Tackling Hate Together
Dr Maureen Sier, Interfaith Scotland
‘Tackling Hate Together’ seems like an odd title for a blog by an interfaith activist, but there is no doubt in my mind that by building good relations between the diverse faith traditions of Scotland we are effectively creating a culture of inclusivity and peace.
A fair percentage of the work of Interfaith Scotland is bringing communities and individuals together to talk, take action and build bonds of friendship and understanding. However, there is another aspect of good interfaith work that often goes unseen but is equally critical. This is the behind the scenes work of standing together in solidarity when there are societal tensions, when relationships are strained, when hateful things are being done to communities or are being said about communities.
What sort of response did a local interfaith group show when a rural Muslim community arrived at their mosque to see obscene graffiti plastered on the walls? They went immediately to the Mosque, met the President, reassured the community of solidarity with them and offered continued support if needed.
What sort of response did National Religious Leaders show when a faith community was targeted by terrorists? The Scottish Religious Leaders Forum met together at Glasgow Central Mosque and collectively sent a powerful message of sympathy and support to the Christian Community at the time of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.
What sort of response was shown when young people verbally abused visibly religious community representatives? Members of the Jewish community targeted in this way engaged directly with the young people through contacting and visiting the perpetrators’ school, speaking directly to them and using education as the tool for change.
And what took place when there were community tensions in Scotland because of the Israel/Palestine conflict earlier this year? Over a hundred representatives from faith communities directly impacted by the conflict met regularly to ‘Pray for Peace in the Holy Land’ over a number of weeks. In addition women from the Jewish and Muslim Community met together to discuss how to find ways to keep the dialogue and engagement open between their communities.
These are all actions of interfaith and faith communities’ responses to hate and prejudice and there are countless other stories from across the length and breadth of Scotland. Tackling hate however needs more than just individual and community action, it requires Government programmes, changes in the law, educational activities and resources, training programmes and positive well facilitated dialogue that creates safe spaces for communities to talk about issues that concern them. On that note, we welcome the progress that has been made since publication of the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan and that the development of a new hate crime strategy, which will support implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, will begin later this year.
Hate Crime Awareness Week is critical to shine a lens on what hate crime is and how to tackle it and festivals such as Scottish Refugee Week and Scottish Interfaith Week are able to show clearly the positive contribution that diverse communities make to building a connected, cohesive Scotland – this is critical to overcoming the fear and prejudice that disconnection evokes.