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“Despicable” Racist Attack on University Student in Scotland

“Despicable” Racist Attack on University Student in Scotland

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday December 30 2020

Earlier this month, a 22-year-old student was assaulted while outside the library of Edinburgh University in what the police described as a “despicable” racist attack. The unnamed student was subjected to violence and a barrage of racial slurs, with one attacker even attempting to hit him over the head with a glass bottle. In light of rising hate crime in Scotland, there has been substantial opposition to the hate crime bill, and, while there may be problems with the finer details of the bill, the importance and necessity of the bill, namely the need to protect victims and enhance equality, should not be dismissed.

An unnamed student was the target of a racist attack while eating outside the Edinburgh University library amid a long study shift. While the student was sat eating on the bench, a group of boys emerged and began circling and racially taunting him. As the student attempted to walk away, he was punched from behind, and the group started their physical assault. The student wrote on his Facebook page: “I heard one boy shout, ‘I’m going to f***ing kill you you f***ing c***k’ whilst another picked up one of the no-smoking signs as a weapon, and swung it at my head”. Shortly after the attack, the security guards on campus intervened, and the student was taken to the hospital to treat his injuries. As a result of the attack, the student said he now questions his overall safety as a person of colour on the University’s campus. Concerningly, however, this is not an isolated incident as hate crimes against minorities in Scotland is becoming all too familiar.

Indeed, there has been a rise in hate crime in Scotland over the last year. Figures released in June of this year by the Crown Office & Prosecutor Fiscal Service in Scotland showed how racial offences were the most commonly reported hate crime, with a total of 3,038 charges last year which equated to an increase of 4% on the previous year. Furthermore, the figures revealed that there was an increase of 24% in religiously aggravated hate crimes, indicating how religious and racial minorities are the most susceptible to the rising hate crime.

In a similar vein, statistics show that Islamophobia is rising in Scotland. The Cross-Party Group (CPG) on tackling Islamophobia found concerning issues, namely that 83% of Muslims had experienced Islamophobia in Scotland, and 79% of Muslims feel Islamophobia is intensifying in Scotland. Additionally, a ComRes poll commissioned by MEND in 2018 found that nearly half of all Scottish people felt that there was more negative discrimination against Muslims than people of other faiths. Moreover, a study conducted by academics from Newcastle University and the University of St Andrews found that young Muslims in Scotland identified active engagement with Scottish electoral politics as a core form of political participation, but that everyday experiences of Islamophobia and racism were a barrier to further engagement, with Islamophobia detrimentally impacting their confidence to play a more visible role in society.

Ultimately, it is evident that hate crime, particularly against ethnic and religious minorities in Scotland, has worryingly risen. Therefore, it is of crucial importance that there is legislation which effectively protects both ethnic and religious communities from already rising hate crime.

As such, while there are legitimate concerns regarding the precise wording of the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill, its importance and necessity cannot be overstated.

MEND thus urges members of the Scottish Parliament to support the work of the Justice Committee in reaffirming that:

  • This bill is a necessary piece of legislation for ensuring the equality of vulnerable communities.
  • Efforts to enhance this equality must follow a victim-centred approach to ensure that legislation and policies meaningfully represent the experiences of those they are designed to protect.
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