#AskFabiani – is sectarianism ‘just banter’?

Question:

What is your position on sectarianism? Surely, it is just banter and the police should concentrate on other things?

Answer:

Like most sensible people, I deplore sectarianism. I agree with the sentiments expressed by visitors to my Facebook page, that this is a stain on Scottish society.

Most Scots live in religious and ethnically mixed communities. We tend to get on well with our neighbours of whatever colour, creed, or religious persuasion.

Indeed, many of us, me included, are from families that have roots in more than one ‘tradition’. As a Scottish nationalist – of Italian descent – I am proud of Scotland and want to help its people achieve all that they can.

However, sectarianism is not about something so positive as wanting to see a country – or a religious group – prosper.

Sectarianism , of which we have seen far too much in recent weeks is entirely negative. It is about doing another group down, presenting them as people of less worth than yourself and your group, turning them into ‘acceptable’ victims of verbal or written abuse (a more accurate term for much of what passes as ‘banter’), and even of violence.

I am a strong admirer of the work of the charity Nil by Mouth. This description of the background to the charity says all that needs to be said about why sectarianism has no place in Scottish society.

“Nil by Mouth was founded by Cara Henderson in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her school friend, Mark Scott, on a Glasgow street in 1995.

“Mark was killed on his way home from a football match in the city’s east end.

“He was murdered by a follower of a rival Glasgow football club.”

This story, and too many others like it, should kill off the notion that sectarianism is ‘just banter’. Crimes, such as the murder of Mark Scott, now go by the more honest name of hate crimes.

Adults who perpetuate such hatred, on both sides of the dominant religious divide in the West of Scotland, do a grave harm to their children and their communities.

While I am happy to engage with people from all of the traditions in East Kilbride, I will always challenge the view that sectarianism is ‘just banter’ and should be tolerated.

It will not be tolerated on my Facebook page, and those who insist on posting such messages will be blocked from posting again.

The police are quite right to target those individuals who promote sectarianism and to ensure that their message of hate is heard and responded to before another Mark Scott loses his life in an act of mindless violence.

Immediately after the election, I will be making contact with head teachers and others to discuss these issues, and how we can challenge the sectarian divisions that damage too many young lives in East Kilbride even today.

If you are interested in these issues, please do visit the Nil by Mouth website.

Linda Fabiani
April 2011

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