South Scotland

Councillor's Islamophobic comment row rekindled

Humza Yousaf and Jim Dempster
Image caption Humza Yousaf renewed his calls for Mr Dempster to resign

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has said a Labour councillor's visit to a mosque was "a tokenistic photo-op".

It comes after Dumfries and Galloway councillor Jim Dempster admitted making an Islamophobic comment about him.

Mr Dempster had issued a joint statement with the imam of the Dumfries Islamic Centre in which he was described as a "good man".

Mr Yousaf said the visit was "frankly an insult" and renewed his calls for Mr Dempster to resign.

The Labour councillor has been suspended by his party and said he would accept any decision resulting from the investigation into the incident in which he told transport officials that "no-one would have seen [Mr Yousaf] under his burka".

Image copyright Jim McEwan
Image caption Mr Dempster issued a joint statement with the imam of the Dumfries Islamic Centre Sardar Ahmad Rizvi

Mr Dempster said he was "deeply sorry" for the offence he had caused and said he had "offered a full and immediate apology".

He added that he did not believe the comments made reflected the views he held.

He said he had had the honour to meet with the imam and been invited to address the mosque.

"This will allow me to learn more about the issues facing ethnic minorities, especially in Dumfries and Galloway, and how the use of everyday language may affect them," he said.

"This will also give me the opportunity to reflect on, and challenge and change my behaviour."

In the statement the imam, Sardar Ahmad Rizvi, said Mr Dempster had represented his community very well for many years.

'Tolerant communities'

He added: "I do not believe that Councillor Dempster's comments constitute racism, or believe he is a racist, but he understands the hurt they have caused and he has apologised.

"Our religion teaches the importance of forgiveness."

He said he had invited Mr Dempster to address the mosque to show him the good his religion did.

"Only by coming together can we genuinely create the type of tolerant communities we all want to live in, irrespective of our religion," he said.

However, Mr Yousaf described the visit to the mosque on Twitter as a "tokenistic photo-op" and "frankly an insult".

He said Mr Dempster's priority seemed to be to try to save his political career and renewed his call for him to "do the honourable thing" and resign.

He added that he would be passing correspondence which suggested Mr Dempster's comments had not been a "one-off" to the Labour Party.

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