A Message of Solidarity to Humza


By Stewart McDonald

The appalling comments by UKIP’s David Coburn, aimed at my good friend Humza Yousaf, have yet again highlighted the racist underbelly of UKIP.  The comments, in which Mr Coburn refers to Humza as convicted terrorist Abu Hamza, have shocked many but surprised few. I confess to being one of them.

UKIP is a nasty party. This is not new information. However that cannot be an excuse to simply shrug our shoulders and ignore the remarks, and what they represent. Instead we must challenge them as vociferously as we can.

It is particularly unfortunate that Coburn’s remarks should become known at the start of Islam Awareness Week, an event whose main aim is to promote social cohesion rather than dwelling on differences – and it is in that spirit that I have written this article.

Humza has written a fantastic piece in the Daily Record about how this kind of abuse makes him feel. He has also shared some of the abuse that he puts up with on social media on a daily basis. It was this article that got me thinking about how prejudice, no matter who it is about, is almost always the same. It is intended to generate hatred, fear and division.

Over the years, and particularly since 9/11, millions of newspaper column inches and on-screen news time has been dedicated to telling outright lies about Islam and about Muslims. The Muslim faith has been subjected to some of the most vicious and dangerous lies that anyone can imagine, in the hope of generating a general feeling that the Muslim living next door to you; working alongside you or sitting across from you is a bit dodgy and you should be suspicious of them. They’re guilty until proven otherwise. What it is they’re guilty of can be anything. Not being British enough; not sharing our values; not doing enough to combat extremism in their own community – the list goes on. We have boxed ordinary Muslims into the dock and turned justice on its head.

This is not dissimilar to the onslaught of hatred that was aimed at gay people in the past. Gay people too were something to be suspicious of; people to watch yourself around and people who were dirty, unclean and contaminated with AIDS. Perhaps the worst word ever thrown at gay people was the word pervert. It didn’t matter how outrageous, wild or, dare I say it, hurtful the lie was, it had to be told in order to divide the public between ‘them’ and us. The lie then becomes an accepted truth.

Although you don’t have to look solely at history to find this level of hatred aimed at gay people. In countries not too far from our own – supposedly western, liberal countries – gay people are still made to feel like second class citizens. If you travel further afield, gay people are being imprisoned or killed just because of whom they are – and yes, this includes some Islamic countries too.

However what I, an openly gay man, want to offer is a message of solidarity to the Muslims of Scotland who are continuously subjected to lies, hatred, racism and Islamophobia. I don’t believe what these people have to say, or have said, about the gay community, and I don’t believe what they have to say about you and your community either. I, and many in the LGBT community, stand with you in the face of this onslaught, and have a responsibility to tackle it head on alongside you.

When trying to be a part of society, and wanting to make a positive contribution the common good, it can be hard to keep going when constantly having to battle prejudice and ignorance. The gay community knows this only too well. However the simple truth is this: Muslims have already made this country a better place. Your contribution as individuals, and as a faith collectively, demonstrates beyond question that you are helping take Scotland forward in so many ways, from public life; the arts; in business and in local communities, and we are all the better for it.

This may seem to some like an unlikely alliance to some, but in so many Muslims that I have met and count as friends – in particular people like Humza Yousaf and Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh – I have found a genuine desire to rid our society of those who would seek to divide us. In fact when I proposed a motion for national conference to my local SNP branch on removing the gay blood ban, it was our vice-chair, himself a Muslim, who seconded that motion to go to conference, which was then successfully passed by acclaim.

Just as the excellent film Pride told the story of lesbian women and gay men from London uniting to support striking miners in Wales, let us now write a new story of LGBT people uniting with Muslims to want to promote tolerance over intolerance. That will mean some challenging of attitudes within our own communities, for sure, but that is not something that we should shy away from or allow others to use as a tool to divide us. What’s at stake is far too important.

Comments (31)

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  1. Padaruski says:

    Well written piece. Humza is one of the most decent, mannerly and polite politicians Scotland has ever had the luck to call a son of this country. He is simply adorable and a charmer and brings with all that an intellect, compassion and commonsense whatever he is doing wherever in the world of behalf of Scotland; whatever our colour or creed. I am proud to know him and outraged at the Islamaphobic poison churned out by the establishment media and the UKIP thugs in particular.

    American-driven and UK media-driven Islamaphobia is all the rage and unlikely to abate soon. The crazy British establishment desire to fly over Syria and bomb it off the map and kill people there was all over every newspaper in the UK and whipped up a desire among many to go and fight against Assaad. When the state plans violence it is legal. When the state engenders a desire for violence amongst others and then condemns them for doing so, the state and its media is guilty of disgraceful hypocrisy. What level of American imperialism will the right wing British gov morons not support? Britain has helped blast the Middle east for too long and all Europe is suffering the human spill over from the hell on earth policies of the West’s interference policies. They are also sleep walking us into a major war with Russia and where are the voices of dissent? All news in the UK is propaganda and most of it is narrative lies to manipulate an unsuspecting public.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      Am I correct in believing Mr Yousaf’s wife is a white Englishwoman? Doesn’t sound like the kind of woman Abu Hamza would marry, so not only is Coburn’s remark bigoted, but it’s extremely childish and not even close to being accurate.

  2. James Dolen says:

    “gay people are being imprisoned or killed just because of whom they are – and yes, this includes some Islamic countries too.”

    Other than Islamic countries, which other states have been executing gay people ? I agree with much of your article just as with every other faith group there are saints and sinners amongst the spectrum of people following the faith. However there are huge problems within the Muslim culture of misogyny, homophobia, and intolerance of anyone else’s belief. This is not a tiny minority of extremists there are significant numbers and their behaviour and activities typically go on with little or no condemnation from within the Muslim religion. Unless some terrible event has happened and the Muslims are worried about consequences coming their way.

    There are always apologists for every despicable act that is done by Muslims, and the truth is the media bend over backwards not to offend them, can you imagine the reaction if the recent anti-Scottish articles in the English media had been aimed at Muslims. There would be bearded men jumping up and down in streets all over the Middle East burning flags and demanding death to the infidel. There are no shortage of law abiding hard working Muslims sadly this does not excuse the very significant cancer of extremism within the religion.

    1. There is no ‘Muslim culture of misogyny, homophobia, and intolerance of anyone else beliefs’ that implies that all the Muslims in Britain and europe in general feel that way and it is something embedded into the teachings of Islam and a Muslim thing-because you will find the same thing in pockets of extreme groups wherever you travel all over the world, Muslim or not, and contradicts your first statement that there are saints and sinners in every group. Can you tell me which atrocity has been carried out by extremist muslims in the name of islam and there has been no condemnation by Muslims in general?

      That doesn’t mean it isnt true that many Muslim ‘imams’ and leaders bear responsibility for the radicalisation of angry, frustrated and ignorant Muslim youth, because they most certainly do-as do Muslim organisation like CAGE, and the MCB, and of course it is up to Muslims to solve this by ourselves and stand up to those who pervert and hijack our faith for their own ideological aims-and yes, we must do more, although if you researched even a bit you would realise a lot of effort is being made. At the end of the day Muslims, this apparently homogenous group, are people like you and me who want to go to work, go to school, watch tv, eat some sandwiches, contribute to society have a normal life without being blamed for every fart in the middle east.

      “The media bend over backwards not to offend them’-really? Do you know how to use Google and Google News? Where were you in January, and where were you last year during Op Protective Edge and the emergence of ISIS? Not reading much i presume. What media do you consume, Liberal-Utopia? There are hundreds of anti-muslim articles, essays and books, and headlines every day aimed at Muslims, which are far more offensive than the anti-Scottish articles (the latter which, by the way, I found detestable despite not being Scottish born), there are pundits and authors who make a living out of Islamophobia, from Sam Harris to Pamela Geller, and they are still small concern for those in the middle east many of whom who are living in countries ripped apart by sectarianism and war as everyone fights over power vacuums and lack of education due to those two preceding factors. Also, in relation to this article, the Middle East is irrelevant because that equates orientalising British and European Muslims as some ‘other’ that originate from the Middle East. I certainly have nothing in common with the Middle East, I have never been there, I couldn’t live there, cannot understand all the thousands of different cultures and practises of the Middle East and Asia.

      An attitude that is not surprising since Jews suffered the same at the hands of Europeans for years, and that anti-semitism, which began as Judeophobia by the by, and Judaism was seen as some barbaric, backwards religion that could not integrate with the new secular values of Western Enlightenment when they first arrived here centuries ago. You are not to be blamed, it is the natural course of integration. It takes time, and ignorance for many is bliss.

      Here is something constructive to peace, by a large Muslim community, going on for a decade, and is the tip of the iceberg in the efforts against extremism. http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/islam/european-mosque-hosts-symposium-on-religion-freedom-peace

      1. Chris says:

        An interesting opening paragraph, Haniya. Do you have any evidence to support your claim that there is ‘no Muslim culture of misogyny, homophobia, and intolerance of anyone else’s beliefs’?

        In a 2009 Gallup survey, for which 500 British-Muslims were interviewed, 0% thought that homosexual acts were ‘morally acceptable’.


    2. Mickael K says:

      In reply to your question, Uganda would be the most obvious one. And while it isn’t on the statute books, I doubt much would be done about it in parts of secular states like Russia either. This post comes across as cheap point-scoring, not least when you throw in belittling stereotypes like “bearded men jumping up and down”, as though there aren’t plenty of people out there who are “law abiding hard working Muslims” at the same time as being (sometimes ludicrously) conservative in their religious or political views.

    3. rosestrang says:

      @James Dolen

      I don’t agree with generalisations about Muslims. Stating that fact doesn’t make me an apologist for aspects of some parts of Muslim culture I disagree with. I feel it’s right though to question or condemn those aspects you disagree with in themselves and to seek change where institutions support hostile attitudes (similarly to the way racism within the UK police force was addressed)

      Also, Muslim culture develops, progresses and changes (also regresses) as does Christian culture (right-wing fundamentalist Christians in America for example – guilty of extreme prejudice against homosexuality among many things).

      I’ve read yards of insulting comments re’ Muslims in various publications. Usually after articles about ISIS which are followed by comments denigrating Muslim culture – a stunningly ignorant position to take considering that to ISIS 99% of the world’s Muslims are infidels who don’t practice Islam in the way ISIS think they should.

      Many people in Scotland have a problem with alcohol, and in my experience, sexism to a degree, that is no reason to generalise and dismiss an entire group which contains many different beliefs and attitudes within it, you can’t simply say ‘Scotland is a nation of alcies’ for example, because that wouldn’t be true.

      For the record I’m not and never have been religious, yes religious dogma frustrates me, but I still think we have to be careful with generalisations, instead, question those who have most power and dictate attitudes, question institutions.

      I’m disgusted by insults directed at Humza Yousaf, and though I’m sure he’s more than resilient enough to deal with this ignorance it’s up to everyone with a fair mind to condemn prejudice.

      As you mention, we’re seeing enough of it directed at Scottish people as it is just now, let’s not sink to that level!

      1. James Dolen says:

        Insulting comments posted by individuals is a very different thing from hate campaigns in the mainstream media. America’s religious right are as far as I am concerned not that far removed from Muslims. They want to control Women, hate homosexuals, and interfere with education , think they are the chosen ones etc.

    4. Anton says:

      You ask which countries, other than Islamic States, have been executing gay people. “Executing” is an dramatic word, but in terms of declaring homosexuality illegal the following non-Islamic states spring to mind as egregious examples. There’s Russia, Jamaica, and Ethiopia. Not to mention Botswana and Barbados. And the US states of Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, etc, etc.

      Need I go on?

      1. James Dolen says:

        Executing gays as it pertains to Islamic countries involves hanging people , throwing people off buildings , beheading , shooting, stoning to death typically in front of baying crowds as part of a state mandated event following religious doctrines . If you seriously think that comparing that to places like Florida {where by the way it is legal as are same–sex marriages} make sense you really have to think about it a bit harder.

  3. E Jenkins says:

    Sadly, central to Islam is Sharia law which is extremely discriminatory towards women and advocates the death penalty for homosexuals. There is no avoiding this fact.

    1. Anton says:

      Sharia law no more and no less advocates the death penalty for homosexuals than the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible – “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13, NIV).

      So it seems that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are unanimous on this point. As you say, there is no avoiding this fact. So I’m not sure why you should choose to single out Sharia law in particular.

      1. James Dolen says:

        The fundamental difference Anton is that the ridiculous statements made in the various religious rule books are actually carried out in Islamic countries. Other religions evolve as the century’s pass not Islam it is a barbaric throwback to the middle-ages.

      2. E Jenkins says:

        The difference is that Sharia is in operation in several countries and has the support of a large proportion of Muslims in the UK. Sharia courts in operation in the UK are very discriminatory against women in terms of inheritance, divorce and child custody. A women’s testimony is worth only half that of a man. The issue of human rights must be addressed from the left and not left to right wingers. We must not tolerate intolerance against women and gays in the name of religious tolerance.
        I mentioned Sharia as that is relevant to the subject under discussion. I condemn any religious beliefs that discriminate against women and gay people and Sharia most certainly does.

  4. Monty says:

    Mr Coburn has been against some strong competition probably the worse elected representative that Scotland has had in living memory. The one good thing is surely he cannot be elected again. Even UKIP seem a bit embarrassed by him. I don’t think anyone is really listening to him and far from fuelling the fire of prejudice he is giving xenophobia a bad name.

    1. James Dolen says:

      I agree wholeheartedly UKIP are simply the NF or BNP in tweed suits. The sad thing is that they are looking at upwards of 15% in the national polls.

  5. Great piece,Stuart, so pleased you are my PPC! You have written a passionate, unequivocal statement here, and I look forward to helping to send you down south!

    Humza, by anyone’s standards, is an outstanding role model for any young person wishing to engage in politics, and even more so by standing up and calling out this racist, nasty man. Sadly, following anti racist sites, as I do, this latest piece of bigotry by Coburn, is par for the course for UKIP.

    I would appeal to everyone and anyone, do some research on this party, and spread the word, this party is not wanted in Scotland.

  6. Akerbeltz says:

    Care should be taken not to conflate cultural traditions with a religious system. Let’s take Leviticus as an example. If taken literally, most of our clothing is not acceptable, never mind his stance on homosexuality. Yet (probably most) Christians tend to ignore Leviticus because in most Western cultural traditions, what Leviticus says is seen as extremist nonsense which has no direct bearing on the central tenets of Christendom. I have never come across someone accused of being a bad Christian for wearing clothing of two or more different fibres.
    The Koran similarly is a collection of tenets which in itself is no more and no less (in)sane or (non)violent than the Bible. So if believing Muslims are to be pigeonholed as violent due to the tenets of the Koran, then then same must be true of believing Christians.
    The thing that tempers or inflames our behaviour viz religion are our cultural traditions. And this is where it can get pretty crazy. The same religious framework under different cultural traditions can lead to very different outcomes. It leads one Christian community to welcome gay couples (e.g. Quakers) whereas it leads another to demand their death (cf various Christian groups in Uganda). The same thing may happen in different Muslim/Buddhist/Sikh/Hindu/… communities.
    Using another example, FGM (Female Genital Mutation) is not a tenet of Islam. Islam merely calls for modest behaviour. But there are areas where the cultural traditions invoke FGM as a (despicable) means of ensuring modesty. It happens to coincide with quite a number of Muslim-dominant countries but that still does not make it a Muslim tradition or a Koranic tenet. Because otherwise by analogy, Western obsession with thin women makes anorexia a Christian tradition. Any takers?
    By all means let us work to temper extreme cultural traditions to something more humane. But that will not be helped by lumping together two things which may coincide but are not necessarily in a cause and effect relationship.

  7. Alan Edgey says:

    “This is not dissimilar to the onslaught of hatred that was aimed at gay people in the past.” People choose to be Muslims. People do not choose their sexuality. Still doesn’t justify lumping all Muslims in with the more enthusiastic followers of that particular ideology.

  8. What’s all this about homophobia, misogony and intolerance of others religions being part of “Islamic culture”? These horrors are, sadly, part of all cultures at the moment and should be challenged wherever they arise – be that in Glasgow (never known of course for homophobia, misogony and intolerance to other religions!!) or Baghdad. A bigot is a bigot, no matter their “cultural” identity.

  9. Humza Yusaf is not a Scot and having someone who is not a Scot as a Scottish Government minister may on the one hand be seen as a tactic to appeal to non-Scots living in our country in order to get them to support our cause. But this is a naive tactic and I put it to everyone that this politically correct appointment undermines and does a dis-service to our cause. It suggests that we Scots are not confident about fighting and winning our case based on our own merits.

    Humza Yusaf a politician and that makes him a target for valid or invalid criticisms, personal or impersonal attacks. So, if he finds himself in the firing line then he’ll just have to take the flack like anyone else.

    Finally, it’s intersting to note that some vociferous people are offended by one Ukip member’s comments against Humza Yusaf whilst the English media are promoting anti-Scots views in the run up to the U.K election. Kind of tells me that some poeple have got their priorities all wrong don’t you think?

    1. In what way is Humza “not a Scot”? He was born and bred here. I think you’ll find that people are offended by the anti-Scottish views in the bigoted press. That’s not what this article is about and your attempt to conflate them is pathetic, rather like your comment.

  10. These unionist ukipers thugs in ties if you ask me are sing from the same song sheet of the 60 70s bnp bullying and demonising Muslims the way the blacks and Irish were treated .as a proud scots Irish man but Scottish to the core in all things in live but a love and am proud to be green every1 with a bit of ethnicitie feels the same it’s great in morden Scotland were the majority now via education when a was in the square the unionist turned up as a was walking down to get a good laugh at the Hun orcs a man was standing a proud yeser he was shouting the best way to defeat facism is to ignore it yes maybe that night that was true but when it’s high profile there has to action taken ! A message and belated happy st Patrick’s day to all who read this remember most scots stand shoulder to shoulder with other religions and countries who live on there great shores so United were are bigger than the racists also remember education is the key don’t be afraid and be proud of who you are and were you came from and what you and yours will achieve here in the great country of Scotland a land conquering fear with hope !

    See link below for ways and ideas of joining in and helping and keep upto date with stats and stuff via link below


  11. Gordie says:

    It has always annoyed me when the press talk about folk from Scotland being Asian. A persons identity is their own affair but the default for a journalist for Scottish people should surely be Scottish? If the person wants to correct the journalist thereafter (Aberfeldy man, Gaidheal, Italian Scot, Global citizen, Scottish muslim, Brit, etc etc etc) then that person can do that. Alec Salmond was demonised now you are seeing Humza and Nicola Sturgeon getting chauvinistic snash. Their support of Scottish nationhood is the common denominator. That’s the key really British nationalist’s fear what Humza is working to achieve so they let their guard down and their prejudices slip out. It’s the fact that Humza supports Scottish Independence that is the catalyst for the abuse he has to take as a muslim. Perhaps Peter Arnott has the answer? Despite the decent, humane and internationalist future we seek for our country as a nation maybe we should drop our desire for independence and all this would just stop? Nationalism is a dirty word after all isn’t it?

  12. Kenny says:

    Humza Yousaf is one of our best politicians and Scotland would be a much poorer place if we did not have him — or thousands and thousands of others this revolting person refers to as “Paks”. Humza does more for Scotland than most who have lived here for generations, which is why we are proud that he is a Scot.

    I would take issue with one thing here IN GENERAL, which is quoted by the author:

    “It is particularly unfortunate that Coburn’s remarks should become known at the start of Islam Awareness Week, an event whose main aim is to promote social cohesion rather than dwelling on differences”

    I am uncomfortable with the idea of “Islam Awareness Week”, as I am with the way the author constantly refers to people, presumable from the Middle East, as “Muslims.” I have many friends from the region. They all HATE religion, especially if they come from countries like Iran, where religion is forced upon them (and, indeed, came with a foreign invasion). How would we Scots like to move to the Middle East and be constantly referred to in the press as “Christians”?

    Why not have Indian Awareness Week? Maghreb Awareness Week? Palestinian Awareness Week? I notice that the Guardian bangs on about “Islam” and “Muslims”. And the Guardian is such an establishment stooge. I honestly think that the use of the word “Islam” is secretly intended by the establishment to do the opposite and to drive a stake between “them” and “us”, because they need to get people to think subconsciously in terms of camps, tribes…

    Similarly, as the world economic system collapses, as it did in the 1930s, it is useful to talk all the time about the “Jews”. Hatred is being actively fermented, as such talk is useful for evil people in creating a tenuous link between an “Anne Frank” and a “Rothschild banker”.

    As I repeat, people from the Middle East are usually NOT “Muslims”. I can tell you that the Paris cartoons have nothing on what my Iranian friends have to say in private! In fact, I would say that only 20% of people in the Middle East practise their religion and believe. So why call them “Muslims”? If they are “Muslims”, then surely we should call ourselves on this blog not Scots, English, Irish, but “Christians”! And how normal would that sound, pray?

    At the end of the day, we are all “people” and we should always be working to erase artificially induced differences, not continue them.

    1. anons says:

      This is very similar to the deliberate “accidental” use of the name ossama for obama during references broadcast by american news outlets in another election campaign.

  13. Lee Peter says:

    Well written article and hopefully thought provoking for those who believe the lies and the hatred. I too, a gay man, with muslim partner, have had more abuse from so called white Christians, than I have from the muslim community. The intolerance has to stop, and the true education has to start.

  14. hindmost says:

    Some of the commentators on this article appear to be either very young or have short memories. In my lifetime people have been imprisoned for being gay in this country. A public display of affection would have been a criminal act. Yes things have improved, but only relatively recently regarding the rights of LGBT individuals in this country.

    Same sex intercourse is legal in a large number of muslim majority nations. Abkhazia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Northern Cyprus, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), and most of Indonesia. Albania and Turkey are discussing same sex marriage.

    In Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, it carries the death penalty. So things aren’t exactly perfect but it’s nowhere near as uniform as some of the commentators appear to think.

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