Tolerant image of Scotland in for a reality check
Iain Macwhirter, The Herald
The first plane load of refugees from Syria arrives in Glasgow today. First of many, we are assured. But will they receive a warm Scottish welcome? Not if the BBC Radio Scotland Call Kaye phone-in programme is any guide.
Now, a radio programme is not a representative sample. Nevertheless as a straw poll, Call Kaye is probably better than the BBC’s normal vox pops which are invariably selected to ensure "balance".
But there was precious little of that yesterday morning. The garrulous host was almost lost for words as callers laid into refugees as “Islamic reptiles”.
Jim, from Glasgow, said: “It’s a midden. We don’t have enough housing for our own people, how can we be sure they aren’t terrorist units”.
Syrian refugees in Scotland: all you need to know
Ken in Ayrshire attacked “Islamic fascism” and said the government wouldn’t have allowed young Germans to migrate to Britain during the Second World War so why are we allowing “young angry Muslim men – it’s madness”.
Adams had to appeal to Muslims to phone in to counter this. Eventually Sophia from Inverness insisted the Koran was about peace and “doesn’t justify the murder of innocent women and children”.
To which Tom replied that “rape victims who are stoned to death in Saudi Arabia don’t feel the love. It’s not a religion of peace”. Ken weighed in with alleged quotes from the Koran: “I will instil terror into the hearts of unbelievers and smite them above their necks”.
To repeat, Call Kaye is not a representative sample of Scottish opinion, nevertheless the unapologetic vehemence of some of the callers does indicate a vocal section of Scottish opinion perhaps departs from the orthodox media view that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.
We saw the disturbance at Monkton, Ayrshire, at the weekend over plans to house refugees in a local hotel. An isolated incident, of course. But the Nicola Sturgeon felt moved to issue a warning against “hate crime” yesterday as the Home Secretary Teresa May insisted the refugees will have been thoroughly vetted.
You don’t have to look too far on social media to find Scots who don’t believe her. My guess is that many Scottish voters are anxious about the enthusiasm with which the Scottish Government has been inviting refugees to come here
Scotland is a largely mono-cultural society which has only recently shed hostility to immigrants. Opinion polls only 13 years ago suggested a quarter of Scots felt it was acceptable to be racially prejudiced.
The SNP, to its credit, has opposed racism and celebrates Muslims in its midst. The first Muslim MSP, the late Bashir Ahmad, was SNP.
But the consensus across all Scotland’s parties that Scotland is a tolerant country which welcomes refugees and migrants could be about to come up against a reality check. The very lack of cultural diversity in Scotland is a problem here.
There is a significant and broadly well-integrated Asian community, but you only have to get off the train to London to realise how monoglot we really are. It is the first thing that UK Labour politicians often remark as the arrive here: “It’s very, er, white here, isn’t it”.
There is possible a further problem. The very unwillingness to consider the Islamic faith as part of the problem could be contributing to the climate of scepticism. The truth is that the Koran does talk in pretty medieval terms about infidels and unbelievers.
But of course so does the Bible. Islamic State (IS) is rather like a group of religious fanatics who have somehow gained control of a country and are trying to run it based on a literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
The Israelites, remember, thought they were chosen by god and had no qualms about killing anyone who got in their way. Moses insisted his generals slaughter all the Medianites, men women and children, keeping only some virgins as slaves.
To suggest, as some do, that IS are bandits who have hijacked religion isn’t quite right. They are obsessed with doctrine. This indeed, is their main weakness.
The beheadings are intended to provoke the west into retaliation. IS believe a great war between the Caliphate and “the army of Rome” is going to take place in Dabiq in Syria after which there will be the “End of Days”.
This is of course madness. And like all religious zealotry it should be allowed to decay and die because of its own barbarous contradictions. Invading Syria will only confirm their belief in prophecy. And make phone-in callers all the more fearful.