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11 November 2012

Muslims Divided On Scotland Independence

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Glasgow: A planned referendum on the independence of Scotland from Britain is dividing the Muslim minority, amid expectations that Muslims will play a significant role in deciding the future of their country.

“I did not come into politics to fight for constitutional arrangements, to keep my country together,” Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour's Deputy Leader, told Al-Jazeera on Sunday, November 11.

“But I think it is interesting that someone who comes from an ethnic minority has been given a large responsibility in the Labour Party for keeping my country together.”

Anas, an articulate and engaging speaker, is the son of Mohammed Sarwar, the first Muslim elected to British parliament in 1997.

“That says a lot about the people of Glasgow,” he said.

“Glaswegians accept you for what you are, not where you come from. What people care about is your values and personal work ethic and vision for the future of the country, not what you look like.”

Anas now represents the same area of Glasgow Govan at Westminster.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which won absolute majority in the Scottish parliament last year, is campaigning for Scotland’s independence from Britain.

SNP leader Alex Salmond has suggested a referendum on Scottish independence next year.

But Anas is against the plans for referendum.

“Whether in good times or hard times we know when we work together, pull together and stick together that we are better together,” he said.

Earlier polls have suggested that independence does not have majority support in Scotland.

Scotland has about 75,000 Muslims. About 40% of them live in Glasgow.

Civic Nationalism

But other Scottish Muslims are backing the idea of seceding from Britain.

“My involvement in the anti-war movement at the time was the catalyst that drove my thinking towards independence,” Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government's External Affairs Minister, told Al-Jazeera.

“The belief that we should never be dragged into a war our nation disagreed with was at the heart of my belief in independence and remains central to why I still support the notion today.”

A former spokesman for the charity Islamic Relief, 27-year-old Yousaf is the youngest minister on Salmond's team.

His grandfather, a master tailor in a small village in India, took part in protests against British rule in his homeland.

He jokes that he is carrying on a proud family tradition by campaigning for independence in Scotland.

Though Muslims in other parts of Britain regard nationalism with suspicion, associating it with the racism of fringe groups, Scottish Muslims supported civic nationalism in Scotland.

Research by the British Council found a perception among Muslims and non-Muslims alike that integration in Scotland was easier than in England.

"Our model of civic nationalism is a great model for Europe and the world,” Yusuf said.
“I think it is part of Scotland's egalitarian tradition.”

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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