Last week UKIP’s David Coburn, who was elected as a Euro MP last year, referred to “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him Abu Hamza” in an interview with the Sunday Mail. The comment marked Coburn and his UKIP supporters as X-Men, xenophobes mired in bigotry.
The response to Coburn’s comments was swift and comprehensive across the political spectrum. But after the condemnations we need action to do two things, demarcate UKIP and other racist organisations operating in Scotland as an unwelcome part of political dialogue and promote a positive narrative about immigration, internationalism and multiculturalism.
This is an important debate for a mongrel nation like Scotland, who, as a country has been enriched by so many for so long, and who also have a history of traveling the world to settle and roam. In this context that Jean Urquhart MSP is launching Not My Xenophobia, a new campaign to challenge xenophobic attitudes in politics and the media.
Jean was inspired to create Not My Xenophobia by the success of the #everydaysexism social media campaign, and the Scottish Government’s See Me campaign against mental health stigma.
”From exploitative programmes like Immigration Street to the UKIP MEP David Coburn’s disgusting, racist comments about Europe Minister Humza Yousaf, we are surrounded with xenophobic messages in politics and the media. But speak to ordinary Scots and you will find a very different attitude. Most of us value our friends, neighbours and colleagues from all over the world. The xenophobia we are being bombarded with isn’t ours – it’s being imposed on us by people in positions of power and influence who want to set us against one another. I’ve started the Not My Xenophobia campaign to give a voice to the majority of Scots who reject these hateful attitudes, and to name and shame the media organisations and politicians who promote them for their own gain.”
As Humza Yousaf himself has stated: ‘UKIP are a party who don’t just have a few bad apples.. they are rotten to the core’
The party has been treated like a joke for years but the slurs and smears keep coming and the true face of racism is never far from the surface.
It’s not just about racism.
Christopher Monckton, Ukip’s former head of policy for Scotland once stated that “gay men have ‘20,000 sexual partners’ in their ‘miserable lives’” and called on the far-right British Freedom Party (BFP) to “come back and join Ukip” in 2012. Kerry Smith, Ukip’s candidate for target seat South Basildon and East Thurrock, was forced to resign after he made a number of homophobic and racist remarks and joked about shooting poor people. There’s not space to kist the full litany of UKIP ‘gaffs’. They are part of a wider resurgence of the far-right in Britain.
Perhaps a sister project to Not My Xenophobia would be to mirror this great crowdsourced poster project from London which celebrated the positive contribution of people arguing: ‘Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. It’s time to celebrate, not vilify.’ See more at NoXenophobia here.
We would do well to start with Coburn standing down or being sacked. But the positive alternative needs to be present too. Why can’t we and why don’t we celebrate all of our communities and welcome people to Scotland?
Part of the reason is our own history of bigotry that we need to face up to, and part of it is being tied to the racist British State. While we’re working on the latter we can put our own house in order by dealing with the former. Not My Xenophobia is a great place to start that journey, they’ve issued a statement saying:
“Not My Xenophobia invites Scots social media users to name-and-shame examples of xenophobic language, stereotypes and attitudes they see being used by newspapers, adverts, TV programmes and politicians, using the hashtag #notmyxenophobia. A website, www.NotMyXenophobia.scot, a Twitter account @notmyxenophobia and a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/notmyxenophobia will support the campaign.”
We need to live up to the ethos of Freedom Come All Ye and celebrate the Irish, the Polish, the Indian, the Pakistani and all of our communities. Hope not Hate.