Race relations in Scotland are under grave threat from the “perceived” disproportionate targeting of Muslim and Asian travelers in airport security checks, according to a new study.
The study by Durham University’s sociology department found that Muslims in Scotland broadly felt the nation to be a very welcoming place – except at airport security. The paper describes a widespread belief among the Islamic population that they are somehow under attack when flying.
Airports are the “main area of concern for Scottish Muslims, whose confidence, sense of equality and feelings of belonging to society are severely undermined by the securitization of their ethno-religious difference,” the paper warns.
The paper also acknowledges, however, that “publicly available statistics show a decrease in racist incidents in Scotland,” with a 14 per cent fall in recorded incidents in the country over a single 12 month period between 2011 and 2013.
Despite taking the anecdotal claims of anti-Muslim prejudice at face value, the paper approaches these statistical facts with more caution: “Whether myth or reality the perception of Scotland, and particularly Edinburgh, as a tolerant, friendly and inclusive place characterised a number of responses,” the study reads.
It speculates however, contrary to the evidence, that there is a “complex situation in which prejudice and discrimination intermingle in ways that make it hard to quantify the precise extent of anti-Muslim sentiment.”
The study said that most Muslims had, or knew someone who had, “perceived disproportionate targeting or harsh treatment” in a Scottish airports. It referred specifically to public meetings where Muslim men expressed anger about their “perceived” unfair treatment, and some who alleged harassment.
“For the most part,” the study said, “respondents argued that this was the result of the ethnic and religious profiling that the police and security officers allegedly use to target people of seemingly Muslim appearance.”
Stefano Bonino, of Durham University’s school of applied social science, told the Herald Scotland that their finding suggest airports have become a sort of physical embodiment of “perceived” anti-Muslim bigotry, and the use of Anti-Terror laws, “has resulted in Asian men feeling as though the perception of them as inherently suspicious has become normalized,” he claimed.
Before 9/11, airports were rather more relaxed places for everyone. Checks rarely involved more than a quick stroll through a metal detector, and in nations such as Finland and Sweden they were non-existent or random.
Since the rise of global Islamic terrorism, everyone, across the world, must now suffer up to four or five hours of vigorous checks including the removal of shoes and belts and the thorough scanning of all private baggage.
Trust western academics, then, to portray Muslims as the ultimate victims, without any non-anecdotal evidence of discrimination, in a nation they acknowledge as being kind, welcoming, and tolerant.
“This presents a serious challenge… negative interactions between authorities and ethnic minorities risk undermining a Scottish project of local pluralism and diversity,” the study says.
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport told the Herald: “We work hard to make sure that all of its passengers have a good experience when travelling through Edinburgh Airport.
“Diversity training is a core part of security officer training to ensure all are treated with respect and understanding.
“Local imams and leaders of the Muslim community have visited the airport to view our security processes and discuss any concerns as part of an ongoing dialogue in improving our service for all.”