Sales of Scotland’s Islamic tartan surge amid questions of religious, national identity

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A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)
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A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)
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A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)
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A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)
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A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)
Updated 15 September 2019

Sales of Scotland’s Islamic tartan surge amid questions of religious, national identity

  • Renewed interest comes at a time of increasing questions of identity
  • A Muslim academic created the design for fabric, traditionally associated with Scottish clans and institutions

LONDON: Sales of a specially designed Scottish Islamic Tartan are soaring thanks to a surge of interest linked to timely questions of religious and national identity.

The tartan was introduced seven years ago to stand alongside the traditional woolen fabrics that proudly represent Scottish clans and institutions. It was designed in 2012 by Scottish Muslim academic, and Arab News columnist, Dr. Azeem Ibrahim to celebrate the histories of Scotland and Islam, and highlight and promote the dual heritage of the two communities in an attempt “to overcome religious intolerance and cultural discrimination.”

The mill that weaves the Islamic tartan fabric said that sales have been steady since it was launched but suddenly increased in the past week after an image and details of the tartan went viral on social media.




A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)

“The sale of most tartans is a steady trickle, generally, and we normally expect a few orders a week,” said Nick Fiddes, managing director of DC Dalgliesh and CLAN.com, which describes itself as the world’s only hand-crafted tartan mill. “The volume went up by four to six times, perhaps. It was very noticeable and we had no idea why at first. It was quite mysterious.”

The sudden interest came after Canadian academic Laura Morlock, who specializes in religious attire, posted a tweet on Sept. 5 about the tartan.

“Scotland has officially created a tartan to honor its Muslim citizens,” she wrote. Despite coming seven years after the launch of the fabric, the post was retweeted 13,000 times and liked by more than 50,000 people.

Morlock said the response to her post suggested that drawing attention to the tartan must have resonated at a time when Muslim communities in the West, and particularly the US, are feeling more isolated.

“I think people responded differently to learning about this because it hits a nerve at a time when hate crimes (particularly those against religious communities) are on the rise, and the news is full of federally mandated nationalistic cruelty around the globe,” she wrote in her blog.

Fiddes said the tartan is part of a Scottish-Islamic venture that aims to bring the two communities closer together.

“This is one thing I love about tartans,” he said. “It is saying that Muslims are a part of Scotland too, due to cultural significance.”

Tartans are produced in a variety of colors and patterns of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical lines and stripes, and form part of Scotland’s national dress, most notably in the kilt.

“The Islamic tartan was essentially the Scottish-Muslim identity being weaved together in the same way that the tartan is weaved together through its strands,” said Ibrahim, who is director at the Center for Global Policy in Washington.

Muslims have been coming to Scotland since the late 18th century, when sailors from India, Pakistan, Yemen and Malaysia began to arrive in Glasgow on merchant ships. The Muslim population grew substantially after World War II, and a 2001 census indicated that 42,550 Muslims lived in Scotland at that time. Today the figure is estimated to be about 75,000.

FASTFACT

Theological explanation

The tartan design incorporates several Islamic and Scottish elements - the blue represents the Scottish flag (Saltire) and green represents the color of Islam. Five white lines represent the five pillars, six gold lines represent the six articles of faith and a black square for the Kaaba.

In designing a tartan for this community, Ibrahim consulted some of the top tartan designers in the country. The theological explanation behind the final design is that it incorporates several Islamic and Scottish elements. The blue in the pattern represents the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag, and green represents the color of Islam. There are five white lines to represent the five pillars of Islam, and six gold lines representing the six articles of faith. A black square represents the Kaaba in the Great Mosque in Makkah.

At the time the tartan was launched, there was a debate about independence for Scotland, and a national referendum on the question of splitting from the rest of the UK was held two years later.

The Islamic tartan brought “a new focus to what it means to be a Scot,” Ibrahim wrote in 2012. “Muslim communities in Scotland are particularly sensitive to the complexities of culture, race and religion that are perceived as an integral part of Scottishness,” he added.

“Therefore the idea of a Scottish Islamic Tartan seemed to me to be the perfect symbol of the future generation in particular, for the younger, educated Muslims caught between two cultures: East and West, traditional and modern. Instead of conflict, the tartan represents a tightly woven blend of tradition and heritage.”




A specially designed Scottish Islamic tartan, released seven years ago, is having a revival in sales following questions of religious and national identity in Scotland. (Photo: Supplied/Azeem Ibrahim)

Ibrahim was initially puzzled as to why interest in the tartan is on the rise now.

“I think it is something that nobody ever understands, when things will go viral,” he said. “A couple of people tweeted it and then it became absolutely nuts and it has gone all over the world.”

The boost in the profile of the tartan comes at a time when the United Kingdom is preparing for its departure from the European Union. Many believe this increases the likelihood of a renewed push for Scottish independence, given that Scotland voted overwhelmingly in the 2016 UK referendum on Brexit to remain in the EU.

“There’s certainly much more interest in people’s identities and people’s affiliations and how people feel about their personal (sense of) belonging: what exactly they belong to,” said Ibrahim.

The Islamic tartan was not introduced for commercial purposes, he added, but rather as a public-relations exercise “to celebrate Scottish-Islamic identity as these two civilizations have made an immense contribution to humanity.”

Ibrahim said he has presented a number of scarfs and ties from the Islamic tartan to world leaders and dignitaries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and many others.

One of the people who appeared in the original promotional images for the tartan's launch in 2012 was Scottish National Party politician Humza Yousaf, who is now Scotland’s justice minister.

It was "an importantly symbolic initiative that brought together the various strands of our multifaceted identities as Scots, Muslims, etc.,” he said.


At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

Updated 18 min 31 sec ago

At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

  • The Air India Express plane from Dubai had 191 passengers and crew on board when it overshot the runway
  • There were 10 infants on board

NEW DELHI: At least 16 people were killed Friday when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.
Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down in Kozhikode in heavy rain.
The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 meters (35 feet) down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway.
Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of any fire.
Sakeen K., the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 16 people had died.
“We are still ascertaining the toll,” she told AFP.
Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.
Senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP said that another 15 passengers “have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation.”
“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.
“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”
Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces.”
Four people were still stuck inside the plane. media reports said.
One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.
Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing.”
It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.
The plane was one of dozens in recent weeks to repatriate some of the thousands of Indians left stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest... Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” Modi said.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.
The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.
Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days.
At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.
Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.