OVER the past week, the world has watched the swift succession of the Taliban in Afghanistan with horror. Political pundits, news outlets and social media have speculated on the damaging actions the self-proclaimed “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” will inflict on the population.

Majority scepticism has arisen over the narrative the official spokespeople, such as Zabihullah Mujahid, Qari Yousef Ahmadi and Suhail Shaheen have presented to the media on topics such as safety for Afghans who aligned themselves with western governments and, in particular, on women’s rights.

The situation in Afghanistan is critical and rapidly unfolding. Since December 2020, those linked to the UK have been able to apply for refuge via the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy. In recent days, a parallel scheme has been announced to settle around 20,000 Afghans in the UK over five years.

However, pressure has been growing on Priti Patel’s Home Office to expand this commitment immediately as the numbers remain abysmal when considering the multitudes of Afghans at risk, including women and children and those who risked their lives to ally with the UK.

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The reality is that without the powers that independence would provide to us, there is relatively little Scotland can do besides lobby the Westminster establishment to act decisively and with compassion for humanity at heart. I do not need to elaborate on what I mean by the gendered violence that has been inflicted upon women under the previous Taliban regime. We are all fully aware of the horrifying videos, photos and stories. However, this outpouring of support for Muslim women’s freedom of autonomy for their bodies, education and general welfare in Afghanistan has not gone without a slight raised eyebrow from within the Scottish Muslim community, which faces a regular battle against prejudice and discrimination here at home.

To be clear: the support and concern shown for Afghan women and girls is indisputably appreciated and necessary. However, when Muslim women in Scotland, the majority from ethnic minority backgrounds, face a higher battle against prejudice than their white Scottish counterparts due to the intersectionality of gender, religion and race barriers, one must ask the question why the support shown to Afghan women is not fully replicated here at home.

Within the Islamophobia in Scotland public inquiry published this year, substantive research found more than 80% of all Muslim respondents had a friend or family member who has experienced Islamophobia. After verbal abuse, the second-largest form of Islamophobia in Scotland involves acts of aggression such as Scots pulling off Muslim women’s headscarves. These actions have significant ramifications on the mental wellbeing of Muslim women.

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Female Scottish Muslims, like female Afghan Muslims, deserve the same respect and support by virtue of our shared humanity. This is not a comparison of suffering between Afghan women and Scottish women but an advocation that discrimination is an injustice wherever, and however, it arises.

In response to experiences, or fear, of Islamophobia, many participants sought to conceal aspects of their Islamic identity in the hope of minimising their likelihood of falling victim to anti-Muslim hate. A community group based in Falkirk, Al Masaar, stated religious appearance, such as wearing the headscarf, is one of the largest contributing factors to increased risk of facing Islamophobic abuse.

The inquiry received responses from Muslim women stating they stopped wearing a headscarf because of the extent to which it makes them the target of abuse.

ANYONE in Scotland who views this as a “liberation” of women should recognise that being an ally requires advocating for and supporting women in having full autonomy to wear what they wish without fear of discrimination or abuse.

The Muslim Council of Scotland has stated Islamophobia actively prevents Muslims from accessing opportunities. Muslim women are the most susceptible to harm as they are often most visibly Muslim. Within the workplace alone, 43% of Muslim women have reported experiencing abuse.

A recent Scottish Parliament report notes that the employment rate for BME women is 20% lower than it is for white women and, on average, BME employees are paid 10% less than white colleagues.

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But even with all this evidence, Tell MAMA, an independent hate crime-reporting organisation, stated that under-reporting of hate crime remains a significant issue in Scotland. A prominent theme in participants’ responses to the inquiry was how the presence of Islamophobia across Scottish society affects many aspects of everyday life. Many participants, and especially women, reported they routinely do not feel safe outside of their homes.

For young Muslim women, the reinforcement of gendered stereotypes, alongside experiences of Islamophobia, presents challenges to their engagement in formal politics. For example, a Muslim women activist who had previously stood for an elected position but was unsuccessful submitted evidence on being a targeted victim of Islamophobia from a white Scottish man who is an elected politician.

She said: “This individual feels it is acceptable to make bigoted, racist and Islamophobic remarks in small meetings. Although complaints have been made through the correct channels, currently the issue has not been resolved, and the consensus is that I am the bad and selfish person for making this about me.

“This has left me feeling disenfranchised, and cynical where I now perceive politics very differently.”

In addition to being reinforced by Scottish politics and politicians, Islamophobia tends to intensify before and during election campaigns, according to the University of Glasgow’s written submission to the inquiry. Notably, it was only this year, 22 years after the formation of Holyrood, that Scotland elected its first Muslim and ethnic minority female MSP.

Overall, this body of evidence shines a light on the Islamophobic discrimination still prevalent in Scotland. The allyship shown in the past week for Muslim women in Afghanistan has been unparalleled; a shining beacon of our shared support for the safety of these women and their equal access to work, education, and the ownership that Afghan Muslim women are entitled to over their own bodies and the way they choose to dress.

Why is it then that Scottish Muslim women have been repeatedly ignored and discriminated against? Their fears and experiences also matter. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own country; support starts at home.