Q&A with Imam Sohaib Saeed on Scottish independence

Imam Sohaib Saeed

Imam Sohaib Saeed is an associate imam at Furqan Mosque in Glasgow and a Muslim chaplain at Edinburgh University. He says that many Scottish Muslims are attracted to independence because of the prospect of a fairer, more democratic Scotland as well as a clean break from Westminster’s foreign policy.

Q: What is the feeling of Muslims here about Scottish independence?

A: I think that the issue of independence is as important to Muslims as it is to everybody else and there’s been lots of engagement by the community in the debate that’s taken place. Muslims have been involved in both the Yes and No campaigns.

Q: Why is the prospect of independence so attractive to many Scottish Muslims?

A: For those attracted to independence there are many issues related to domestic and foreign policy.

At home there’s the prospect of a fairer society and a more democratic society suited to Scotland’s needs. And in terms of foreign policy there’s the attractive prospect of breaking away from Westminster’s wars.

But there won’t be a magic wand even under independence and we’ll face the challenge of directing our own government to adopt better policies.

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Q: If things go wrong under independence will people look for a scapegoat and perhaps blame minorities?

A: I think if things go wrong under independence people will blame Alex Salmond and the SNP, not religious minorities.

Bigotry isn’t an inherent feature in Scottish society. It does exist of course but the overwhelming trend is for inclusion and for fairness for everybody. So for better or for worse we’ll go through this together.

Q: What are the hopes of the Scottish Muslim community?

A: Like everyone else they hope to continue to increase their own effectiveness and involvement in civil life. We also want to see an even more inclusive society where there’s a decrease in xenophobia and Islamophobia.

That said, we think that Scottish people are generally more positive about these things than British society as a whole.

Q: Do you think Scots are generally more progressive than the rest of the UK?

A: Politics in Scotland is definitely more on side of fairness and equality than politics in other places although, as I said before, all trends do exist here.

Scottish Muslims are better integrated than their English counterparts
Scottish Muslims are better integrated than their English counterparts

I have seen studies that say that young Pakistani Muslims here are more willing to identify themselves as “Scottish” than their counterparts in England would consider themselves “English.”

The term “English” or “British” has become an exclusive thing whereas “Scottish” is a more inclusive label.

Q: What are the concerns and fears of Scottish Muslims?

A: They’re the same as everyone else. How will independence affect business is a big question because Muslims are prominent in the field of commerce. How will the currency be affected?

There is no Muslim block vote so everyone will look at what they’re hearing and decide what’s best for the next generations.

Q: Some who are against independence say it will affect working class unity. Will it affect Muslim unity?

A: A lot of the Muslim organisations have a UK-wide scope so I guess that will be affected but I don’t see too much of an issue because in this modern age of communication Western Muslims are increasingly contacting each other and uniting.

Q: Will there be a better quality of life in an independent Scotland?

A: There’s lots of debate between both sides about this. For me regardless of the economics community spirit would be positively affected as Scots would have to work together to make Scotland successful.

Q: Will some Scottish Muslims vote Yes just to make Westminster weaker?

A: Some people may be planning to do this. I think they are considering a more global perspective and may be thinking of their own countries which have been affected by Britain’s wars and colonialism.

But I think this is possibly a dubious basis on which to vote because regardless of where you live you should try to make your country stronger not weaker. That said, if the wings of the UK were to be clipped I think many would hope they would question their role in the world and not just follow the whims of the US or the neo-conservatives.

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