New report: Islamophobia limits young Muslims’ involvement in Scottish politics

15 March 2017

The Commissioner is being presented with the findings of a report today around how Islamophobia prevents young Muslims playing a bigger role in Scottish politics.

Representatives of young people’s groups will also be informed about the findings, with the aim of giving greater recognition to the impact of Islamophobia on young Muslims.

The findings will be presented by two of the report’s co-authors, Doctor Robin Finlay and Peter Hopkins, Professor of Social Geography at Newcastle University.

About the report was published in February this year.

Muslim Youth and Political Participation in Scotland was published today. 

The report, which was carried out by academics at Newcastle University and the University of St Andrews, came as a response to the lack of in-depth research with young Muslims in Scotland about:

  • the different ways that they participate in politics,
  • their political concerns, and
  • the barriers and challenges they encounter when engaging with political issues.

It found that most young Muslims in Scotland are actively engaged in politics and public life, driven by an interest in political issues at both a global and community level. Many show this interest in a variety of ways including:

  • voting,
  • activism, and
  • volunteering and other charity work.

For some, this was seen as a way to be positive role models for their communities, while others were motivated to respond to global issues that often incorporate negative – and often sensationalist – rhetoric against Muslims.

The research also found that the political participation of young Muslims in Scotland is significantly shaped by Scottish politics, with many showing an interest in the possibility of Scottish independence. For many young people, however, there was a feeling that political parties did not communicate their policies to people their age. As a result, they found it difficult to know what the different parties stood for.

Young Muslims and Islamophobia

The research team also found that everyday experiences of Islamophobia and racism made young Muslims anxious about participating in public life, as they didn’t want to appear to be overly politicised.

The young people also felt that the positive contributions of Muslims to Scottish society was rarely reported by the media and that this added to the biased image of them.

Peter Hopkins, Professor of Social Geography at Newcastle University and one of the report authors, said:

”The political participation of young Muslims in Scotland is largely shaped by global political issues and their experiences of Scottish politics, such as the independence referendum and debates about nationalism. But Islamophobia and negative representation in the media is damaging their confidence to play a much more visible role in society.
“Political leaders should take the participation of young Muslims seriously, as they are a politically engaged and interested group whose resources could be drawn upon for the better of Scottish society.”

The Commissioner said:

“Participation of young people in decision-making is one of the central rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I’m looking forward today to hearing the views and experiences directly from the young people who took part in this important research.
“Young people in Scotland have proven to be fully engaged when they are included in political processes such as elections and the Scottish referendum. It is encouraging that young Muslims want to play a more active role in Scottish political life, as politics should represent all young people, not just the few.
“I am heartened that despite the challenges, there are consistently hopeful messages in this report about the valuable contribution made by Muslim young people through political engagement.
“We need recognise the barriers of Islamophobia and tackle it head on to create an equal and vibrant political environment that is inclusive of all Scotland’s young people. “

Find out more

Find out more about the study on the Newcastle University website.

In 2015, we produced a podcast with Roshni asking if young Muslims felt their right to practise religion was respected in Scotland.

Listen to the podcast here.