CAIRO – As Scotland braces for campaigns on independence from Britain, the country’s Muslim minority is still split on the vote that will decide the fate of their country.
“I may be Muslim and I may have a Muslim background but I identify myself as a Scottish person and a member of the United Kingdom,” Anum Qaisar, student affairs representative for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, told The Herald Scotland on Sunday, February 16.
“And I think this is a very important decision that everyone does need to make an informed choice on.
“For me, it is the basic concept that I think countries should be building bridges and not borders,” added the student who will vote against the independence.
A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on Thursday 18 September 2014.
Reflecting the division among Scotland's Asian and Muslim communities on independence, a recent poll by Awaz FM, a prominent Asian radio station, has found that 64% of listeners would vote “yes”.
Meanwhile, other 32% of voters were against independence from Britain.
For yes voters, independence promised better chances of prosperity for the upcoming generations
“That for me sums up the decision that I make come September, and the rest of Scotland will make,” said Aamer Anwar, a member of the Scots Asians For Yes campaign.
“It will have an impact on my children and my children's children.”
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 the country, which has thirty mosques.
British researchers believe that although most of Muslims back the Labour party, they are still divided on the issue of independence.
“You could be a firm Labour voter but still think that independence is in your interests,” said Dr Timothy Peace, a postdoctoral fellow at Edinburgh University who specializes in research into British Muslims and political participation
“There is no doubt that Muslims in Scotland feel Scottish, but that doesn't necessarily mean they want to vote for an independent Scotland. The feeling I get from speaking to people is people are divided on the issue and there is certainly a lot of votes still up for grabs.”
Anwar, the member of ‘Scots Asians For Yes campaign’, warned politicians of depending on the block vote strategy.
“When you talk about a block vote, they will literally go door-to-door when it comes to election times and expect families to deliver sometimes 400-500 votes at a time,” he said.
“That is the way it is done on the Asian sub-continent and the process was carried back to Scotland.”
Block vote was harder for younger generations, Anwar added.
“I think for the second or the third or sometimes the fourth generation, people have had enough of having a vote taken for granted,” he said.
“Some of the community leaders who were the first here in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and who fought for the community, did a very admirable job.
“But times have moved on and it is no longer the case that they demand a vote and it has to be instantly delivered,” Anwar added.
Unlike Anwar, other Muslims opposed independence from Scotland, referring to political and economic benefits of being a part of the Great Britain.
“One of the aspects that is most important to me in this referendum is ensuring a diverse set of voices is being heard and Scotland is truly represented at the polls,” said Talat Yaqoob, Blogger, community campaigner and a supporter of the Better Together campaign.
Taking the debate of the independence to the campus, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) at the University of Strathclyde will hold an event on the independence.
The event, planned next March 9, will include a pilot vote on independence from Britain.
The FOSIS event will also host a panel of speakers including Scottish Labour deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, and the SNP's external affairs minister, Humza Yousaf.“It will be aimed at young Muslims, but it is going to be opened up to everyone as I do think it is such an important issue.” said Qaisar, the organizer of the event.
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