Scotland’s Islamic communities register their official Scottish Islamic Tartan

Launch of the official Scottish Islamic Tartan at Glasgow city chambers. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A timely and powerful symbol of the recognition by Scotland’s Islamic communities of their national identity has been registered on 29 June 2012 as official Scottish Islamic Tartan, set out in the Scottish Register of Tartans Act 2008. Registration Number 10644.

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The histories of Scotland and Islam reveal that the two great civilizations have made an immense contribution to humanity.

The visual weaving together of Scottish and Islamic cultural heritages brings a profound sense of historical continuity for future generations.

Just as the Scottish Enlightenment produced great thinkers whose ideas spread throughout the world as part of the Scottish diaspora, so too has Islamic scholarship brought enlightenment to the Western world. Medieval and Renaissance scholars established chairs of Arabic at Oxford and Cambridge Universities to study Arabic texts on mathematics, astronomy and medicine. In 1583, the University of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Medicine was founded on the model established at the University of Padua in the 16th century where the standard medical texts were Muslim scholar Avicenna’s The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine.

Recent studies show that Muslims in Scotland are more likely to identify themselves as Scottish than Muslims in England are to identify as English, suggesting that the Scottish education system and media are more fair-minded, egalitarian and enlightened than in England. This is something to celebrate and promote as communities with dual heritage seek to overcome religious intolerance and cultural discrimination. Scotland is thus in the vanguard for the creation of new citizens with a combined sensibility of nationality, religion and ethnicity.

This concept is further witness to the great shared traditions of Scottish enlightenment and Muslim scholarship that form an invisible bond for the two cultures. The Islamic Tartan is both a fitting symbol and a celebration of the contributions made to civilization by these two great cultures and intellectual traditions.

Scotland has welcomed immigrants from many countries over the centuries with Muslims coming to Scotland from the late 18th century onwards. The first settlers were sailors (lascars) from merchant ships which docked in Glasgow. Migrants continued to settle in Scotland with students, professionals, merchants and servants coming mainly from India, Pakistan, Yemen and Malaysia. After the Second World War, the Muslim migrant population grew substantially as Scotland offered a home to political and economic asylum seekers.

The Muslim Mission or Jamiat Ittehadul Muslimin was established in Glasgow in 1940 and since then Muslims in Scotland have become an increasingly influential part of society. The 2001 census estimated that 42,550 Muslims lived in Scotland and today the figure is likely to be around 75,000. The biggest proportion lives in Glasgow where the mosque built in 1983 is the largest in Scotland.

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  1. benjamin1968.webgarden.com June 1, 2015
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