Humza Yousaf asked yesterday on Twitter if we thought Islamophobia was “just made up.” His question came in response to an image of his family that was posted online with the vile words, “The new face of leftwing Scottish National Party @theSNP @HumzaYousaf with his Islamist family of Sharia-Bolsheviks.” Islamophobia, which is racism, anti-Muslim racism, is alive and kicking in the unionist political discourse. While this particular tweet came from outside Scotland, a look over the comments section of the Scotsman newspaper – especially when Yousaf is featured – is enough to make one’s blood run cold.
Think Islamaphobia just made up? This comes after I simply put up a pic of my family. Luckily more good ppl than bad https://t.co/pme0qNtDIg—
Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) May 13, 2016
Scottish unionism’s online commentariat swung into gear the moment Yousaf opened his mouth and said his parliamentary oath in Urdu, with many comments focussing mockingly on his “fancy dress.” Few of these people – remembering that they are real people – fail completely to see the glaring contradictions in the things they say.
An oft recited favourite of the unionist is the memory of what we have done together as a Union, conjuring up romantic scenes of the Empire upon which the sun never set. So when they tout this glory of empire rubbish they forget that many of the brown people they owned were Muslim and spoke Urdu. It wasn’t so much of a problem then. God never trusted the British Empire enough to let the sun set on it.
When our own Butterfly Rebellion keyboard warriors leapt into the fray they found themselves quickly bogged down with warnings of the coming “Islamification of Europe.” Good grief, if it’s not their chronic paranoia over their fictional Islamification it’s the even worse fear of Ulsterisation.
Few of them see the contradictions in what they are saying because racism, by definition, isn’t rational. So we have to ask: Why is racism so embedded in the unionist conversation? Well, for a start it has nothing to do with international terrorism; with what has happened in Paris or Brussels. If it were ever about the horror of war and its victims then they would be every bit as upset about what is happening in Damascus and Baghdad, but they’re not. In fact the Tories are still in favour of extending the very airstrikes which have been shown to be the cause of thousands of civilian deaths, and a significant factor in the ongoing refugee crisis.
No, the outrage has to be a selective outrage because it has to fit their racist narrative. David Cameron, a man from a family that profited from the British Empire’s slave trade and who talked down Jamaica’s request for compensation, can speak openly to Mrs. Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg and Gotha about “fantastically corrupt” former conquests of the British Empire; Afghanistan and Nigeria, without blushing over the global corruption of Britain and his own offshore wealth. This is of course how imperial thinking works – brown people are bad and white people (especially fabulously wealthy British people) are good.
Incidentally, this is also how our trickle down economy works. The economy of empire and its imagined superiority oozes down through the strata of unionist society, poisoning both the dominated fragment of the dominant class and the “lower orders.” British racism, the misguided pride in empire, and the mentality of unionism are inextricably linked. It is for this reason that Humza Yousaf and so many other successful British – and Scottish – Muslims cause unionists such anxiety (not to mention the less successful), they are a reminder that the brutality of their Empire failed.
Throughout the independence campaign of a couple of years ago the supporters of Better Together were relentless in their attempt to impress upon Scotland that this was a fight against the threat of “Nationalism” – a use of isms and ists that permitted them to cast Yes Scotland as a new Nazism. Sure, this tactic even made the headlines when the Glasgow rabbi Mendel Jacobs spoke of the Scottish Jewish communities’ fears of being trapped in an anti-Semitic independent Scotland. Weaponising antisemitism is a trick the Union has perfected.
All of this has come undone for the unionists, and this has happened because the independence movement was never about race or creed. It was only ever about Scotland and all the people who live here. Race and faith are hugely important issues, not because they pose a threat, but because racism and bigotry are still real problems in our society. Independence for Scotland is not simply the separation from Britain, Britishness, and the British Imperial mindset, but a real chance for us to liberate ourselves and our country from the narrowness that imperialism, unionism, and true nationalistic fantasies of superiority have foisted upon us.
The Butterfly Rebellion