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Great expectations for Scotland’s first Muslim, brown First Minister

by Zahid Jadwat

First Minister Humza Yousaf posted pictures of him praying in Bute House shortly after being elected. [Picture: Humza Yousaf/Twitter]


The election of Humza Yousaf as the First Minister of Scotland has been welcomed as a boost to the confidence of the Scottish Muslim community. However, his new role places great expectations on him. Yousaf is the first person of colour and of Asian origin to lead the country, not long after his counterpart Rishi Sunak in the UK.

“It really boosts the confidence of the Muslim community,” said Dr Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist, author and politician, in an interview on The Weekend Iftar. “The images of seeing the First Minister in prayer during Ramadan, from the official residence of the First Minister, was a really feel-good factor.”

Shortly after being elected in a parliamentary session last Tuesday, the 37-year-old took to social media to share a “special moment” leading his family in tarawih prayer in the official residence of the First Minister.

“My family and I [are] spending our first night in Bute House after today’s parliamentary vote. A special moment leading my family in prayer in Bute House as is customary after breaking fast together,” he tweeted.


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Ridley suggested it was a heartwarming moment for Scotland and the Muslim world at large. However, it didn’t come without a fair share of cynics and the pressure of being the first Muslim leader of Scotland – and the first brown one at that.

“I haven’t seen any negative responses, although a few cynical people felt that his display of holding the Iftar prayers in Bute House – his official residence – was a cynical exploitation of his religion.”

She said religion had cropped up during the campaign. His rival Kate Forbes had been clear about her Christian values.

“You can look at it in lots of different ways because the issue of religion has cropped up quite a bit during the race to become First Minister. One of his closest rivals was a woman called Kate Forbes, who is a devout Christian. She laid out her Christian beliefs and said that there were red lines she wouldn’t cross.”


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Expectations of the First Minister

Humza Yousaf will have much expectation stacked against him as he navigates his first months in office as Scotland’s First Minister.

Comparing him to the UK’s Sunak, who replaced Lizz Truss last year, Ridley said the two brown men had a heavier burden.

“Rishi Sunak has to perform well. In many ways, He and Hamza Yousaf have a heavier burden on their shoulders because there is great expectation from the Asian community because they are the first Asians to have achieved offices of high power [in Europe].

Yousaf will also have to meet expectations from the broader Scottish public, one of the most prominent being to deliver the nation’s independence. In his victory speech, he said he was “determined to deliver” independence, but that is something his predecessors have grappled with.

Zahid Jadwat and Dr Yvonne Ridley also discussed other developments in the Muslim world. Watch the full discussion here:

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