New Delhi, April 6: Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s new and also its youngest First Minister wears a crown of thorns.
Among his top challenges are to push forward his party’s long-lingering mandate for Scottish independence from Britain; bridging the gap between his Islamic faith and liberal values and also explain his rant to the Scottish people about Scotland being “too white”. He also has to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills.
Many have perceived Yousaf’s ‘Scotland being too white’ comment as racist. Others see it as a threat to the local Scots.
Adit Kothari, London-based consultant and a keen observer of diaspora politics in the UK told India Narrative: “There are frequent questions being raised about his dual Pakistani heritage and his opinion about Scotland being “too white”. Also, a general consensus among the Scottish people about Yousaf is that of uncertainty, confusion and uneasiness”.
Ironically, Yousaf is under pressure from the hardliners among his own faith who do not find him ‘Muslim enough’. This is when he has already declared himself a “proud Muslim” and has vented his feelings about too many white people in Scotland. The first flush photographs showing Yousaf praying in Bute House – the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, with a band of boys should win approval of the Muslims. But it has not.
Why are many Muslims opposing Yousaf instead of celebrating his rise within the Scottish National Party (SNP) and as a Muslim leader running Scotland?
For many Muslims in the UK, and now in Scotland, Yousaf’s liberal views about same-sex marriage, being pro-LGBTQ and support for abortion go against Islam. Many fear that his talk about being inclusive and tolerant of other faiths can harm the ideology of Islam in the multi-cultural and all-embracing British society. Other Muslims feel that such views emanating from one of the top political Muslim leaders may harm the concept of ‘da’wah’- which means calling people to embrace Islam, or in simple words, converting people to Islam.
Yousaf’s rise to the top of Scottish politics has come at a time when the British society has been battling the rise of the imported ideology of blasphemy cases and radical threats to the lives of school children, their families and even school teachers, many of whom had to undergo hiding to save themselves from physical attacks by extremist Muslims.
While some of the Muslims are not too happy with Yousaf’s liberal views, the photographs from Bute House have raised eyebrows among the local populace as well. Many Scots are asking if a similar photograph with a Christian prayer meeting in the official residence would have been acceptable (to the Left media and liberal people). A section of the people have questioned Yousaf about the all-male photograph.
Yousaf will have to walk the tightrope in his efforts to bridge the divide between a growing tide of radical Muslims and a secular liberal society.
Besides the faith challenges, he has to battle a governance track record which does not look upon him too kindly. Despite Yousaf’s considerable experience, people have questioned his efficiency in handling these departments.
Kothari says: “While he has received immense support from key members of the SNP, the people of Scotland have questioned his delivery record when he was transport minister, health secretary and justice secretary. His failures to mitigate the ferry challenges (an incomplete ferry project) has been questioned often in addition to the NHS backlogs during his stint as the health secretary.”
As the transport minister, Yousaf has been ridiculed for being caught while driving without insurance.
Yousaf’s first week in office has already brought an avalanche of criticism for appointing one of the largest cabinets when the Scots are battling the cost-of-living crisis coupled with high energy bills. The icing on the cabinet cake, however, has been the appointment of a ‘minister for independence’ whose task presumably is to fight for Scottish independence.
The ‘minister for independence’ was appointed after Yousaf’s request to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeking a referendum for Scotland was turned down. Instead, Sunak is reported to have said that the people of Scotland and the UK want their politicians to focus on issues that matter – inflation, cost of living, hospital backlogs.
If this wasn’t a polite enough snub from Sunak, celebrity author JK Rowling was ready with her epitaph for Yousaf-that the new SNP leader “will disappear through the ice”.
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Caught between the devil and the deep sea, Scotland’s Humza Yousaf heads into a perfect storm