We’ve spent the last number of weeks working on a suitable response to the SDL’s planned protest outside Glasgow Central Mosque.
Many opinions exist on the best course of action, much of it drawn from the experiences of protests already held in English cities. Direct face-to-face confrontation has led to clashes and arrests, with resultant headlines, images and public perception of Muslim youth and others involved in violence with far-right hooligans. On the other hand, the pleading of mosques and Muslim organisations to do nothing and stay at home has plainly not worked.
We’ve got a chance to make a different story in Glasgow. We’re delighted that the call for Scottish civil society to mobilise and lead has been heard. ‘Scotland United’ is the result with bodies like the Scottish TUC, Scottish Interfaith Council, Show Racism the Red Card and individuals like Aamer Anwar and Elaine C Smith backing it. The list of supporters continues to grow, and already it’s an impressive cross section of society.
Together we’ll be organsing a larger, more vibrant and upbeat rally elsewhere in the city the day that the SDL arrive. The presence of all these people reemphasising the message of what Scotland believes about our excellent multicultural relations is vital. In England, the emphasis seems to have been on defending the free speech of fascists, while forgetting that taking on what they’re saying and defending communites under attack is not curtailing free speech – it is exercising your obligation to do the right thing.
The numbers at this rally will dwarf and humiliate the far-right action, who will most likely be a handful of people sieg heiling into an empty street. Effective policing is the way to deal with this and we are in dialogue with Strathclyde Police about this.
There is a wider and more long term issue about the rise of Islamophobia that Muslims and civil society will have to address in the aftermath of this action though.
We’ve been asked if we would do the same thing if it was extremist Muslims marching in Glasgow. I can’t envisage the scenario here, but have no hesitation in saying we would be just as robust if it did happen. In fact this current Scotland United action is the mirror image of the Scotland United Against Terror rally just one week after the 2007 Glasgow Airport attack where civil society similarly came together shoulder to shoulder.
Posted by Osama Saeed