Scottish politician on tackling racist abuse following oath-taking in Urdu

Hailing from lands of bhangra and bagpipes, Scottish politician, Humza Yousaf, has remained true to his roots

Sunehra Mehmood June 08, 2016
Hailing from the lands of bhangra and bagpipes, Scottish politician, Humza Yousaf, grandson of a Pakistani bus conductor, has remained true to his roots. PHOTO: HUMZA YOUSAF/TWITTER

Hailing from the lands of bhangra and bagpipes, Scottish politician Humza Yousaf, the grandson of a Pakistani bus conductor, has remained true to his roots.

Footage of Yousaf taking an oath in Urdu in the Scottish parliament was an instant hit in Pakistan. Many lauded his decision to pay tribute to his Pakistani heritage and were won over by his excellent delivery. Perhaps his near-perfect diction can be attributed to one of his favourite Pakistani movies, a 1975 classic, Mera Naam Hai Mohabbat. Or, to Bollywood movies, which he confesses to watching a lot more.

Donning a sherwani jacket and kilt, Yousaf paid rich tribute to the land of his ancestors. But his love for the country runs deeper than that, with Quaid-e-Azam, Wasim Akram and chicken palak being on the top of his list of favourites.

Muslim politician in Scotland takes oath of allegiance in Urdu

Not surprisingly then, Yousaf took his oath first in English and then in Urdu. However, he revealed that it was not his first time he had done so. “This is actually the second time I have taken my oath in Urdu, having done so previously in 2011,” Yousaf said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

“Urdu is not my first, nor my second language. However, I wanted to pay tribute to my parents, grandparents and my heritage as a proud Scottish Pakistani, and I thought the best way to do this would be to take the oath in both English and Urdu - whilst wearing both a kilt and a sherwani jacket!” he added.

Being in the public eye, however, makes Yousaf a prime target for hatemongers. Just as many praised his decision to take an oath in Urdu, others resorted to racist attacks against him on social media. Similarly, just like many other Muslims, Yousaf also suffered racist abuse after the Paris attacks last year. One Scottish politician even compared him to a convicted terrorist in the United States, Abu Hamza.

“I wouldn’t be human if they didn’t affect me. However, I am always reminded that there are many, many more voices of good than there are bad. When the majority of people see such racism, I am always touched by how they respond in solidarity, regardless of their background or political affiliation.”

A prolific social media user, Yousaf knows well how to shut down haters.

The young minister for transport and the islands traces his lineage to pre-Partition subcontinent and then later to Pakistan.

“My grandparents from my father’s side came from Pathankot in India and my maternal grandparents were born in Ludhiana. Post-Partition, my paternal grandparents settled in Mian Channu, where my father was born, and my maternal grandparents settled in Faisalabad before moving to Kenya, where my mother was born. My father came to Scotland in 1964 with his parents and my mother arrived in Scotland in 1968 with her parents.”

Don't want exemption from 'ignorant' Trump's Muslim ban: Sadiq Khan

Humza Yousaf with family PHOTO: HUMZA YOUSAF/TWITTER

Good looking, well-spoken and with a winning personality, the 31-year-old has certainly made his parents proud and is making strides in the Scottish political scene. He was the youngest member of Scottish parliament to be elected at just 25 years of age, in 2011. He was also the first Muslim minister to be appointed to the Scottish government. For all his achievements though, he is often assailed by an unusual question: Are your eyelashes real?  “Much to the envy of my sisters, and I think a lot of other females, the answer is yes!” he shared.

For Yousaf, he could not have achieved success without the support and prayers of his parents, family, friends and community. “My parents have always encouraged me to get involved in politics, which is unusual as many peoples’ parents would have preferred them to go into a more professional career such as law, medicine or accountancy.”

The 31-year-old’s choice of profession was also greatly influenced by Scotland’s first Muslim MSP Bashir Ahmad, also of Pakistani descent, whom he served as parliamentary assistant. “The late Bashir Ahmad was an inspirational trailblazer as Scotland’s first Muslim MSP. From the moment we first met when I was a child, he encouraged me to be an active citizen in our country. While working for him, he was always pushing me to not only get more involved in the SNP, but to enter frontline politics. The biggest legacy he left with me was his character as a humble and thoroughly decent person. He taught me that you can achieve your goals and ambitions and still maintain the goodness of your character.”

Yousaf’s professed love for Pakistan is not all talk and he says he would love to visit the country again, especially to explore its more scenic landscapes, such as Murree. His most recent visit to the country was in 2013, when he was minister for external affairs. He also seeks a closer relationship between the two countries.

Humza Yousaf with wife PHOTO: HUMZA YOUSAF/TWITTER

“I was delighted to launch Scotland’s new engagement plan in Pakistan. Pakistan is a priority country to Scotland. Our new plan focuses on four themes: trade and investment, educational skills, energy and water and culture and heritage. Our desire is not only to continue providing aid to Pakistan’s most vulnerable, but to enhance our relationship through the themes highlighted above,” he said.

Pakistani bus driver's son becomes first Muslim mayor of London

The young Scottish minister also had something to say about Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. “I think Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims and many other minorities in America have been utterly shameful and below the standard expected of someone running for the office he seeks. I have no doubt that the good people of America have more sense than to elect Donald Trump as their President and Commander-In-Chief.”

Speaking of the new mayor of London, who is also a severe critic of Trump, Yousaf admits that although he and Sadiq Khan have their political differences, they remain good friends.  “Sadiq is a good friend and I was pleased to congratulate him on his historic victory as London Mayor. This was a particularly important victory as the campaign run against him was xenophobic and, at times, outright Islamophobic. Although Sadiq and I will disagree on many points of policy, I look forward to having a constructive relationship with him and to work together to improve relationships between Scotland and London.”

With Islamophobia and hate crimes on the rise, Yousaf has also taken upon himself the task of speaking against discrimination. “For the Muslim community in particular, the SNP led Scottish government has always stood in solidarity with them whenever Islamophobia has reared its ugly head - for example, most recently, after the attacks in Paris. We also want to ensure that those from minority backgrounds are also included in the delivery of important services such as the NHS and education, and are also able to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist such as modern apprenticeships.”


Amer | 5 years ago | Reply @Bunny Rabbit: He took the oath in Urdu since others in parliament took it in the language of their ancestors, e.g: French etc. Sometimes do some research before spewing hate after eating a burger and petting your rabbits.
Mad Hatter | 5 years ago | Reply @Bunny Rabbit: He took the Urdu oath AFTER he did so in English. Its of no legal consequence. Just to remind everyone that the UK, unlike the US, is not a melting pot.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ


Most Read