Scotland is not immune from racism

Written by Tom Freeman on 20 July 2018 in Comment

The rise of the right means it is time for vigilance and resistance, writes Tom Freeman

Anti-fascist demo in Edinburgh - credit KiGos

“We ran away from war in Syria, I do not want to die here. This country is not safe for me.”

The words of Shabaz Ali, who nearly died after being stabbed six times in a racist attack in Scotland, should be a wakeup call to us all.

This week Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in England warned hate crimes rose in the wake of the 2016 EU referendum and could do so again when the UK quits the EU in March 2019.

For all the claims to be a more open and tolerant country, Scotland cannot dismiss this warning.

The world is tilting to the right, and Scotland is not immune.

Italy is considering creating a registry of Roma people, civil liberties are being curtailed in Turkey, Poland and Hungary and Donald Trump is open in his contempt for traditional democratic institutions.

Much debate has been made about whether Trump’s ultra nationalist tub-thumping and victim blaming can be labelled fascism. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright has a new book on the subject.

But whatever label you want to attach to it, there is no doubt racists have become emboldened by the new world order.

It is thought Russia has had a hand in this rise. The US senate reported there was evidence Russia’s Internet Research Agency had used social media to influence not only the presidential election but also the Brexit vote and other elections in Europe.

Scots marching against Trump or indulging in Brexit exceptionalism might think themselves immune from such manipulation.

But as the Scotsman revealed in November, one alleged Russian propagandist turned out to be a security guard from Glasgow.

When it comes to racism, Scottish bigots are emboldened too, as Shabaz Ali knows only too well.

And his is not an isolated case.

On Wednesday Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar was racially abused during an interview with Sky News. He tweeted that he had “not experienced such blatant in your face racism like that in years”.

This week also saw a video appear on Snapchat which depicted a Rangers fan in the Macedonian capital Skopje racially abusing local children.

And tomorrow, the Scottish Defence League rally in Glasgow’s George Square in defence of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, who has been jailed for contempt of court.

Robison, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being held up as a political prisoner for the far right. UKIP leader Gerard Batten even compared him to Nelson Mandela on Newsnight.

In fact Robison was found guilty of illegally filming defendants in a trial. It has nothing to do with his views.

However he did this to support his attempts to associate criminal grooming gangs with all Muslims, and it is those views that will be aired at the march in Glasgow tomorrow.

The voices of violence won’t be American or Russian, or even English. They will be Scots.

One SDL activist on the event’s Facebook page said: “Scotland is fast becoming a Muslim ghetto while the Scottish government gives them free reign to do as they please.”

It is incumbent on the rest of us not to dismiss this as un-Scottish or a lunatic fringe but to recognise the danger of violent racism and confront it before it becomes normalised. For the sake of people like Shabaz Ali.

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