Dr Qaisar Rashid
Scotland persists with its notoriety of racism and hate crime. Racism is still a soft word subject to interpretation in several ways. A hate crime means a racist act inflicting physical harm on the victim.
On July 31, 2016, in the section of Scotland Politics, the BBC reported that almost 3,000 racist incidents had been reported in Scotland’s schools over the past five years. Out of them about 2,000 incidents of racism were reported in primary schools whereas 1,000 incidents were reported in secondary schools since 2011. Moreover, these figures were provided by only 26 out of 32 local councils. The data from large councils such as the Glasgow City Council and Aberdeen City Council were not provided; otherwise, the actual figure would be higher than the given figure.
On September 28, 2016, the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) issued a report titled “A Review of the Evidence on Hate Crime and Prejudice: Report for the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion,” indicating that the level of hate crime in Scotland remained higher than suggested by official figures in 2014 and 2015. The report was compiled by a PhD student, Maureen McBride, who also wrote that though hate crime against perceived immigrants and ethnic minorities remained underreported in Scotland, the harms of hate crime were widely experienced in Scotland.
Taken together, both these reports or studies repudiated the excuse that the higher rate of racism or hate crime had anything to do with the post-Scottish referendum phase or the post-Brexit future of Scotland, as the Scottish referendum that failed to seek independence from the UK was held on September 18, 2014, whereas the Brexit referendum to seek the UK exit from the European Union was held on June 23, 2016. Secondly, both these studies together indicate that, independent of external factors such as referendum, racism and hate crime are a lasting and entrenched feature of Scotland.
On July 3, 2013, this writer wrote (Daily Times, “Pakistani students and Glasgow: a case study in racism”), “Glasgow [a major city in Scotland] can be cited as one of the best examples to understand the ‘hate Asian’ phenomenon… In Glasgow, incidents of racism, including hate crime of all types ranging from the use of abusive language to stabbings of Asian are both frequent and regular outside the half-kilometre radius of three famous universities: the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian University… During the daytime, spit, filth and garbage flinging at Asians including Pakistani students is also witnessed even on the Great Western Road, which is the arterial road of Glasgow.” Not many readers believed in it. There are two main reasons for their state of disbelief.
The first reason is that the British Embassy in Islamabad does not inform Pakistanis and Pakistani students of the real state of affairs in Scotland. The invitation brochures of Scottish universities also paint a rosy picture of the Scots by depicting them as well-mannered, hospitable and welcoming. The second reason is that the Pakistani community or Scottish-Pakistanis residing in Scotland do not apprise Pakistani students of the actual situation in Scotland. Scottish-Pakistanis tend to observe silence, and they do not let their compromised posture known to others. Owing to these two main reasons, overseas Pakistani students also become victims of racism and hate crime in Scotland. Nevertheless, when the matter is brought into the notice of the British Embassy in Islamabad, and asked for a justification for not issuing a caution in this regard while issuing a visa, the embassy remains unresponsive.
Unfortunately, McBride’s report remained silent on the reasons for underreporting the incidents of hate crime. This writer, who had been a post-graduate medical researcher at the University of Glasgow (2006-2007), shared with the British Embassy in Islamabad at least three ugly experiences.
First, in December 2006, on the pedestrian way along the Great Western Road to the university in the morning from one’s hostel, Lister House, a plastic bag of filth oozing a foul smelling discharge was thrown from a passing by car on this writer. The bag landed and burst opened right on the chest soiling the overcoat. Second, in the summer of 2007, a Scottish man unleashed a large dog on this writer in the Kelvingrove Park that was adjacent to the University of Glasgow. Third, just after one week, in the Burnbank Gardens, connected to the Burnbank Terrace, another Scot let loose a middle-sized, growling dog on this writer. This time an immense physical struggle took place to push the dog away with the help of a handbag each time it jumped to attack the face or neck, and it continued until the dog got exhausted.
The owner of the dog sitting with nonchalant ease on a bench in the other corner of the small park flung scorn that it was not a dog it was a bitch. The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq must have fascinated many Scots to use dogs and bitches to rid Scotland of Pakistanis. In this way, both Scottish dogs and bitches debunked the real face of Scotland. However, the British Embassy remained content with the fact that each time the victim remained physically unhurt, and hence these were not hate crimes.
Scotland is known for having at least world’s four renowned centres of learning: the University of St Andrews (founded in 1413); University of Glasgow (founded in 1451); University of Aberdeen (founded in 1495), and University of Edinburgh (founded in 1582). To further the cause of education, the Education Act of 1496 made education compulsory, while the Education Act of 1633 made it mandatory to have a school in every locality. Such a historical focus on education on the one hand while rampant racism and hate crime on the other is a glaring contrast indicating a disconnect between education and society. The very purpose of education — enlightenment — stands defeated in Scotland.
There is a political aspect of the matter. The constituency from where Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon derives her political strength since she was 16 years of age, in her own words, is right-wing Scottish conservatism — the kind of conservatism that has brutally dwarfed the constructive effects of education on Scottish minds and manners.