[This piece was first published on Thursday 19th of November 2015 in Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra]
As we welcomed refugees to Scotland this week who have been forced to flee violent atrocities in the name of ISIS, the values and freedoms which underpin a just and welcoming Scotland were exposed as under threat by mindless acts of hate, acts that we must stand united against and challenge.
People across the country spoke out against the attacks in Paris last Friday, and at the same time sent welcoming messages to Syrians brought to safety here in Scotland.
Yet we were confronted with some ugly truths about anti-Islamic prejudice lurking in our communities. Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf experienced a tirade of online abuse, amidst Police Scotland reporting a rise in the number of religiously motivated hate crimes happening on our doorstep.
This is exactly the kind of backlash that ISIS seeks – one that aims to divide our communities and drive more disaffected young people, into the arms of the terrorists.
I am tremendously proud to live in a country where politicians of all parties publicly condemned this Islamophobia and hate crime.
Alongside showing our solidarity in standing together against those that seek to threaten our values of freedom, democracy and equality – often through supporting Facebook photograph filters and online messages – we must work to bring our actions to life where they matter most – in our communities, everyday lives and interactions.
Where we see and hear any form of hate crime in our communities, we must speak up, speak out, and report it. Silence fuels division in our communities.
Hate-fueled slurs and acts of hate on and off line that go unchallenged and unreported send an unspoken message that they are an accepted part of Scottish society.
There-in lies the danger that that is what they become. We all have duty to ensure this doesn’t happen. This is a time for people of all religions, and no-religion, of all ethnicities, genders, nationalities, and walks of life to stand together and act with compassion, respect, and love.
Anything less than that, and we are allowing the real threats to our society to win — creating division and hate. Our communities have history of coming together during times of conflict, hardship and struggle — we must come together in this vein at this time and take a zero tolerance approach to any prejudice spouted in our communities.
[Additional note added since printing: this approach includes speaking out against divisive tabloid and media headlines, like the one published in The Sun newspaper on 24th of November. Where such hate filled media exists, speak out, and boycott it.]