Islamophobia and ignorance rife in Scottish schools, says new report

27th Nov 2015

Nadine Osman

New research released earlier this month has revealed a large portion Muslims pupils in Scottish schools have experienced Islamophobia and or ignorance.

A study of pupils from different religions and races found Muslims are regularly being branded “Pakis” and “terrorists”, the terms were also directed at other groups including Sikhs and Somalis.

Even young Eastern Europeans had been called “Pakis”.

The research, by academics from the universities of Newcastle, St Andrews and Edinburgh, also found school staff lacked an understanding of the religious background of pupils.

In one case, catering staff at a Catholic secondary in Glasgow asked a boy from a Catholic Indian family why he was eating during the fast of Ramadan despite the fact he regularly attended mass at the school.

Professor of Social Ggeography at Newcastle University, Peter Hopkins, called for better training of school staff and more lessons on Islamophobia and other forms of racism.

He said: “A lot of the young people felt the Asian community was seen to be one community and that they were all seen as Muslims and Pakistani.

“There was a lack of understanding that the ‘Asian community’ is quite diverse and includes Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Catholics as well as people who aren’t religious.”

Hopkins said he had been surprised the racist insult “Paki” was used against all the different groups in the study, including those from Eastern Europe.

He also said it was clear abuse was related to major political events such as the spread of IS in Syria and Iraq, the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013 and the 9/11 attacks.

Some pupils said they had a clear idea of who to report incidents of racism to, such as a guidance teacher, and that their school would deal effectively with the issue.

Hopkins said: “Some of the pupils talked about teachers assuming they were Muslim. It wasn’t nasty. It was a lazy assumption.

“There was a Catholic Indian boy in a Catholic school in Glasgow who was assumed to be Muslim by some staff which perplexed him because he went to mass at the school.

“He was asked to tell the class about what it was like to be a Muslim and had to tell them he was a Catholic. He was also asked about why he wasn’t fasting during Ramadan.”

The Muslim Council of Scotland backed the call for more training for teachers and a raising of awareness amongst pupils.

Mazhar Khan, a Council spokesman, said: “Certain sections of the media and politicians continue to irresponsibly play on terms such as “immigrants” and “Muslims” almost interchangeably and as threatening to our society. The negative impact this rhetoric has at all levels of society includes children and we would expect schools to take this research extremely seriously and do more to challenge and dispel stereotypes and hatred. ”
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