Muslim leader calls for better understanding between Scots and Muslims

December 14th, 2007 - 2:14 pm ICT by admin  

Edinburgh, Dec.14 (ANI): Responding to a survey that said that half of the Scot population sees Muslims as a cultural threat, a member of the Muslim Council of Scotland, has appealed for a better understanding between Scots and Muslims.
In an interview with The Scotsman, Osama Saeed, 27, said Muslims make up 0.8 per cent of Sotland’s total population, and admitted to bad feelings existing between Scots and Muslims since 2001.
The ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the recent legal cases in Scotland, had made many young Muslims angry, Saeed said, but added that it is the responsibility of Muslims to engage in the democratic process and speak out against terrorism, as it is for others to try and better understand Islam.
Ultimately, he says, Muslims are no different from any other group in Scotland and deserve to be treated the same, he said.
“Suddenly Muslims were all over the news and I think in Scotland I was probably the first person other than the traditional community leaders who was able to speak out and it just snowballed. It was clear that a lot of work had to be done in public to clarify misconceptions about Islam,” Saeed said.
On the reaction of Muslims to 9/11, Saeed said that initially there was feeling within the community that they would be ostracised and targetted, but thereafter, it was decided that the community and its leaders should “come out and explain ourselves, campaign for the things that are right, and I think that is what has been borne out by what has happened over the last few years.”
He believed that Scots viewing Muslims as a cultural threat was essentially due to the international situation. (The Iraq and Afghanistan wars] and the terror attacks on London.
“Muslims is couched in this sort of inflammatory rhetoric,” he said.
“The reality is that parents are getting very jumpy about their kids getting involved in any kind of Muslim activity no matter how mundane for fear of them ending up on some watch, and that is dangerous, because when there is anger about foreign policy there needs to be an outlet, and that has effectively been shut down by the atmosphere and the approach to the Muslim community. Young Muslims are feeling angry at what is going on in the world with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What is vital is that these people are channelled into the democratic process, where they can air their views and make change,” he said.
Asked what could be done to encourage young Muslims to take part in the democratic process, and Saeed said: “We have leadership training programmes for young Muslims and self-empowerment sessions teaching them that you can be a young Muslim rooted in your faith and be a good citizen. In fact one demonstrates the other, because to be a good Muslim you have to be a good citizen.”
“People lump Muslims into one basket when things like this happen, whereas the reality is that Muslims in this country are campaigning for freedoms for other Muslims around the world. We have to campaign for democracy, free speech and general advancement of these societies that starts with education, but also includes political reform,” he added.
Asked how does Scotland compare with the rest of the UK in treatment of Muslims, Saeed said: “Scottish Muslims feel more affinity with Scotland than many indigenous people and I think the reason for that is that we have been given a space to do our own thing. In England there is more antagonism and Muslims are more defensive, but in Scotland we just get on with it.” (ANI)

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