Today’s guest blog contribution is from Humza Yousaf, SNP Holyrood candidate for Glasgow. You can also find Humza on Twitter or Facebook.

Humza Yousaf

55 years ago this week America’s civil rights movement was catalysed by one granny who refused to be shoved aff the bus or even relegated to the back. The result of Rosa Park’s historic stance was not only the dismantling of many barriers between communities but began the formation of the melting pot, which in turn we have developed into modern-day multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism was once a concept we looked up to but it has now become one of the dirtiest words on the European continent. Just last month Chancellor Merkel pronounced it had ‘utterly failed’ when addressing her Christian Democratic Union colleagues. Funnily enough, she decided to keep quiet on that one while the country’s football team, made up of a part-Ghanaian defender, Polish striker and a midfield maestro of Turkish origin, went on to reach the semi-finals and come 3rd in this year’s World Cup.

Germany is not alone – observers of European affairs will note, with increasing anxiety, that an extreme right-wing, xenophobic tidal wave is sweeping across Western Europe, with Muslim populations particularly under the spotlight.

Belgium has become the first European country to implement a nationwide ban on the face veil worn by ‘at most’ 215 Muslim women in Belgium, according to the Belgian Institute of Equal Opportunities. It is difficult to comprehend why there is a furore spreading across Europe concerning this mundane black piece of cloth. It is, no doubt, a symptom of a much deeper malaise concerning the role of immigrants, their apparent refusal to integrate and the loss of ‘traditional values’.

With deep and severe cuts forthcoming, the debate regarding immigrants and the role they play in society will continue to rage on and worryingly may increase strain in already volatile communities. It is the very nature of the debate, which is centred on the identity and loyalty question, and how this is presented, which is fanning the flames of racial intolerance.

It was 20 years ago that Norman Tebbit declared the cricket test as an apt means of gauging a community’s loyalty to the state, many of us think that times have moved on – but in some cases Tebbit’s sentiments are more prevalent than ever.

We are a people obsessed with defining each other’s identities. Are you Muslim or are you Scottish? British or Pakistani? Such unhelpful categorisations ignore the reality of a multi-ethnic Scotland and UK, where identities are a lot more fluid and unrestricted. This is perhaps demonstrated if I take my own example. As an Asian Scot born in Glasgow to a father from Pakistan and a mother from Kenya, I went on to marry my wife, Gail, who is a White Scot born in England to an English father and Scottish mother. I would challenge anyone to accurately define the identity of any children we may have in the future. Will they be ¼ Scottish, ¼ Pakistani, ¼ English etc? Are we really happy to simply reduce people to fractions?

In the UK the debate about race equality and multiculturalism often finds itself manifest in the heartlands of middle England and, more often than not, is won and lost in London. However, little attention is given to Scotland’s multicultural landscape which has its own unique challenges and, more importantly, offers some of its own very fresh solutions.

While not being complacent about racism and intolerance in Scotland, we have to question why, time and time again, the BNP and Scottish Defence League have been rejected by Scots. I firmly believe that our notion of civic nationalism, as opposed to ethnic nationalism, creates an atmosphere of inclusiveness which makes us less hostile to one and other.

Whether it is the British National Party or France’s National Front, the concept of nationalism is being dragged through the mud until it resembles almost nothing of its true form. This is not helped by political posturing by some within the Holyrood bubble, where the word ‘Nationalist’ has been used (often derogatorily)  to describe only one political persuasion.

The late Bashir Ahmad, Scotland’s first Asian MSP and a man respected across the Scottish Parliament chamber, explained the concept of civic nationalism in the simplest and most concise manner:

‘It is not important where we have come from; it’s where we are going together, as a nation.’

Although most comfortably propagated by the SNP, they do not claim to have possession over civic nationalism. It is a concept which is interwoven in the fabric of our nation, we will all be familiar with the age-old saying that in Scotland ‘we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’.

This forward-thinking and progressive notion does not attempt to define people’s identity but rather, allows them to define themselves, if they feel it necessary. The result? Black and ethnic minorities living in Scotland are just as likely, in some cases more likely, to define themselves as Scottish than their white counterparts (see Hussain and Miller).

As a nation we have accepted that people can be Indian-Scots, Polish-Scots, Scots-Irish and not have to choose one over the other. Even our cuisine reflects this with cheese, chips and curry sauce mixing in perfect harmony to create a culinary delight to be found in any West of Scotland takeaway!

Civic nationalism is something we can all be proud of as Scots. We have moved away from obsessing over each other’s identities and instead focussed on how different communities can and do contribute to our society – we have, in essence, shifted the nature of the entire debate.

Perhaps Chancellor Merkel would care to turn her head towards Scotland’s direction and in doing so she may well hear the vibrant sound of bhangra and bagpipes – confirmation that, despite its challenges, multiculturalism is thriving and continuing to evolve.