While Ramadan is a challenging time for all Muslims in Scotland, it is especially so for those trying to work and campaign for the elections at the same time.

Anum Qaisar-Javed is one such woman trying to balance her job as a modern studies teacher with fasting and trying to win over the electorate ahead of a by-election next month.

The SNP candidate for Airdrie and Shotts spoke to The Herald about her drive to go in to politics, and said the support of her local branch was vital for coping with the long periods of fasting she is doing during Ramadan.

She explained: “My branch has been brilliant; they are so supportive.

“I emailed them explaining about Ramadan and that it was starting on Wednesday, and apologised in advance for getting ‘hangry’.

“I might be a bit hangry, but I’m still here and still determined to campaign.”

The 28-year-old’s election campaign is book-ended by major events in the Muslim calendar. Ramadan has begun this week, with the election results on May 13 falling around the time of Eid. However the pandemic has changed the way Ms Qaisar-Javed can participate in these events, as it has for all Muslims.

She explained: “It’s really sad, actually, because normally we would be celebrating with family. When I was younger, every Friday during Ramadan we would go to relatives houses or they would all pile in to ours. I come from a Scottish Pakistani family, I have about 20 cousins, and there would just be loads of us all breaking our fast together.

“Now with the pandemic, we can’t do that and it is definitely different but safety has to come first.”

Along with Ramadan being a different experience this year, the Westminster-hopeful said campaigning has also been drastically altered.

“We’ve been doing a lot of leafletting, but really its hard as you can’t stop and talk to people the way you usually would.” She said.

“If there’s a sunny day and people are out and about its easier to talk to them but it just is not the same as a normal campaign.”

A modern studies teacher, Ms Qaisar-Javed hopes to stand alongside the SNP’s 43 other MPs in Westminster, representing Airdrie and Shotts in place of Neil Gray, who is seeking election to Holyrood and vacated his seat.

One of her motivating factors for seeking election is to tackle racism and increase diversity in Scottish politics, as well as represent those in her constituency who are impoverished or struggling.

She explained: “My birthday is September 11. I was nine years old when 9/11 happened. I remember coming home from school excited to open my birthday presents, running in to the house and my mum was crying, my dad couldn’t take his eyes of the television.

“The day after that I was waiting at the bus stop to go to school, and a boy came up to me and said ‘Why is your skin colour the same colour as mud, as poo? Is your dad a terrorist?’

“I had no idea what to say, I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I didn’t think I was any different to anyone else before then.”

While her first exposure to racism as a child was more overt, the Airdrie and Shotts candidate said there is still an “undercurrent” of bigotry that needs to be challenged.

She explained: “If you look at, for example, what Douglas Ross has said about members of the travelling community, this undercurrent of certain levels of racism or bigotry that are still accepted is showcased by that…I feel that it’s not enough to say you’re not racist. You have to be actively anti-racist, whether that’s towards Pakistanis or the travelling community, it doesn’t matter to me.”


Coming from a Labour-voting family, Ms Qaisar-Javed was an active member of the Labour party and general secretary of Muslim Friends of Labour in Scotland.

Since starting her campaign, she said she has been inspired by the feedback from constituents in Airdrie and Shotts and hopes she can encourage more young people to go into politics.

She said: “There is a young girl in my constituency who said she thought it was amazing that I was going into politics, she’s just 12. I was chatting to her mum and she said her daughter was excited because I looked like her, and would think ‘if she can do that, I can do it as well’.

“The fact that already as a candidate I am already seen as a role model is fantastic, I really look forward to being a role model not just to young people of colour but to young people generally. People can look at me and say ‘she doesn’t’ look like a normal politician’ and that’s important.”