Scottish Labour to investigate allegations of racism towards Anas Sarwar by councillor

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 January 2018 in News

Anas Sarwar launches new cross-party group on Islamophobia after experiencing "institutional racism" while campaigning to be Labour leader

Anas Sarwar - Holyrood/David Anderson

Scottish Labour is to investigate allegations a councillor told the party's health spokesman, Anas Sarwar, that Scotland wouldn’t vote for “a brown, Muslim Paki".

The Glasgow MSP told the Daily Record he had witnessed “everyday racism and Islamophobia” while running to be the party’s leader last year.

Sarwar said he didn’t blame his race for failing to beat Richard Leonard in the leadership contest, but wanted to highlight “institutional racism” in Scotland.

“A leader of a Labour council group told me very clearly the reason that he couldn’t support me in the leadership election was that, in his words, Scotland wasn’t ready for a ‘brown, Muslim Paki’,” Sarwar told the Record.

“When I challenged him on that, saying it was a racist, Islamophobic comment, he said that wasn’t his opinion, it was his fear about what his constituents believe.

“He later apologised saying, in his words, that he got caught up in ‘pub banter’. To which I said, ‘I don’t know what pubs you are hanging around in but you need to get a different circle of friends.”

There were also separate comments from another party member about the fact Sarwar’s wife wears a headscarf, he added.

Leonard is understood to have written to Sarwar to encourage him to make a formal complaint.

A party spokesperson said: “What Anas has revealed is completely unacceptable. Labour has a zero tolerance approach to any form of racism and bigotry. This reported behaviour 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.”

Sarwar is to launch a new cross-party group on Islamophobia at the Scottish Parliament.

"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,” he told the BBC this morning.

"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."

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