CAIRO – Coming together against far-right groups, Scots have marched to condemn rightists’ rhetoric against Muslims and attempts to capitalize on rage against a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) to simmer racial tensions.
"People are here today to show that the streets of Edinburgh belong to all our diverse communities, and that these communities help keep our cities vibrant," Luke Henderson, coordinator for Unite Against Fascism, told Scotland Herald.
Hundreds of Scots marched on Saturday, September 29, in the city in protest against a planned march by the far-right Scottish Defence League (SDL).
The SDL march is planned amid Muslim fury over an American-made movie insulting Prophet Muhammad.
"Things are happening now because the latest form of racism, Islamophobia, is becoming more widespread,” Henderson, a left-wing opponent of the SDL, said.
"Racism continues to change and be re-invented. A hundred years ago it was the Irish who were the focus, it has moved through Jews, black people and now Muslims.
“The outrage that rightly greeted John Terry's racist comments on the football pitch shows racists need to modify and cloak their ideas so they now talk about white culture, Christian identity and multiculturalism,” he said, referring to a British footballer, who was plunged into a racism row.
Nicola Fisher, chairwoman of the Stop the War Coalition and an UAF, said far-right was stoking hatred against Muslims to justify attacking Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It has been deliberate propaganda from successive government and some areas of the press, against Muslims," she said.
Financial problems, including cuts and austerity measures, were also used by the far-right to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments.
"People are encouraged to look at other communities and to look at refugees and asylum seekers and a lot of them might be Muslim,” Fisher said.
“And they think, 'there is not enough money for us, there is not enough housing – why are these people getting it?' instead of looking to the rich to see how their wealth could be redistributed.”
Love The Prophet
Scotland also saw a rally to show love for Prophet Muhammad.
“I believe that religions should be respected,” an imam told the rally at Glasgow city center, with more than 1000 Muslim voices replying together.
During the peaceful rally, people of all ages held placards reading "No To Inequality" and "Without feelings and respect, how can we distinguish between man and beasts?"
“We feel angry because this is shame for others to insult others,” Abdul Almatooq, 50, who attended with his two young sons, said.
“Islam encourages you to live peacefully with others.”
The rally, organized by the Muslim Council of Scotland, was also attended by speakers from all faiths, as well as politicians who backed calls for removing the anti-Prophet film from the internet and for passing laws to prevent insults or vilification of religion.
Attendants included Scottish National Party lawmaker Humza Yousaf, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Councilor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, and speakers from the Muslim, Catholic, Sikh and Church of Scotland faiths.
"It is giving fuel to those who hate Muslims for some reason, to go on and do some silly activities," Dr Salah Beltagui of the Muslim Council of Scotland said.
"We have had many attacks on mosques and things, especially after an event like this and a publication like this."
The protest was also attended by a number of Glasgow non-Muslims who rejected the inflammatory message of the film.
"I am here to support the Muslims – I believe that religions should be respected,” said Bernard Elliot, 61, from Dennistoun, calling himself "a friend of Islam”.
"You can't treat Muslims like this, it is not civilized."
Councilor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, attacked the film, accusing its makers of inciting divisions.
"Glasgow City Council was the first council in the UK to condemn the war in Iraq. Glasgow City Council was the first council to ban the march by the Scottish Defence League,” he said.
“I can announce that Glasgow City Council will be the first council in the UK at our next council meeting to bring forward a motion condemning the creation of the video which was clearly created to incite division."
Scotland is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, making up less than one percent of the population.Muslims are the second largest religious group in Scotland, which has thirty mosques.
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