CAIRO - Despite an overall reduction in racial and religious hate crimes, hate crimes against Muslims have shot up in Scotland over the past year, raising condemnations from government officials and anti-fascist groups.
"Any form of attack or discrimination based on the assumption of someone's religion, race or cultural background is completely unacceptable, Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham told The Herald Scotland.
"While the decrease in both racist and religiously aggravated offending are to be welcomed, it is concerning to note the rise in charges directed towards the Islamic community and towards those with disabilities.
Cunningham angry comments followed the release of the first annual statistics from the Offensive Behavior Act.
The reports showed an overall 15% reduction in offences involving religious hatred on the previous year.
But, the 2012/13 statistics showed a rise in anti-Islamic charges and those relating to disabled people, compared with 2011/12.
Charges where conduct was derogatory towards Islam totaled 80 in 2012/13 compared with just 19 the previous year.
The majority of these attacks, 57 incidents, were reported against the Scottish Defence League (SDL).
"It is encouraging to see a 12% drop in charges motivated by racial prejudice and a 15% reduction for criminality involving religious hatred, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said in comments on the reports.
There is no place for complacency and I hope the downward trend continues in the coming years.
The government officials reaffirmed their commitment to tackling racial and religious hatred and all forms of prejudice.
"Scotland is a country which does not tolerate racial or religious prejudice and we are a nation where people of all faiths and none can live in peace, Minister Cunningham said.
This is borne out by today's figures - we are not becoming more intolerant as a society, but we are becoming less tolerant of those who hold prejudiced beliefs.
"The firm action taken against the SDL and what appears to be increased reporting of crimes against people on the basis of disability or sexual orientation confirms that zero tolerance approach."
The new results were shocking to anti-racism groups which vowed to fight Islamophobia.
"We need serious work at community level and with trade unions to deal with the problem of the SDL venting their racist views in public - especially with recent events following the shocking murder of soldier Lee Ribgy and right-wing attempts to fan the flames of Islamophobia," Rob O'Donnell of Glasgow Hope not Hate told Morning Star newspaper.
Margaret Woods, GCWR [Gross combined weight rating] trade union coordinator, agreed.
"The drop in race crimes is welcome, no question about it, but fascists are targeting immigrants, she said.
We have serious concerns about the extent of Islamophobia and attempts to hold demos by the SDL."
Scotland is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, making up less than one percent of the population.
Muslims are the second largest religious group in Scotland, which has thirty mosques.
The Scottish Defence League (SDL) is an offshoot division of the anti-Islam, racist group English Defence League.
In 2009, the Sunday Herald revealed links between the SDL and the British National Party though both groups have publicly tried to distance themselves from each other.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net