According to a recent study carried out by the Crown Office in Scotland into prosecutions for religious bigotry since the passing of new anti-sectarianism legislation ni 2003, Catholics are by far the most likely victims of sectarian hostility, reports BBC News.
The Crown’s study of prosecutions in June to December 2003, showed that in 63% of cases of sectarian abuse, the victims were Catholic, compared with 29% of victims who were Protestants, 1% who were Jews and 1% who were Muslim.
108 of the 450 prosecutions for religious bigotry that took place during that time were included in the study, and 68 of those consisted of crimes against Catholics. 31 crimes against Protestants, and one each against Muslims and Jews.
Even though a spokesman for the Crown Office said that “in order to identify trends further research would be required," Catholic leaders such as Msgr. Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, said the research indicates that "entrenched hostility towards a religious minority, which many felt had long since disappeared, clearly remains and flourishes."
"These figures are frankly appalling,” he said. “That at least one religiously-motivated offence should take place in Scotland every day is bad enough, that almost two thirds of such crimes are directed against the Catholic community who comprise just 17% of the population is both alarming and saddening.”
Scottish politicians have called for education aimed at combatting the prejudices and breaking down barriers.
According to Michael McMahon, a member of the Scottish parliament, "there are certain sections of the community for whatever reason, probably based on ignorance or fear, who believe that the Catholic community has historically been a threat. That's the type of ignorance that we have to break down."
However, the Muslim Assocation of Britain Scottish Spokesperson, Osama Saeed, argued that "these figures aren't even barely credible,” claiming that “there will be hardly a Muslim in the land who hasn't experience of being taunted with shouts of 'Bin Laden' or 'terrorist' in the street.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office said that "we were interested in which groups were being targeted by sectarian abuse and where it was happening." He noted that the prosecutions and the research indicate that the government will no longer tolerate bigotry: "the executive is committed to addressing sectarianism and religious intolerance, wherever it occurs and whomever its victim."