Nearly two-thirds of Muslim women in Scotland have witnessed or experienced a hate incident or crime, according to a new survey – and 74 per cent of those women said they were the victim.
The women said they had been shouted and sworn at or spat on, while others had their hijabs forcefully removed. Scottish Muslim women also reported being told to “go back to where you came from”.
Some 65 per cent said they had not reported the incident, and 91 per cent said there had been no intervention or support from bystanders. The shocking statistics have been revealed by Amina, the Glasgow-based Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, which conducted the survey in an attempt to understand the scale of Islamophobia in Scotland. Programme manager Ghizala Avan said the charity had carried out the survey after discovering Police Scotland’s data did not break down the sex of religious hate crime victims, despite evidence suggesting Muslim women are more likely to be targeted, harassed and attacked. She said: “We know that Muslim women are more visible because many wear the hijab or niqab, and at Amina we hear stories all the time of women being verbally harassed and abused. For us it’s an everyday reality and unfortunately Muslim women live with it as if it’s normal.
“It’s as though we are desensitised to it, because it’s not normal to be shouted at in the street and told to ‘go back to where you came from’. “It makes you feel that you don’t belong, it makes you doubt your sense of identity. There are third generation Muslim women in Scotland, whose parents were born in Scotland, who feel like that. When is this idea of inclusion really going to become a reality?”
One of the women surveyed told them: “A man with a dog was shouting racist abuse and said it wasn’t worth the effort for the dog to bite me.”
Ms Avan added: “People are left feeling extremely vulnerable. I don’t wear the headscarf so my experience doesn’t equate to those who do, but I have been on a plane with a colleague wearing the hijab and the air stewardess made her move her seat. When I asked why, she said it was because my friend couldn’t speak English and was in an seat near the emergency exit, and she was very rude in her manner to me. Of course it was all just an assumption, and my friend told her to reflect on that. But what is worrying is that no-one else intervened or said anything.”
Amina MWRC carries out work in schools to try and break down barriers and educate young people about Islam. Ms Avan said: “We ask them what they think of when they hear the word Muslim and they say “terrorist”, “extremists”, “monkeys”, “oppressors”, “women beaters”. It’s very sad, but those attitudes come from somewhere and we need to try and counter that.”
The findings were presented to the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, and Amina MWRC has called on the Scottish Government to increase resources to tackle the rise in anti-Muslim hate.
The most recent census from 2011 shows that 1.4 per cent of the population is Muslim. Yet the Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2017-18 bulletin shows that 18 per cent of religiously aggravated offending was for conduct which was derogatory towards Islam.
Samina Ansari, chief executive of Amina MWRC, said: “There have been countless stories narrated of Muslim women being physically and or verbally attacked, or discriminated at work based on their religious identity. The impact of these crimes can be profound, and more needs to be done to ensure we have the inclusive and cohesive society we all want.”
Anas Sarwar MSP, chairman of the cross-party group, said: “This research shows that Islamophobia is a real and traumatic experience for Muslim women in Scotland. “More often than not, those responsible are men. We can’t leave the fight against prejudice and hate to the Muslim community or women alone, it’s a fight for all of us.”