Education Science

Scottish Labor Party probes into racist comments targeting Muslim MP

Edinburgh (UNA-OIC) - Scottish Labour Party is investigating after Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Anas Sarwar said an elected member told him that "Scotland wouldn't vote for a brown Muslim Paki."

Sarwar said the comment was made by a senior Labour councilor during the party's leadership election, which saw him defeated by Richard Leonard.

The MSP called for a greater focus on "everyday racism and Islamophobia."

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said it has a "zero-tolerance approach to any form of racism and bigotry."

MSP Sarwar is launching a cross-party group on Islamophobia at Holyrood, with the aim of "rooting out" institutionalized racism in Scotland.

He said there was a risk of "Scottish exceptionalism," stressing that he was not speaking out to attack his own party but to throw light on a wider issue.

The Glasgow MSP claimed that racially-charged comments occurred on several occasions during his ultimately unsuccessful bid to become Scottish Labour leader.

He said the leader of a Labour group on a Scottish council had used his race as a reason why he couldn't vote for him in the contest.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Sarwar said: "He said he didn't believe he could vote for me, because in his words 'Scotland wouldn't vote for a brown Muslim Paki.'

"That was obviously extremely hurtful to hear him say that, and when I challenged him he said he was engaging in 'pub banter.'

"I'm not sure which pubs he occupies or who his circle of friends is, but I think he has to reflect on that going forward."

Sarwar said comments had also been made about his wife, Furheen, who featured alongside his children in his campaign launch.

He said: "My wife is someone who was born in Scotland, brought up in Scotland, went to Glasgow University, studied as a dentist and works in our NHS - she is just as Scottish and proud Glaswegian as anyone else.

"She has so much more to her identity than the fact she wears a headscarf. But someone said once they'd seen a picture of my wife, they couldn't vote for me on that basis, because somehow as a Muslim man I must control or exert some force or influence on her.

"The point I'd make about that is, who is any man to tell any woman what they should or shouldn't wear? I'm in no position to tell my wife what she should or shouldn't wear, that's her decision, her choice, and as part of equality we should respect that."

The MSP, who retained his role as Scottish Labour's health spokesman under Leonard's leadership, said there needed to be much more focus on "everyday racism and Islamophobia" in Scottish society.

"We all say that Scotland is a proud, outward-looking, diverse nation, and I fundamentally believe that. But I think what we risk is having a sort of Scottish exceptionalism, which somehow says that hatred and negative views somehow exist elsewhere but not in Scotland.

"I think Scotland is a great country, but just like any other country we have good people, and we have bad people, and I want us to expose all forms of hatred and prejudice and call it out," he said.

He added: "I'm not saying this is a problem within one political party. I'm not attacking my own party.

"What I'm saying is that if you accept that in wider Scottish society we have everyday homophobia, everyday sexism, everyday racism. commonplace anti-Semitism, everyday Islamophobia, then if political parties are reflective of the community, you will have those same problems and those issues within political parties too.

"The Labour party was born out of the drive for equality in all its forms, so we should hold ourselves to an even higher standard. That's why it's right we call out any form of prejudice or abuse within our party, we root it out, but more importantly, we work with other political parties and wider Scottish society and root it out of our society."

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: "What Anas has revealed is entirely unacceptable. Labour has a zero-tolerance approach to any form of racism and bigotry.

"This reported behavior falls well short of what we expect from any member or elected representative of the Labour Party.

"Labour is taking steps to ensure this issue can be thoroughly investigated, and as part of that the general secretary is contacting Anas to identify the individual involved and take appropriate action."

Source: International Islamic News Agency