What’s at stake for Muslims in the Scottish elections?

The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Editorial credit: Ulmus Media

Scottish Parliamentary elections will be held on May 6 and MEND has released a manifesto highlighting the crucial issues for Scottish Muslims.

MEND is asking parties and candidates to sign up to policy pledges on key issues for Muslims, including human rights, education, employment and COVID-19.

Pledges include to:

  • Commit to adopting the definition of Islamophobia produced by the APPG for British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”, and apply this definition in conjunction with the guidelines that MEND has produced.
  • Commit to financing mosque security.
  • Commit to implementing Islamically-compliant student loans to encourage more Scottish Muslim students to attend university.
  • Commit to establishing state-funded faith school provisions for Muslims.
  • Commit to supporting employers to recognise and accommodate religious festivals, including the provision of halal meat, prayer rooms, and flexible work hours during Ramadan.
  • Commit to investigating structural Islamophobia within the Criminal Justice System.
  • Commit to increasing diversity at all levels of seniority within Police Scotland.

Jawad Khursheed, Chair of MEND Scotland, said: “MEND’s manifesto is the first of its kind in Scotland as it lays out the issues that directly impact Scottish Muslims and provides concrete ways for political candidates to truly represent communities. We are grateful for the support of every major party leader and will continue to ensure that Scottish Muslims are engaged throughout this election process.”

Nicola Sturgeon. Terry Murden / Shutterstock.com

The leaders of the five main political parties have all issued messages of support to Muslim communities on the publication of the manifesto.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Scottish National Party, said: “Scotland’s diversity is one of its strengths. However, the rise in Islamophobia and hate crime in recent years is deeply concerning. I was proud to lead an SNP Government that brought forward the Hate Crime Bill to ensure that offences motivated by prejudice are treated seriously. We will ensure your voice is heard as we develop our next race equality action plan, and invest in programmes to increase leadership from our ethnic minority communities as well as develop an ethnicity pay gap strategy.”

Anas Sarwar MSP, Scottish Labour Party, said: “In my time as an MSP, I have been committed to tackling Islamophobia, setting up a Cross Party Group and producing a world first report on responsible media reporting of Islam and Muslim people. Now as Scottish Labour leader, my resolve to take on this prejudice and discrimination has only strengthened. My party will always fight for equality in all its forms. My focus is a national recovery from the pandemic to deliver a stronger and fairer Scotland than the one before. That means striving for a more tolerant and inclusive society, one that celebrates the positive contributions Scottish Muslims make.”

Douglas Ross MP, Scottish Conservative Party, said: “No one should be marginalised or discriminated against because of their religion. We have seen the sad and shocking statistic that a third of Scottish Muslims say Islamophobia is an everyday issue for them. And with almost 80 per cent of Muslims saying Islamophobia is getting worse in Scotland, we need to see action to tackle prejudice at its root.”

Willie Rennie MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “My Scottish Liberal Democrats will always stand for equality, and for everyone’s right to pursue their hopes and dreams. This upcoming election hopefully will make our Parliament a true representation of Scotland’s vibrant and multicultural nature. All our candidates are committed to making Scotland a safe nation for everyone, and we strongly condemn any act of violence or discrimination based on religion, gender, and nationality. Islamophobia causes harm and fear every day. The next Parliament must do everything it can to eradicate it.”

And Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Greens, said: “The Scottish Greens are committed to building an equal and inclusive Scotland, and we believe that our communities’ diversity is something to be proud of. Islamophobia is a blight on too many lives, and it must have no place in Scotland. Every political party has a responsibility to tackle it, and we look forward to continuing to work with Scotland’s Muslim communities toward that shared goal.”

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