Sectarianism - a Scottish issue?
Sectarianism has been described as Scotland's shame. Sectarianism in Scotland was first called 'Scotland's shame' by James MacMillan in a lecture he gave at the Edinburgh International Festival in august 1999. Since then, Tom Devine has published a book called Scotland's Shame (2000) which is a collection of essays on bigotry and sectarianism in modern Scotland.
Many people believe that sectarianism is only a problem in the west of Scotland and that it is confined to Catholic and Protestant rivalries. Whilst this is perhaps the most visible form of sectarianism in Scotland, sectarianism and religious intolerance manifest themselves across Scotland. For example, the sectarian chants or name-calling often heard during football matches occur in stadiums throughout Scotland, not just those on the West or Central Belt. The fire-bombing of a mosque in Edinburgh in 2001and the smashing of the windows of Langside Hebrew Congregation in Glasgow in 2002 are forms of religious intolerance in Scotland unrelated to football.
Global events also impact on the local nature and pattern of sectarianism and religious intolerance. The attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001, the war in Iraq since 2003, and the nature of some media coverage has raised tensions and increased religious intolerance and bigotry. This intolerance has shown itself not just through targeted attacks, particularly on Islamic places of worship but also on Asian shopkeepers and women in Muslim dress who have been subjected to a greater level of racial and sectarian abuse. The Commission for British Muslims and Islamophobia published a report in June 2004 Islamophobia: issues, challenges and action. outlining the scale of issues in Britain.
While those who live outwith the Central Belt might assert that sectarianism of the Catholic and Protestant variety is rare, even unknown in their areas, (Styles 2000) the focus groups of young people involved in this project indicated that issues of religious intolerance, whether Islamophobia or secular intolerance of religious groups, exist.
A main focus of the next update of this resource will examine issues of sectarianism in other faiths as well as exploring Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism in the Scottish context.
What needs to be acknowledged is that the history of sectarianism in areas outwith the Central Belt, particularly in the North-east and Highlands is different. These areas were less affected by the Reformation of the sixteenth century and by the immigration which followed the great famine in Ireland. However, by the nineteenth century, the Highlands had become as deeply affected by sectarianism, largely between denominations of the Free Church. Therefore, it would be erroneous to conclude that sectarianism was larely an issue in the West of Scotland. While sectarianism is essentially not about where you live, location and the histories of those locations can often play a big part in its perpetuation. Sectarianism is not just about violence, it is about how you perceive and treat others based on their faith, belief or secular backgrounds.
As can be seen from the census data people of many different religions and beliefs live throughout Scotland, thus there is the potential for sectarianism and religious intolerance to occur anywhere in Scotland. Furthermore, just as it is important for everyone in Scotland to be aware of racism and the need to challenge it, it is equally important for everyone in Scotland to tackle the abuses which arise from sectarianism and religious intolerance. With national and international job mobility, there is an increasing need for all of us to become more comfortable with multifaith/belief issues. Anti-sectarian education, which is what this website is about will help to raise awareness about forms of sectarianism and religious intolerance and provide ideas on how to challenge such prejudices and discrimination.
It is important not to confuse anti-sectarian education and the existence of sectarianism. Anti-sectarian education is part of good educational practice. Anti-sectarian education should form part of the way education is delivered, regardless of the diversity of faiths/beliefs in an area or whether there is evidence of sectarian discrimination, harassment or violence.
Too often it is only the obvious forms of sectarianism such as verbal abuse, chants and physical attacks that are reported in the media. The absence of such open and abusive behaviour lead many people to assume that sectarianism or religious intolerance does not exist or is not an issue in their area.
The Scottish Executive and Parliament have made a clear commitment to tackling religious intolerance. They state clearly that religious intolerance of any form is not acceptable in a confident, modern, multifaith and multicultural Scotland.
The Church of Scotland signified the seriousness of its role in eliminating sectarianism by initiating the setting up of the Cross-Party Working Group on Religious Hatred along with the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
In December 2002, the First Minister Jack McConnell MSP launched the report of the Cross-Party Working Group on Religious Hatred, This report made twelve recommendations for tackling religious intolerance in Scotland.
The full report can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/society/trhr.pdf
In May 2003, the Scottish Executive published Partnership for a Better Scotland which records the commitment made by the Government to tackling sectarianism and to implementing the recommendations of the Working Group. An update to this commitment was published in July 2004, Update on the Recommendations of the Cross-Party Working Group on Religious Hatred .
Perspectives on sectarianism in Scotland
There are many points of view about the nature and existence of sectarianism in Scotland. Much of what has been written has focused on analysing the anti-Catholic form of sectarianism. Very little has been written about anti-Protestant sectarianism or sectarianism within other faiths.
Both anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant prejudice exists in Scotland. The hurt and discrimination felt by individual Protestants and Catholics who are on the receiving end of prejudice, harassment, bigotry and violence must not be denied. However, Finn (2003: 904) argues that the history of each form of prejudice is not identical.
For those who have never experienced the realities of sectarianism, another way to consider this is to reflect upon an issue like 'race' which has perhaps been more openly discussed because of the existence of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. Racist comments directed at minority ethnic or majority ethnic peoples will hurt and scar the individuals concerned. However, the origins of anti-white and anti-black prejudices are different and have to be analysed through an understanding of colonialism and imperialism. To fail to do so would be to misunderstand the origins and dynamics of racism and its contribution to present day racial prejudices and tensions.
Equally, individuals regardless of their denomination (e.g. Protestant or Catholic) will experience hurt, abuse and discrimination if they are targets of sectarianism. The feelings of individuals who are subject to sectarianism should not be undermined. However, the root causes of anti-Catholic sectarianism within Scotland must be examined within an analysis of the impact of Reformation, the history of colonialism, imperialism and racism within Scotland towards the Irish.
Reilly (2000: 30) suggests of anti-Catholic sectarianism that there are three routine responses:
Bruce and his colleagues assert that sectarianism is much exaggerated today. They believe that Scottish Catholics for example now enjoy social, political and economic parity with non-Catholics. They base this view on statistical evidence that the number of Catholic or Protestant people in employment, particularly in senior positions, is not disproportionate to the relevant proportions in the population as a whole.
Statistics might indicate that there is less discrimination but what they cannot measure are the nuances and the ethos of situations and relationships. Bhikhu Parekh pointed out on matters of colour and race, 'One might enjoy all the rights of citizenship and be a formally equal member of the community, and yet feel an outsider who does not belong'. This statement suggests there are also unspoken, covert forms of discrimination, often unquantifiable, that have to be analysed.
Colum Conway, Director of Services of Northern Ireland Pre-school Playgroup Association (NIPPA) states in an interview with the authors of this section on 25 May 2004:
With the Fair Employment Act and the arrival of inward investment, there has been a surface change. It has shifted what everything looks like, but it does not necessarily mean it has shifted the underlying attitudes.
Very little has been published about anti-Protestant prejudice: anti-Protestant prejudices and stereotypes occur but remain anecdotal. This is an area that requires further research and debate. Too often in discussions about sectarianism, it is the extreme and militant arms of the Protestant movement that are cited and remembered: John Cormack (1894-1978) of Edinburgh who started the Protestant Action Society (PAS) and campaigned politically on a 'No Popery' platform; the Reverend John White of the Church of Scotland who wrote the now infamous publication The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality; and Reverend Jack Glass, an extremist Presbyterian minister.
It is often forgotten that many Protestants did not support the demonisation of the Irish, either as an ethnic group or for their religion. Many Protestants saw Irish immigration as a strengthening of Scotland's Celtic identity. Bruce et al (2004: 45) state that 'the campaign against the Irish had only limited political support'. Yet such candidates were returned in council elections in Glasgow and Edinburgh during the 1930s.
Equally, there was also anti-Protestant violence. Bruce et al (2004: 22) record sectarian violence against Protestants in the Cumbria area in the late nineteenth century and also describe how the media used derogatory and offensive language to describe both poor working-class Catholics as well as poor working-class Protestants.
Finn (2003: 904-905) reminds us of the need to be analytical and not succumb to simplification. If there is to be genuine diversity and pluralism, it is important that any discussion of sectarianism does not demonise or negate one group.
Anti-Catholic prejudice did and does exists but so does anti-Protestant prejudice. The root causes and the extent of both may be different but in order to progress, education can open up possibilities for coherent dialogue amongst young people and encourage them to come to an understanding about the various conflicts from a range of perspectives.
Education must allow for comparisons and contrasts to be made between different prejudices without fear of those that speak openly being labelled as bigots. Education should allow for distinction of identity, culture, tradition and values to be explored and celebrated as positive signs of a diverse society.
Roots of sectarianism in Scotland
It is difficult to know exactly when sectarianism or religious intolerance took root in Scotland. However, some suggest that the seeds of sectarianism in Scotland, specifically anti-Catholic sectarianism were planted in the 16th Century when the Reformation took place. In Scotland, the Reformation was radical and wide-ranging, fought out through two centuries of conflict until the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and Calvinist principles of work and politics dominated. The Reformation was far more popular in Scotland than in England. There were variations across Scotland with differences between the Highlands and Lowlands, the Highlands and the North-east of Scotland being more resistant to change. Over time, these differences were eroded as the Highlands and the North became more dependent on the Lowlands for jobs and economic development. The Catholic Church was consigned to the margins, surviving only in the Highlands and some islands. Murray (2000) writing in The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland pointed out that:
There are few countries where the Protestant Reformation was more complete than in Scotland. There every sign, sound and sight of Popery was removed.
Murray also provided data that:
Though Scotland may have been firmly Protestant, it was prone to bitter inter-denominational strife within Protestanism. The Protestant Reformation of 1560 had itself resulted from dispute about the authority of Rome. In the late 16th century, the authority of the King and the hierarchy of bishops was challenged, resulting, ultimately, in the 1690 division between the established Church of Scotland and the dis-established Episcopal Church of Scotland. In the 18th century, there was further dissent, leading to the creation of the Secession Church. Then, in 1843, following years of conflict about whether congregations had the right to appoint their own ministers, 190 clergy walked out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church of Scotland and 474 ministers (one third of the total) set up churches supported by grass roots members.
The years when the Protestants of Scotland were more seriously divided than ever before was the very time when a wave of immigrants arrived from Ireland.
Today, aspects of Church and state remain connected. A clear example of the legacy of the Reformation is the rule (through the Act of Settlement 1701) that all monarchs of the United Kingdom must be Protestant, vow to uphold Protestantism and are forbidden to marry Catholics or people associated with Catholics. (This has now been reviewed to forbid marriage to people of other faiths.)
To understand sectarianism and religious intolerance, it is important to understand how a particular religion, sect, denomination or belief can become 'demonised' and seen as both problematic and threatening. Efforts are then made to contain these problems, to eliminate them and if possible to remove the threat they are seen to pose. Such perspectives were used to justify severe forms of discrimination and/or exclusion.
With immigration, secularisation and inter-marriages, Scotland has gradually become the multifaith and multicultural country which it is today. The One Scotland Many Cultures project developed by the Scottish Executive records and explores the historical and contemporary examples of diversity in Scotland.
With the inauguration of the Scottish Parliament, there has been greater recognition and acceptance of people of other religions including those who do not adhere to any faith. For example, the 'Time for Reflection' in Parliament has been given by leaders and key people from a range of religious and belief backgrounds and those of no faith, e.g. humanists.
The Church of Scotland has now apologised for the views and stances taken by earlier members such as the Reverend John White. Reverend White was by no means the only one with those views, though he was the most notable in the early twentieth century.
In 2002 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland issued the following statement:
The General Assembly:
Regret any part played in sectarianism by our Church in the past and affirm our support for future moves toward a more tolerant society.
Recognise that sectarianism is not someone else's problem, commend the report to the Church for study and encourage congregations to set up local working groups to look at the issue within their own communities.
Instruct the Church and Nation Committee to set up the working group* recommended in the Report, and to seek to do this in partnership with the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
Commend the Nil by Mouth Charter to congregations and individual Church members.
Commend all those who seek to combat sectarianism in Scotland today.
The working group referred to in the report was to be a working group set up jointly with the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
Scotland has long been a nation of diverse peoples. In the early years of Scotland as a nation, Scotland was populated by various ethnic groups, including the Celts, Britons, Angles, Saxons, Picts, Vikings and Normans.
The early Scots came to Scotland from Ireland and settled first on the west coast, in the kingdom then known as Dalriada. St Columba came from Ireland to Scotland while it is said that Scotland gave St Patrick to Ireland. From here the nation of Scotland grew to what we know today. In the process the foundations for Irish-Scottish migration were laid. In Scotland today, people of Irish descent are the single largest minority ethnic grouping and Catholics, mostly of Irish descent, comprise the largest faith minority.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, things began to change. Due to poverty and famine (1845-9), there was a mass exodus from Ireland across the Atlantic, to England and to Scotland.
Tom Devine (1999: 502) states that the Irish Protestant migration to Glasgow was predominantly from the northern counties of Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Armagh, and the Catholic migration was from Donegal and Cavan which are now part of the Republic of Ireland. The majority of the Irish immigrants from the early wave of migration were Catholics from Donegal. Many were poor, ill-educated and lacked industrial skills. Several decades later, a significant number of Protestant Irish came from the Belfast area, specifically to boost the production of shipbuilding in the Clyde.
Most of the Irish that came to Scotland settled in the West though other areas had significant settlements, e.g. Dundee. They provided much needed labour to build road and railways connecting Scottish towns and cities but also connections to the South. The 'Irish navvy' was a valuable, if not always valued, resource.
Irish immigration had changed from a seasonal agricultural trend to growing numbers of labourers who settled into the urban centres where the industrial revolution was gathering pace. 'Concentrated on the bottom rungs of the occupational ladder and huddled into their cramped quarters … the Irish constituted "the most abject part of the population, prepared to tolerate a lower standard of life than all but the very poorest"' (Gallagher 1987: 12). The common practice of word-of-mouth recruiting ensured that jobs were passed within families that were already established and known to each other. Discrimination against the Irish of Catholic affiliation as 'aliens' was practised by employers and by the craft associations that controlled the apprenticeships that led to better paid, skilled work. As a result the Protestant Irish, estimated to have been at least 25% of the immigrants into Scotland, fared better, achieving close social and cultural ties within the majority population.
By 1904, Scotland's mines, furnaces, ironworks, shipyards, docks and mills were expanding at great speed in order to meet the demands of the British Empire and Glasgow was the 'second city of the Empire'. Scotland's cities were a magnet for casual manual and skilled workers as thousands of immigrants from the Highlands, Lowlands and Ireland crowded into any available housing and sought any available form of employment. Fortunes were made by industrialists and merchants, but times were hard and harsh for the majority of the population. Poverty and illness took their toll on men, women and children who worked in dangerous conditions and lived in slums that were unsafe and unsanitary.
Later, more immigrants arrived and found work in the coalmines and they settled where coalmining was the local industry. Alongside coalmines were the ironworks and steelworks. The ironworks and steelworks paid better but were worked by local people who were largely Protestant, a consequence of historical factors such as the Reformation. Two faith traditions now lived alongside each other but as Devine (2000:101) puts it they were 'socially separated as well as religiously divided' not to mention economically disparate.
The immigration of Irish people has to be understood within its historical context. Centuries of religious rivalry and warfare were, in the 19th century, compounded by economic turmoil and social unrest; religion, ethnicity and race were becoming intermingled.
Scots have long been active in action to eliminate Catholicism. So much so that in the 17th century, James VI and I authorised Scottish Presbyterian emigration to the Ulster Plantation in order to complete the subjugation of the last of the Gaelic Catholic clans. In 1641 many of the Ulster Scots settlers were killed in a revolt by the Irish. The ties between embattled Presbyterians in Ulster and Scotland were to remain close, especially after the victories of the Apprentice Boys in Derry (1689) and of the army led by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne (1690).
In 1795, the Orange Order was founded in Armagh to defend Protestants against the Catholic movement that was rising again in the region. The Orange Order spread quickly and Orangemen helped to crush the 1798 United Irishmen Rebellion, paving the way for the Established (Episcopalian) Church of Ireland to strengthen its hold. However, it would also be important to note that many radical Protestants took part in the United Irishmen and the rebellion. More generally, that strand of Protestantism that came to be associated with radical Liberalism and then socialism remained strong in Scotland. Ulster Presbyterians who were strongly opposed to this new regime fled back to Scotland.
United in the face of adversity
With the onset of World War I in 1914, there was a major intervention into the lives of thousands of Scots as men were mobilised into the armed forces. The grandsons of the Catholic Irish immigrants joined the Scottish regiments and fought alongside their Protestant neighbours
'Your country needs you'; with these words General Kitchener summoned a generation of young Glaswegians to offer themselves for military service against the might of the Kaiser's armies. In common with their colleagues from all over the country, Glasgow's youth were caught up in a wave of patriotic fervour and rallied to the flag. The Highland Light infantry, or HLI, was Glasgow's regiment. Young men from very different backgrounds suddenly found themselves forced together to face a common enemy. The sectarian tensions which had already begun to cool before the war seemed unimportant as solidarity replaced bigotry on the front line (Conti, www.theglasgowstory.com)
Sectarianism and racism
Irish immigrants to Scotland experienced various levels of antagonism from the local Scottish population. Some of this antagonism was due to racism and xenophobia towards incomers who were perceived to be less equal and a threat to local harmony and jobs. However, another form of antagonism was due to the reaction of Protestant Scots who demonstrated their anti-Catholic sentiments. Irish Catholic immigrants were faced with double discrimination, based on religion and ethnicity. Some Irish Catholics internalised the racism they were encountering and the phrase 'Sandy reaps what Paddy sows' exemplifies this reaction.
Sometimes these issues played off one another to provide justification for continued discrimination. For example, Finn (2003) suggests that Irish immigration was perceived as a problem with social class, ethnic and religious dimensions. The Catholic Irish were judged then to be from a different ethnic community and were subjected to racism. Their racial inferiority and alien status were confirmed by their adherence to Catholicism.
There were reasons why Irish Catholic migrants were viewed as 'aliens'. The height of the Empire was the time when 'racism', as we now know it, was rife in all sections of Scottish society. All the people subjugated by the British, whether in Africa, India or the Caribbean, were viewed as inferior subjects, and some Scottish intellectuals, theologians and preachers spoke and wrote freely about their 'civilising mission' and sought to eradicate all other forms of belief and custom. The Irish, in particular, were viewed as outstandingly troublesome and unworthy of respect. After all, their subjugation had been essential to the cause of establishing the Protestant ascendancy that eradicated Catholics and Jacobites from Scotland and took Scottish soldiers into Ireland to establish the rule of William of Orange. Irish resistance to rule by the British authorities was never eradicated and there were many rebellions that had to be quelled by Protestant settlers and their militia.
Another factor in anti-Irish feeling was that cheap Irish labour was often used by employers to undermine labour conditions and Irish immigrants were also used to break strikes. For example, the bitterness still remembered today in some villages in the west of Scotland can be traced back to the use of Irish 'scabs' (strike breakers) to break a local mining strike in the 19th century.
However, there was some positive welcome from Scots, e.g. churches working together in the Temperance movement and the common cause forged between workers within the labour movement. The contribution of the Labour movement for overcoming sectarian divisions was critical in providing routes to full citizenship, to power locally and later nationally as a means by which dilemmas and tensions were addressed at local levels. It was also the route by which ideas of emancipation came to be accepted in both Protestant and Catholic communities alike.
Irish Protestant immigrants were generally less affected and, unfortunately, some contributed to the anti-Catholic sentiments by importing their hatred of Catholicism as a result of the political situation in the North of Ireland.
The Church of Scotland records with great regret that their Church and Nation Committee campaigned vigorously against Irish immigration into Scotland, particularly after the Great Depression. They cite in their publication The Demon in Our Society Sectarianism in Scotland (2002) Church of Scotland reports and letters during the period of 1926-34 which today make disturbing reading:
'A law-abiding thrifty and industrious race (the Scots) is being supplanted by immigrants whose presence tends to lower the social conditions, and to undermine that sprit of independence which has so long been a characteristic of the Scottish people, and we are of opinion that, in justice to our own people, steps should be taken to prevent the situation becoming worse.'
It is useful to remember in 2004 this distinction, and to consider that within the current forms of 'joking', abuse and bigotry, there may be racism as well as sectarianism and religious intolerance.
Football and sectarianism
In Northern Ireland (and Ireland in general) sport is often proclaimed as being above politics and communal conflict. It has been demonstrated that this claim needs substantial revision, but many still hope that sporting contact will help bring the two different ethno-political communities together. By contrast football in Scotland, especially matches involving Celtic and Rangers, is believed by some to keep people apart, or by others to provide a cathartic outlet, which restricts inter-group conflict to the football grounds and allows Catholic and Protestant Scots to come together outside. Finn (1994: 33)
However, sport does not operate in a vacuum. At times, sport becomes entangled with social and political issues, e.g. apartheid in sport, boycotts of sporting events due to political events or issues.
In Scotland, sectarianism in sport is mainly perceived to be a football-related issue, largely between Rangers and Celtic football clubs. However, other clubs are often ascribed allegiances, e.g. Heart of Midlothian are perceived by some to be the Protestant team in Edinburgh and Hibernian as the Catholic team in Edinburgh, and similar ascribed allegiances are associated with Dundee United and Dundee. Some also try to attribute such descriptions to rivalries in England, e.g. Liverpool and Everton.
It is true to say that sectarian incidents which occur in football settings, e.g. at or outside matches, are very visible. Yet whilst football can provide an avenue for sectarianism or religious intolerance, football or football rivalry are not in themselves sectarian.
When football first started in Scotland, many clubs emerged from existing social organisations including many Protestant organisations. For example, the first club in Scotland, Queen's Park, was associated with the Young Mens' Christian Association (YMCA). Other teams were associated with the local church. Similarly the Catholic Young Men's Society supported the foundation of Hibernian FC (Hibs) in Edinburgh and Harp in Dundee.
Finn (1994) suggests that, 'the motivations behind the formation of [Catholic Irish-Scots] clubs were complex. Certainly there was a sense of protection to be gained from having clubs that were within the Irish-Scottish community, especially as many of the clubs of the majority were not exactly welcoming to members from the minority. But the Irish-Scots also saw that through sporting exchanges social prejudices could be broken down … Success by Irish-Scottish clubs would win the respect of the Protestant Scottish majority.'
Celtic FC was one such club.Their stated aims included putting the gate money to charitable use to alleviate poverty amongst the Irish-Scots community in Glasgow. The name Celtic referred to the shared Celtic heritage of the Scottish and Irish communities and Celtic's first strip displayed a Celtic cross emblem. Other clubs also had a reference to this heritage as part of their team identity, e.g. the colour of strip or the incorporation of the harp in their logo. Dundee Harp no longer exist and Hibernian have dropped the harp from their logo, however, both Hibs and Celtic continue to play in green strips. These colours themselves are sometimes cited as a prompt for sectarianism, however, it is not the colour but what is associated with it which can lead to sectarian behaviour.
In Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic) colours can be a very emotive issue, with certain colours being perceived to be related to one or other side of the political and religious sectarian divide. In Scotland the perception of these colours has to some extent been imported from Ireland, despite the fact that the political divide does not actually exist and the religious divide is much less obvious.
Whilst many clubs in Scotland started with links to religious associations, for most clubs these links have lapsed over time, although the associations are still known. For example, Celtic saw itself as a Scottish club with Irish roots and Rangers saw itself as a Scots Protestant club. Celtic as a club has had for a long time a recruitment policy which was open to all but Celtic, whilst being open to players of all persuasions, has always been proud of its Irish connections, for example, the Irish tricolour is flown on match days at its stadium leading to the perception that it is a 'Catholic Irish club'. Rangers, with a Protestant-only recruitment policy until near the end of the 20th Century, was perceived by itself and others to be a 'Scots Protestant club'.
Yet there are many supporters of Celtic who are not Catholics and there are many supporters of Rangers who are not Protestant. Indeed. both clubs have substantial groups of supporters drawn from the City's Muslim communities and many supporters of both clubs do not practise a faith at all.
Sectarian incidents do occur in the context of football, and in particular in the context of 'Old Firm' (Celtic v. Rangers) matches. This can range from chants and songs to the use of flags (including those of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland), to violence, all of which are perceived to be or are sectarian. How many of these incidents are actually motivated by religious intolerance and how many are fuelled by alcohol, violent tendencies or social lack of cohesion? Forms of nationalism also need to be explored here, e.g. at a football match some fans will bring along national flags and there may be a preponderance of Union flags and tricolours. These flags can be perceived to be sectarian though that is not necessarily acurate. The issue of flags is used (or misappropriated) and intertwined with issues of identity, and nationalism forms part of the analysis of discussions around sectarianism in Scotland.
There have been a number of requests for Celtic and Rangers to take measures to tackle sectarianism within the clubs, their grounds and among their supporters. Responses have ranged from reprimanding people found to be saying sectarian things within the grounds to people who are convicted of sectarian violence having their season tickets withdrawn. There have also been measures taken by Glasgow City Council to prevent street traders outside the stadiums where Celtic and Rangers play from selling goods which might be perceived to be sectarian, e.g. flags.
Both Celtic and Rangers have education programmes to combat sectarianism.
Celtic's Social Charter declares that:
The best that Celtic stands for is an inclusive organisation being open to all regardless of age, sex, race, religion or disability.
This is further reinforced by the claim that Celtic will 'act against racism or sectarianism in any form and will not tolerate actions and language that seek to promote racism and sectarianism.
Rangers appeals to supporters and players to adhere to the motto of the club: 'Ready'.
Ready to: oppose bigotry, racism and inappropriate behaviour arising from all forms of prejudice. Ready to reject emblems of an offensive, racist or paramilitary nature, whether on flags, banners or clothing. Ready to sing traditional songs which glorify the history of the club, rejecting obscene or bigoted words which cause offence.
Rangers have also been active in removing season ticket books from supporters for unacceptable behaviour, especially for racist comments.
Enforcement of these policies can be difficult on the stands. However, the clubs have consistently sent strong messages that sectarianism is not acceptable and this should impact on the supporters. There is evidence of limited success whereby sectarian songs and chants have been heard less at home games and tend now only to be heard at Old Firm away fixtures, where cameras are unable to pick out offenders and the identification of offenders is more difficult.
Marches and parades
There are a number of organisations in Scotland which are alleged to be or are seen to perpetuate sectarianism. Two such organisations are the Orange Order and the Order of Hibernian.
The Orange Order
The Orange Order state that they 'are an organisation of people bonded together to promote the great ideals of Protestantism and Liberty.' They state that they exist to:
Others believe that the Orange Order perpetuate sectarianism, particularly since they hold marches whose routes often go past Catholic churches or through areas where many Catholics live. This can often lead to verbal and sometimes physical abuse between those participating in the march (or those who are seen to be participating) and on-lookers. At times this can lead to violence.
The Orange Order maintain that they are peaceful and that the incidents which occur are caused by people who follow the march but are not members of the Order. These 'hangers-on' are sent to march with the aim of causing trouble, The Orange Order maintain that it is their right to march and that their marches are along traditional routes.
This right to march is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights provided it is carried out responsibly. This means marches can be limited where necessary and proportionate action taken where required, e.g. if trouble at a march is likely then it could be cancelled or re-routed.
The Order of Hibernian
The Ancient Order of Hibernian is suggested as the Catholic equivalent of the Orange Order. It also takes part in marches, although these are far fewer in number in Scotland than those which the Orange Order hold. These marches can also be scenes of sectarianism and verbal and physical abuse, and whilst the marchers have the same rights outlined above they also have the same responsibilities.
Like the Orange Order, their right to march is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Independent review for marches and parades in Scotland
In June 2004 the Scottish Executive appointed Sir John Orr, former Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police Force, to carry out an independent review of current arrangements for taking decisions on marches and parades. Sir John Orr has been asked to make recommendations that will help local authorities to reach decisions that reflect an appropriate range of views. His recommendations will respect the rights that organisations and individuals have to organise marches and parades in light of the views of communities.
The review will look at specific issues in terms of:
Sectarianism: learning from other forms of discrimination
Different types of discrimination exist and can co-exist. Individual/personal discrimination is less significant than group/cultural discrimination (although this in no way detracts from the harm that it can cause). Institutional discrimination can be self-perpetuating and pervasive across cultures, whilst constitutional discrimination, passing laws which exclude or specifically target certain groups, can be the most significant of all.
Laws, agreements and procedures
Policies, procedures, custom and practice
Team bonding, canteen/playground culture
Behaviour – verbal and non-verbal
Where institutional and constitutional discrimination is left unchallenged it can create a climate where physical attacks go unpunished, which can lead to state-endorsed physical attacks or ultimately genocide, e.g. the Pogrom and the Holocaust.
The table below was devised by Gordon Allport (The Nature of Prejudice, 1954 and revised 1979) and outlines the impact which discrimination such as sectarianism can have.
Whilst many countries do have predominant religions, most also have some form of religious diversity, whether that is within the predominant faith or whether it relates to other belief systems. As global diversity increases so does religious and racial diversity, and racial diversity within religions.
After immigration, some people choose to take up the religion of the country to which they have migrated; others decide to change religion in their own country for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason for change, it means that an increasing number of people and ethnic groups practise a variety of religions which a stereotypical image would belie.
The Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia report on Race and Ethnicity also looks at religion. Whilst it has been argued that race and religion are two completely separate things, religion being an individual choice, indeed one protected by the ECHR article 9, whilst race is a matter of birth, the British Council report (2002) Changing Race Relations: Race and Ethnicity, argues otherwise. It states:
If one considers religion from the perspectives of the social sciences, however, it is clear that religious identity is frequently not chosen and not primarily a matter of inner commitment to certain distinctively religious beliefs. On the contrary, many human beings are born into communities or identity groupings where various religious observances, symbols and practices are extremely significant for maintaining a sense of corporate belonging. When this is the case, individuals are free to disown the tradition to which they belong only if (a) they are happy to be cut off from the community into which they have been born and which has nurtured them and (b) there is an alternative community which will fully welcome them and give them a sense of belonging.
The report also argues that it is possible to have the concept of religious atheists, e.g. Catholic or Protestant atheists or secular Jews. For these people religion is more a matter of personal identity rather than faith. This is evident in many football supporters in Scotland who when asked would define themselves as Catholic or Protestant subject to which team they support, regardless of having rarely, if ever, been in the relevant church. In this context sectarianism can occur based on the presumption of connection with a specific religious grouping rather than actually professed participation in that religion. This is why the legislation against religious intolerance in Scotland provides for a basis of 'presumed affiliation to a religious grouping'.
Other forms of religious intolerance in Scotland include anti-Semitism, hatred or intolerance of Jews, and Islamophobia, hatred or intolerance of Muslims. Whilst these forms of religious intolerance are less evident in Scotland than that between Catholic and Protestant beliefs this does not mean that they are less prevalent. Islamophobia in particular appears to be increasing, with attacks on mosques and on people perceived to be Muslim. This has happened since the terrorist attacks in the USA and Spain, alleged to have been carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. This perception has led to a hostile interpretation of Islam despite these attacks being denounced by leading Muslim clerics as being against the teachings of the Koran and against the principles of the faith.
Often sectarianism and religious intolerance can be linked to fundamentalism. Karen Armstrong (2001) states that fundamentalisms follow a certain pattern: 'they are embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis. They are engaged in a conflict with enemies whose secularist polices and beliefs seem inimical to religion itself … Fundamentalists do not regard this battle as a conventional political struggle, but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil.'
This fundamentalism can then perpetuate sectarianism and religious intolerance as people view the fundamentalists as being the true face of that religion or denomination and base their views upon the actions of the fundamentalists, e.g. the rise of Islamophobia is limited to the terrorist attacks claimed to have been carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. However, these people should more correctly be described as fanaticists, rather than fundamentalists. Fundamentalists believe in the basic tenets of their religion and follow it to the letter. Fanaticists are extremists in any cause they choose to espouse and will resort to extreme measures to achieve their cause.
A particular and acute form of sectarianism develops when fundamentalists become fanatical about the need for their beliefs to be imposed upon others. While such tendencies exist in all three main monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all faiths need to guard against such developments.
Past and present
Scotland at the turn of the 20th century witnessed serious conflict between the different denominations, within which the stances adopted by the authorities of the Church of Scotland, seeking to find accommodation with the Free Church dissenters who had broken away, and with the newly resurgent Roman Catholic church were key. The polemic of leading members of all three churches tended to be antagonistic rather than ecumenical. However, the political authorities steadfastly refused to allow any one denomination to prevail, but held fast to a programme of reform, in which arrangements about elementary education were made that sought to be inclusive, rather than divisive. The refusal of the political authorities to be drawn into denominational bias was important.
At the close of the 20th century, relations between the churches of Scotland were easier than at any time in the past, symbolised by the welcome given by the Moderator of the General Assembly to Pope John Paul in 1982, under the statue of John Knox. Since the 1950s, there has been steady growth in ecumenical co-operation. The Church of Scotland embarked on a far-reaching process of doctrinal reform. In 1986, the Church and Nation committee led the General Assembly into withdrawal of the clauses in the Westminster Confession of 1647 describing the Pope as 'anti-Christ, that man of sin, and son of perdition'. In 2002, the Church approved the report that repudiated their analysis of eighty years ago - The Menace of the Irish Race.
At a political level, the Scottish Parliament has sought to ensure that no religious denomination was privileged over others; for example, it has arranged for a daily 'Time for Reflection' to be led by representatives of every Christian denomination and of Scotland's other faiths and beliefs.
Today, ecumenism, acceptance of other denominations, has won over dissent. Interfaith dialogue is increasing as well as dialogue between those that believe and those who are secular.
On 15th November 2005, to mark the 40th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the landmark document that launched a new positive relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, a historic reception was hosted by Cardinal Keith O'Brien. The speeches of Cardinal O'Brien, of Rabbi Rubin from the Giffnock Synagogue and of Sister Isabel Smyth OBE, former Director of the Scottish Inter-faith Council, demonstrate the growth of inter-faith dialogues and understanding.
All (political, public, religious and commercial) are united in wanting to challenge any cultures of prejudice that would lead to religious intolerance and discrimination in Scotland.
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