Looking At Edinburgh

19 October 2008

Edinburgh mosque at night

Edinburgh mosque at night

*yawn* Sorry for the delay in posting this: I was out late last night at a friend’s birthday party at the Auld Hoose, and while I do have better photographs from the past week waiting to be categorized, tagged, themed, uploaded, etc, this was what caught my eye on my way home last night.

Edinburgh has more than one mosque, of course, but this one is the only purpose-built mosque – a lovely building begun in the 1980s. Inside there are rooms for study and a main hall for prayer, with balcony rooms for women. When not in use for prayer, I was told, the main hall is popular with students as a quiet place to sit and study: Edinburgh University’s George Square campus is just over the road, and the mosque kitchen daily produces one of the cheapest lunches to be had in that part of town.

It is always difficult for someone not part of the targeted group to know how much bigotry is daily directed towards that group. I’m aware from news reports (and from comments on some news articles) of an ugly undercurrent of Islamophobia in Scotland, in Edinburgh: from the shops that belong to Asians are more likely to have metal shutters, because the police warn them, an Asian name on the shop front makes it more likely that the shop window will be broken by a party of drunks, to a mosque on East London Street that was firebombed in December nearly four years ago. It’s ugly, as all bigotry is: the long-standing sectarianism between Protestant and Catholic is a joke – perhaps – to everyone except kids who got beaten up for giving the wrong answer to “What team are you?” but it’s been ugly in the past, and hatred of Islam is no different.

On the way home, I bought a pakora supper from Kebab Mahal. I was too tired and too full of Hobgoblin Ale to think about it then, but I’ve thought it before and since: when it comes to food, Scots are basically the most tolerant people on earth. We’ll eat anything – so long as you can deep-fat fry it. (Even salad: what else are spring rolls but deep-fried salad?) And if you can’t (think what happened to pizza when it first came north of the border) we’ll dip it in batter and fry it anyway. That’s how we came to be heart-attack capital of Europe. Now if only we could all learn to be as tolerant of each other’s religions as we are of each other’s food…

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