A MAJORITY of Muslim pupils from Scottish schools have experienced Islamophobia, new research shows.

A study of pupils from different religious and ethnic backgrounds found Muslims had been routinely called “terrorists” and “Pakis”.

The survey found similar abuse was directed at other groups including black refugees from Somalia and Sikhs.

Even young people from countries in eastern Europe such as Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic had been called “Pakis”.

The research, by academics from the universities of Newcastle, St Andrews and Edinburgh, also found school staff lacked an understanding of the religious background of pupils.

In one case, catering staff at a Catholic secondary in Glasgow asked a boy from a Catholic Indian family why he was eating during the fast of Ramadan despite the fact he regularly attended mass at the school.

Peter Hopkins, professor of social geography at Newcastle University, called for better training of school staff and more lessons on Islamophobia and other forms of racism.

He said: “A lot of the young people felt the Asian community was seen to be one community and that they were all seen as Muslims and Pakistani.

“There was a lack of understanding that the “Asian community” is quite diverse and includes Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Catholics as well as people who aren’t religious.”

Mr Hopkins said he had been surprised the racist insult “Paki” was used against all the different groups in the study, including those from eastern Europe.

He also said it was clear abuse was related to major political events such as the spread of IS in Syria and Iraq, the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013 and the 9/11 attacks.

Some pupils said they had a clear idea of who to report incidents of racism to, such as a guidance teacher, and that their school would deal effectively with the issue.

However, others felt their schools didn’t know how to handle racism - with some teachers and school staff such as canteen workers exhibiting ignorance.


Professor Peter Hopkins from Newcastle University

Mr Hopkins said: “Some of the pupils talked about teachers assuming they were Muslim. It wasn’t nasty. It was a lazy assumption.

“There was a Catholic Indian boy in a Catholic school in Glasgow who was assumed to be Muslim by some staff which perplexed him because he went to mass at the school.

“He was asked to tell the class about what it was like to be a Muslim and had to tell them he was a Catholic. He was also asked about why he wasn’t fasting during Ramadan."

The Muslim Council of Scotland backed the call for more training for teachers and a raising of awareness amongst pupils.

Mazhar Khan, a council spokesman, said: “Certain sections of the media and politicians continue to irresponsibly play on terms such as "immigrants" and "Muslims" almost interchangeably and as threatening to our society.

"The negative impact this rhetoric has at all levels of society includes children and we would expect schools to take this research extremely seriously and do more to challenge and dispel stereotypes and hatred."

The research was conducted over the past 18 months amongst a group of nearly 400 young people between the ages of 12 and 25 from a variety of different schools and community groups across Scotland.

Young people’s response to incidents included using humour to appease their harasser, clarifying their affiliation and educating others about religious diversity or simply ignoring the abuse.