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Last Updated: Monday, 2 July 2007, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Reflecting on Glasgow's terror attack
By Na'eem Raza
President of the Islamic Society of Britain (Glasgow)

Na'eem Raza, a member of the Scottish Interfaith Council and founder of Scotland's Muslims Consultancy, gives his reaction to the terror attack at Glasgow Airport to the BBC Scotland news website.

Not again... not in Scotland... not in Glasgow... not the airport... please. Not Asians... Oh God, please, not Muslim. Oh God, please not Asians and Muslims from Glasgow... no!

Na'eem Raza
Mr Raza hoped the racism of past generations had gone for good

Saturday afternoon was a period of reflection while all around me was in turmoil. I wasn't thinking of the ongoing events, rather the aftermath that might follow.

I was born and have lived all my life here. I love this country; it is my home, my heritage, my culture, our future.

I remember my father used to tell us stories of the difficulties he went through when he first arrived here, being called all sorts of names and the blatant racism that he faced. I could never relate to that period. We have moved on, haven't we?

I wanted to stay at home on Saturday evening; I needed some security, I felt an air of unease, of tension. I could relate to my father's stories now.

Sunday morning, I felt strange leaving the house; I felt everyone was watching me. I arrived at the Central Mosque for the community leaders meeting and press conference.

I was re-assured when I saw some non Asian faces, faces from the other communities. It wasn't just our problem, it was our problem.

We have lived together for years, carried out business together, our children play together, we support the same team, we walk the same streets, and now we are 'them'

Monday morning... it is still calm; life is moving on. The terrorists are not from Glasgow, not from Scotland!

I drive with my children, my Scottish children, my Muslim children.

I need to catch up on the news.

"This alien religion", "I had one of them in the back of my cab", "they want to take over the world", "their religion preaches terror", and "we have decided to boycott the corner shop."

This wasn't some hardline American rhetoric; this was BBC Radio Scotland. I fall back into my father's journey.

We have lived together for years, carried out business together, our children play together, we support the same team, we walk the same streets, and now we are "them"

It is concerning that this lack or depth of knowledge should exist among our community. It is concerning that we can allow "others" to influence our community. There is something lacking in the substance of our society.

'Increased animosity'

The comfort of seeing the other communities on Saturday was short lived. There are deeper issues at hand.

No subject or group of people has come under the microscope in the last few years as Islam and Muslims.

Hardly a day goes by without the words "Islam" and "Muslims" being splashed on front pages or mentioned in our news headlines.

Sadly, according to statistical analysis, animosity towards Muslims in Scotland has increased over the past few years.

The problem may be as old as Islam itself, but one cannot fail to have noticed the increased controversy surrounding the public's perception of Islam and Muslims since September 11th and ongoing world affairs.

Na'eem Raza speaking at a workshop
People at Mr Raza's workshops learn how similar the religions are

The events of 9/11 and 7/7 and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East have had a direct impact on the lives of various faith communities in Scotland particularly the Muslims. Saturday will not have helped.

I recall being invited to a Catholic conference recently; Father Gordian Marshall and I ran a workshop on "dialogue in Scripture".

The workshops were packed out and people left aghast at the similarities between Islam and Christianity, furthermore the reverence Islam affords Jesus and his beloved mother, Mary (Peace be upon them both).

In fact there is a chapter in the Qur'an dedicated to Mary and she is described as the best woman God created.

My wife was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow. A few years ago she decided to wear the hijab (headscarf). Suddenly everyone spoke to her very slowly.

At any meeting and while shopping, people would speak to me but look at her! She speaks with a broad Glaswegian accent! Yet the hijab gave a perception that she could not even speak English! She was uncomfortable on Saturday. Everyone was looking at her... "She's one of them".

We need to educate each other, we need to get to know each other, we need to work together. No more cups of tea and smiley faces, it really is time for action.

Joint responsibility

Action together at a time when we are all facing similar issues, whether it is the climate change, secularisation of our society, terrorism, illegal wars, women's rights, discrimination, politics or homelessness. Cups of tea are not enough!

This autumn, a Christian colleague and I plan to tour Scotland's congregations to promote "tea with a Muslim" and help CAIRS interfaith work flourish.

The Islamic Society of Britain's flagship project, Islam Awareness Week (www.iaw.org.uk) ran with the theme of "One World" recently, focusing on our joint responsibility to the planet.

Let us continue on this journey together, let us bring change in our world, let us be real friends, but without tea!

"O Mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you in to tribes and nations so that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you."

(Al-Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13)




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