Islamophobia is endemic in the UK and getting worse, says Yousaf

Humza Yousaf became the first Muslim head of state in western Europe in 2023 when he was appointed First Minister of Scotland.

Sarah Ward
Monday 05 February 2024 18:16 GMT
First Minister Humza Yousaf has said Islamophobia is setting worse (Steve Welsh/PA Wire).
First Minister Humza Yousaf has said Islamophobia is setting worse (Steve Welsh/PA Wire). (PA Wire)

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has said there is still “deep-rooted, systemic and endemic” Islamophobia in the UK and that it is getting worse.

Mr Yousaf, the country’s first Muslim First Minister, is the son of first-generation immigrants.

His father, Muzaffar Yousaf, came to Scotland from Pakistan while his mother, Shaaista Bhutta, was born in Kenya, and moved to Scotland aged seven.

Speaking to The Rest is Politics podcast with Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, he was asked about the political landscape in the UK, where several senior positions in politics are held by Muslims.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is Muslim and Mr Sarwar’s father, Mohammad, was the UK’s first Muslim MP.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is Muslim, and Rishi Sunak is the first British Asian PM, although he is a Hindu.

Mr Yousaf said Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s father was a “great inspiration” to him growing up, but he feels he sometimes “overcompensates” due to his own religion.

He added: “I think it’s great. There is a common bond.

“The thing that bonds us, and the thing that we can never get away from, is we – I’m afraid – will always in this country be seen by some people through our skin colour first, or our religion first. And that’s been my experience.”

Mr Yousaf celebrated his faith with a photoshoot at Bute House in 2023 showing prayers being held.

But he added Islamophobia was “getting worse”, including in Scotland.

Mr Yousaf said: “There is definitely still a deep-rooted, systemic and endemic Islamophobia in this country, and Scotland is absolutely not immune to that at all.

“Some of the questioning I’ll get on certain issues will be seen through a lens because I’m a Muslim and sometimes I’ll do my best to account to that, and I think sometimes even overcompensate with that.

“I’ll be more wary about how my meeting with the Muslim community will be perceived and then I’ll do things to go out of my way to make sure.”

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