Muslim integration 'easier in Scotland than down south'

David Maddox

MUSLIMS in Scotland find it is easier to integrate into society than in England, a new report has claimed.

A poll taken for the British Council Scotland also suggests that more than six out of ten Scots believe Muslims are integrated well into everyday Scottish life while only 21 per cent thought they had not.

But the same report also suggests that positive public perceptions of Islam in Scotland still lags behind other religions with one of the biggest barriers being Scotland's drinking culture.

Only 42 per cent thought that Islam was compatible with Scottish values compared to 80 per cent who believed Christianity was compatible.

Islam was also bottom of a league table of seven different religious positions, including Judaism, atheism, Buddhism, Hindu and Sikhs in how they fitted into life in Scotland.

The Ipsos Mori poll of 1,006 people in Scotland also showed that 66 per cent of people asked thought that the Glasgow Airport bomb had made people less tolerant of Muslims in Scotland.

Only 24 per cent disagreed that the attack had made people less tolerant of Islam.

However, 46 per cent of those questioned think that Muslims living in Scotland were loyal to the country while 33 per cent thought they were not.

The report also claimed that both Muslims and non-Muslims in Scotland thought the media were predominantly negative towards Muslims and were the main source of misconceptions about Islam.

"It was felt that the media focused too much on Islamic fundamentalism and extremism - to the extent that Muslims had become synonymous with terrorism - and fuelled misconceptions about the treatment of women and Sharia law," the report noted.

The perception of more negative views in England from both Muslims and non-Muslims, including participants who had previously lived in England, was put down to three main factors: smaller numbers of Muslims, less fear of terrorist attacks, and the particular features of Scottishness.

"Scottish people were seen as typically very friendly, sociable, humorous, honest, open and straightforward," the report said.

British Council Scotland director Paul Docherty argued that he believed the report underpinned Scotland's reputation for tolerance.

He said: "It has often been claimed that Scotland is a more tolerant nation than many of its European counterparts and we thought that this was an important question to examine.

"We are pleased the results suggest that integration in Scotland is easier than other European countries."

The first Muslim MP returned to Westminster was the former Glasgow Central Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar who stepped down at the last election.

The UK's most recent Muslim MP, Anas Sarwar, who in May was elected to represent Glasgow Central, said that the report reflected his experience as a Scottish Muslim.

"I think Scotland has shown other countries how we can engage well with Muslim communities," he said. "Muslims in Scotland are proud to be Scots as well as proud to be Muslims.

"I think other European countries and as well as England and Wales could benefit from looking at the Scottish experience."

August 11, 2010, Scotsman

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