It is an important time of year across the whole of the UK, but nowhere more than in Scotland. What with COP26, interfaith week and other auspicious occasions going on. But none more than the launch of Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) in Scotland.
There was a worry to start with that the event would not go ahead at all. Scottish Parliament was not hosting in-person events, neither was Edinburgh City Chambers. Glasgow was booked to the max with COP and travel between the cities was concerning again due to COP and the mass influx of people into Scotland. It was therefore decided that a lockdown staple would be revived and take the event back online.
The launch took place on the evening of the 2nd of November. The keynote speaker was Anas Sarwar MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Chair of the CpG on Tackling Islamophobia. Due to the pressures of COP and other commitments, Anas Sarwar had to provide his hard-hitting and profound speech pre-recorded – though this did not lose any of the impact or point. Especially when he highlighted that the issue of Islamophobia “goes beyond politics”.
Attendees then heard lived experience testimony read by MEND Scotland’s regional manager on behalf of Shazia Amjed. The testimony highlighted the need to report Islamophobia. However, there are situations where the police are not best placed as the matter may not be one of a criminal matter and thus victims may have to look for somewhere or someone else to report to. In the case of Shazia, her educational provider who took the matter so seriously that they implemented sanctions against the perpetrator.
This was followed by our panel discussion. The panel included:
Peter Hopkins – author of the CpG report on Islamophobia in Scotland
Isobel Ingraham-Barrow – Head of Policy MEND
Omar Afzal – Community leader and activist
The panel discussed the issue of Islamophobia in Scotland as a whole. Highlighting the work that has been carried out in the area but the vast amount of work that still needs to be done to tackle islamophobia properly in Scotland. This includes the need for politicians and the government to take a stronger position against the issue. The need for the Muslim community to work together to tackle islamophobia as a whole and the importance of allyship.
The panel had time to take some of the myriads of questions from honoured guests, who included community leaders, MSPs, MP’s, councillors and organisations who were engaging in the issue for the first time. With the theme of IAM this year being Time for Change, it is so important that all get involved in the conversation.