THE integration of Muslims in Scottish society is being undermined by disproportionate targeting of Asian and Muslim travellers in airports and other security spaces according to new research.

A study carried out by Durham University warned that a belief that police and security workers use racial profiling was widely held within Muslim communities, with groups regularly sharing "airport stories" of nightmare travelling experiences.

The research, carried out in Edinburgh and through a survey of other studies in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland, found Asian immigrants and Scottish-born Asians alike felt Scotland was broadly a welcoming place.

However many told researchers that in airports they felt like a "suspect community", with travellers expecting to be disproportionately stopped, searched and questioned.

Stefano Bonino, of Durham University's school of applied social science, said Asian people's sense of equality and feelings of belonging to society were being severely undermined by a security focus on their ethnicity or religion.

"Contact with police and security officers at airports constitutes the main area of concern for Scottish Muslims," he added.

The study, Visible Muslimness, points out that there was a 14 per cent decrease in racist incidents in Scotland in 2012-13 compared with the previous year.

While some Muslims feel their religion or the way they dress is a hindrance, for instance in finding a job, others praised the independence of Scots in not buying into negative perceptions of Islam. Incidents of racism or harassment were seen as most likely from someone who was uneducated or drunk.

"Whether myth or reality, the perception of Scotland, and particularly Edinburgh, as a tolerant, friendly and inclusive place characterised a number of responses," the study said.

However it cited Muslim men expressing anger and disappointment at a public meeting about being subject to frequent stops and searches at Edinburgh Airport and intrusive actions from police.

While most of the research was carried out in Edinburgh, Muslims expressed similar concerns about other airports, including Glasgow, which was subject to a boycott in 2011 over alleged harassment.

Of such perceptions, the study said: "This presents a serious challenge ... negative interactions between authorities and ethnic minorities risk undermining a Scottish project of local pluralism and diversity."

"Most of Edinburgh’s Muslims had either themselves experienced, or had relatives and/or friends who were subjected to perceived disproportionate targeting or harsh treatment, when leaving from or arriving at Scottish airports. For the most part, respondents argued that this was the result of the ethnic and religious profiling that the police and security officers allegedly use to target people of seemingly Muslim appearance."

Chanda, a Bangladeshi woman in her 40s told researchers the experience of being singled out was traumatic: "I feel as if I want to vanish. If I am at Edinburgh Airport, I feel so bad. Why me?" she said. "I feel hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes looking at me. This is very damaging sometimes. It is very scary, very upsetting. I feel very empty, very isolated, I feel like crying."

Mr Bonino said some Muslims felt their identities were undermined on three levels - as their religion was misrepresented, their Scottish or British identity unrecognised and their status within Scottish or Muslim society often ignored.

He said the findings suggest that airports have become a physical embodiment of a stigma faced by Muslims, and the use of powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act "has resulted in Asian men feeling as thought the perception of them as inherently suspicious has become normalised."

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: "We work hard to make sure that all of its passengers have a good experience when travelling through Edinburgh Airport.

"Diversity training is a core part of security officer training to ensure all are treated with respect and understanding.

"Local imams and leaders of the Muslim community have visited the airport to view our security processes and discuss any concerns as part of an ongoing dialogue in improving our service for all."