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Research by geographers at Newcastle University has directly challenged the assumption in Scotland that racism and Islamophobia are only of concern in England. It has confronted Scottish exceptionalism through changing the political discourse, equipping educators and informing journalistic practice nationwide, with additional reach to the rest of the UK.



Research conducted at Newcastle University since 2007 has directly challenged the widely-held assumption that, in Scotland, racism and Islamophobia are insignificant (‘Scottish exceptionalism’).



The research has explored issues of racism and Islamophobia in relation to young people (aged 12–25) in Scotland from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Early research focused on how Scotland’s political, policy and practice settings have avoided addressing racism, which has predominantly been viewed there as an ‘English problem’. This work points to the exclusion of young Muslims in the aftermath of key international events, such as the complex ways in which, after 9/11, political discourse and the media shaped our experiences of racism and Islamophobia. Follow-up research with Sikh men demonstrated - for the first time - how they resist everyday racism, educate others, and manage multicultural interactions to promote a strong sense of Scottishness.



Newcastle University’s research has directly contributed to and changed political discourse on racism and Islamophobia. The team shared its report about Muslim youth and political participation with an experienced elected MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), which led to Scotland’s first ever cross-party group (CPG) on Tackling Islamophobia. This CPG has the largest membership of any CPG and is one of the most active in the Scottish Parliament.

Extending its reach beyond Scotland, the team’s submission to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims informed its report, Islamophobia Defined. To date at least 22 local authorities (covering a population of almost 12,000,000) and over 30 universities across the UK also adopted the definition developed by them team.

Newcastle University’s research played a pivotal role in equipping educators to better respond and react to issues relating to racism and Islamophobia by: (i) advising a Scottish Parliament inquiry about prejudice-based bullying; (ii) informing national educational guidance on anti-Muslim prejudice; and (iii) improving anti-racist educational practice.

NU research changed journalistic practice on reporting on Islam and Muslims. In late 2019, the team co-authored Scotland’s first set of media guidelines for reporting on Islam and Muslims. This draws directly on NU research findings on media representation, misrecognition and political participation. The guidelines were adopted by the National Union of Journalists (membership over 38,000).


More information

Institution: Newcastle University 

Researchers: Professor Peter Hopkins, Dr Robin Finlay


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Challenging Scottish exceptionalism on racism and Islamophobia across politics, education and journalism. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>