16 February 2014
As grass-roots campaigning on the issue of Scottish independence is being stepped up in the Scottish Asian community, both the Yes and No camps are planning to put their case through street stalls, leafleting and a presence at multicultural festivals.
A poll by Scotland's leading Asian radio station has found nearly two-thirds of listeners are in favour of independence. The Awaz FM poll showed 64% of listeners would vote Yes, while 32% were against the idea of breaking up the United Kingdom.
Next month a debate on independence aimed mainly at young Muslims
, which will include a mock referendum vote, will also be held at the University of Strathclyde.
The event on 9 March is being organised by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), with the panel of speakers including Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar and the SNP's external affairs minister Humza Yousaf.
Organiser Anum Qaisar, student affairs representative for FOSIS Scotland, said: "It will be aimed at young Muslims, but it is going to be opened up to everyone as I do think it is such an important issue.
"I may be Muslim and I may have a Muslim background but I identify myself as a Scottish person and a member of the United Kingdom, and I think this is a very important decision that everyone does need to make an informed choice on."
Qaisar said she felt opinions among the Muslim community were currently split on the issue, but she would be voting against independence. She said: "For me, it is the basic concept that I think countries should be building bridges and not borders."
Many Asian women are making sure their voices are heard in the debate, including lawyer Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, an advisory board member for Yes Scotland and a representative for the group Scots Asians For Yes. She said she believed the independence vote was helping to engage women - particularly older members of the community - in politics.
"We are now third, fourth-generation Asian - we don't consider ourselves Asians living in Scotland, we consider ourselves Scottish Asians."
Ahmed-Sheikh said factors such as the "extreme right-wing rhetoric" from south of the Border were influencing attitudes towards independence.
She pointed to the example of a Home Office poster campaign last year which was branded xenophobic for telling people not eligible to stay in the UK to ask about "going home".
"These things have upset people and I don't think it is reflective of the type of Scotland in which we live at all," Ahmed-Sheikh said.
In the mid-2000s, it was reported that many Muslim voters who traditionally supported Labour had switched to the pro-independence Scottish national Party (SNP) as a protest against war in Iraq.
Judith Duffy and Imran Azam, "'I may be Muslim but I identify myself as Scottish'" Herald Scotland
February 16, 2013