, said that the results made for “sobering reading.”
He said: “We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and tolerant country, but this demonstrates how much more work we have to do.
“There are people in Scotland who feel scared to leave their homes for fear of verbal or physical attack. This should shame us all.
“We have already established that Scotland is not immune [to] Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred and now we know just how widespread it is.
“These findings will be used in the next stage of the inquiry, in which we must redouble efforts to challenge and overcome hatred and prejudice.
“This requires politicians to come together on a cross-party basis, because the fight against hate is a fight for all of us.”
Those responding to the inquiry highlighted divisions in Scottish society, which have led many Muslims to withdraw from public life for fear of being accused of terrorism or extremism.
There was dismay that many are prevented from contributing positively to a country they want to be a part of due to Islamophobia, especially in the workplace and in schools, with some claiming that Scotland is becoming a more racist country.
Many participants, especially women, reported that they were unable to feel safe outside of their homes, with one person revealing that somebody had spat milkshake at them.
A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Scotland said: “We are shocked but not surprised by the findings of the public inquiry as it quantifies what many Muslims have been saying for many years.
“It is a real wake up call for our political decision-makers and wider society.
“The responsibility falls upon us all to ensure those who face the physical, verbal, insidious or institutional manifestations of Islamophobia are supported and protected.”
The public inquiry into Islamophobia in Scotland was launched in Holyrood last June in conjunction with Newcastle University.
An initial analysis compiled by the university’s Professor Peter Hopkins includes a total of 435 respondents, with 344 describing their faith as Muslim.
The written responses will now be followed by verbal evidence sessions and outreach across the country on key areas as part of the ongoing inquiry.
It will address the findings and seek to identify recommendations for the Scottish government and other bodies.
Mr Hopkins said: “The initial findings emerging from the inquiry demonstrate that Scotland has a serious issue when it comes to everyday racism and Islamophobia.
“Those who suffer Islamophobic abuse are often left feeling fearful, anxious and worried, with nearly 80 per cent feeling that the situation is getting worse.
“There is a lot of work to do — across many different sectors — in order to address the problem of Islamophobia in contemporary Scotland.”
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