ISLAMOPHOBIA has become “racialised” and affects other minority groups in Scotland, according to new research.

In a groundbreaking study, experts from four UK universities questioned almost 400 young people aged 12-25 to discover the truth about prejudice.

The three-year project is expected to report next month but the results will be previewed at a conference in Glasgow today.

The event, organised by Amina, the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre (MWRC), is the first of its kind and speakers will include former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, as well as representatives from Police Scotland and mental health services.

Kate Botterill, a lecturer in human geography at Edinburgh Napier University, will also address delegates on the landmark study, which focuses on young people’s everyday experiences of “faith, ethnicity and place”.

She told The National prejudice against Muslims is also directed at other minority groups who are wrongly identified by abusers.

Botterill said: “Islamophobia impacts on all communities. Frequently young Sikhs, Hindus, non-religious ethnic minorities including those of African descent and Eastern Europeans have discussed being mistaken for Muslims and experiencing Islamophobia.

“It’s not just a Muslim issue. It requires a coherent society-wide strategy in tackling it.”

The report, compiled in collaboration with Edinburgh, Newcastle and St Andrews universities, is currently being finalised and is thought to be one of the biggest quantitative studies ever undertaken in Scotland.

Until now the situation here has often been based on data extrapolated from work undertaken in England.

It is hoped that the accurate information and individual testimonies gathered in this project will inform future policy to create a more equal society and improve community cohesion.

Botterill said: “Some young people felt that Scotland is not necessarily as racist as England. However, we wouldn’t want to encourage complacence.

“Religion has almost been racialised. Muslims have become this ‘other’ and so religious identity stands out as something that people use if they are going to say something nasty.

“We’re not saying it is necessarily better or worse, but it exists and it exists beyond being experienced by Muslims. People use it as shorthand racism.

“There are other racist terms that have been used like that for some time and continue to be used, but we can perhaps see new patterns of racism related to Islam.”

She added: “Young people have developed diverse strategies in response to this.

“Some ignore it, some seek to challenge ideas about Islam and turn it into a positive, some dismiss it as banter and some would avoid it by avoiding going to place where they think it could be an issue.

“There is also the expectation of hostility in debates in class or at university and the association of Islam and terrorism is quite common.”

Amina MWRC works to empower Muslim women across Scotland and to inform policy development across all levels of government.

The conference will discuss the impact of Islamophobia and racially or religiously motivated hate crimes on Muslim and other communities in Scotland and what can be done to change this.

Conference organiser Maggie Chapman, helpline and development coordinator for Amina MWRC, said: “There should be no place for racism, xenophobia and discrimination in Scotland.

“All people living and working here have the right to feel part of their communities, and to be free from persecution based on any social categories.

“When people experience hate crime and abuse, it not only damages them personally, but negatively affects the whole of society.

“We need to work together to stop this, and I hope that this day of discussion and debate will prove useful and informative for how we can all collaborate to make Scotland a truly inclusive and equal place for all.”

The National View: No place for prejudice in a progressive society