Vigils across Scotland call for peace and religious tolerance

By Lewis McKenzie, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

Hundreds of people across Scotland have gathered at vigils to call for peace and religious tolerance following last week’s terrorist attack in New Zealand.

In an event organised by the Muslim Council of Scotland on Saturday, religious leaders joined with politicians, campaigners and members of the public in solidarity in the face of intolerance.

At a vigil held on Glasgow’s George Square, speakers included Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, SNP MP Alison Thewliss, Lord Provost Eva Bolander, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, Labour MSP Anas Sarwar and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.

Hundreds of people attended vigils calling for peace (Lewis McKenzie/PA)

In his speech, Mr Yousaf said that politicians and the media must help play a role in tackling intolerance in society.

“That attack didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Mr Yousaf said. “The political discourse, the media discourse on Islam, on Muslims, on minorities is adding a gallon of petrol on a fire that does not need to be there.

“So when Boris Johnson says that women in niqab look like bankrobbers, or letterboxes – Boris Johnson, shame on you because you’re the one that’s adding fuel to the fire.

“When politicians talk about swarms of immigrants, talk about villages and towns being swamped by immigrants, then you are part of the problem.

“When we have our media outlets – not all of the them, many of them good – but when we have some of our media outlets that will give platforms to the hate-mongers like Tommy Robinson or invite Nigel Farage who makes issues around immigration his central core, using inflammatory language, when they give him more time on Question Time than the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Labour put together, then I’m sorry, there’s a problem with our media outlets.”

Lord Provost Eva Bolander writes a message to be added a peace tree (Lewis McKenzie/PA)

Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar urged all people from different backgrounds to work together to root out all forms all hate and intolerance.

“I say to you all, please do not think this is someone else’s fight – this is your fight as well,” said Mr Sarwar.

“Do not leave the fight against Islamophobia to the Muslim community, it’s a fight for all of us.

“Don’t leave the fight against anti-Semitism to the Jewish community, it’s a fight for all of us.

“Don’t leave the fight against racism to our diverse minority-ethnic communities, it’s a fight for all of us.

“And also to the brothers in the room, don’t leave the fight against sexism to the sisters, it’s a fight for all of us.

“Only if we see it as our own fight, only if we build allies, only if we stand shoulder to shoulder with each other can we defeat the haters in the face of such prejudice.”