• Lesley Warren

CRER Book Review: Muslims in Scotland

All too often in our society minority groups are only offered examination when they have become victims or stand up to represent themselves or their community. Muslims in Scotland looks beyond the statistics and sensationalism to offer us a deeper understanding of the individual lives of Muslims, as well as their contribution to Scottish society.

Bonino’s book paints a clear narrative of the lives of Scottish Muslims – from the first records to the current headlines. Despite offering an in depth and academic insight into Islamic integration both pre and post 9/11, the book itself is easy read and peppered with individual accounts and everyday experiences.

Whilst the book focuses on the shift that many Muslims in Scotland felt in the aftermath of 9/11, it also highlights that both racial and religious discrimination has sadly been prevalent since the very first accounts from Muslim migrants. There is a real poignancy to Bonino’s words when he reflects on some of the earliest records of Muslims in Scotland who faced, “humiliation, abuse and violence at the hands of majority and never fully managed to integrate into society.”

This text makes considerable reference to the myriad of discrimination that so many Muslims in Scotland face for their religion, and often also for their gender and race. The detailed figures on housing, poverty, employment and hate crimes have long been monitored and published, yet with each passing year, continue to demonstrate an ever present gap between minority ethnic groups and the white majority. Bonino describes the overt distrust of Muslim communities since 9/11 and the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been presented by many journalists and politicians. He assimilates statistics with interviews and personal accounts of isolation which are often more difficult to measure but palpable to those experiencing them first hand.

Perhaps predictably, the book talks at length about Muslim identities and recalls their individuals’ accounts of whether they have a sense of belonging to Scotland, or the UK. From reading much of Bonino’s research however this book suggests that Scottish national identity and the opportunity to fully integrate into their communities is not offered to all Muslims. Whilst he recites the desires of many, particularly younger Muslims to fully integrate with their peers there are often conflicts between as well as within communities.

Despite this the tone of the book is, overall, one of optimism and celebration of Scotland’s diversity and the role of Muslims to Scottish society. Despite biased media accounts and bigoted views that are represented by some politicians Bonino’s book is testimony of shared value and values within Muslim communities. He cites the contributions of high profile Muslims within politics and government as well as showcasing how they have mobilised to campaign to improve their communities. By the end of this book Bonino leaves the reader with a very strong understanding that Scottish and Muslim identities are inclusive. Whilst the barriers and everyday discrimination are clear throughout, it is clear from this book that there is a strong desire from Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike to do better.