MP checks emails for Islamophobic abuse ‘which merits police awareness’

The SNP’s Anum Qaisar said she faces religious intolerance whenever she speaks in the chamber or on social media.

Anum Qaisar
Anum Qaisar

An MP has spoken of the Islamophobic social media abuse that awaits her each day once she leaves the Commons.

As MPs debated the importance of freedom of religion on the 40th anniversary of the UN declaration on the elimination of religious intolerance, SNP MP Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) said she faces religious intolerance when she speaks in the chamber or on social media.

She told MPs: “The reality is that whilst I have been speaking in this debate – and I have actually posted social media stuff today about Islamophobia and I have already had abuse – after this I will go online to check my social media, to check my emails, to see if anything merits police awareness.”

She cited a survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which found more than 70% of Muslims said they have experienced some form of abuse in the past year.

She added: “After Muslims we know that it is Jewish people that are most targeted with religious hate crimes with 19% impacting them, and the number of anti-Sikh hate crimes reported has increased by 70% between 2017 and 2020.”

But Ms Qaisar said the figures may not even be the full picture due to mistrust or a lack of faith in the authorities.

The SNP MP also spoke about her experience growing up in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, describing it as a memory she would “never forget” and which changed her life.

She said: “I was a practising Muslim, I was a little bit different from my peers: they had church on Sundays, I had Koran lessons.

“But that difference was never really known, but the next day I went to the school bus stop and I was asked if my parents were terrorists, I was told that my skin colour was dirty.

“But there’s other memories as well – my dad was racially profiled at airports, my mosque was petrol bombed just a couple of months after 9/11. This all happened in Scotland.”

Conservative former minister Steve Baker said he feels the UK has begun to “forget what it means to be tolerant”.

He added: “We have started to behave as if to be tolerant is to all agree on a consensus of what goes, but actually that is not right, to tolerate something is to put up with it despite profoundly disagreeing with it. In other words it is to live and let live, it is to agree to disagree.”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told MPs: “The UK has a duty and a drive to promote and defend equality, inclusion and respect both at home and abroad.

“I can assure this House that this will remain a foundation stone of UK foreign policy. The Government does not take that duty lightly.

“We are aware we continue to be a voice for the voiceless, defender of the rights of freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere.”

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