Humza Yousaf - 1st Muslim leader of a Western country
The election of Humza Yousaf to lead the Scottish National Party and his appointment as the Scottish nation’s First Minister, makes him the first Muslim to become a leader in a National democracy anywhere in Europe and anywhere in the Western world. Securing 26,032 votes after second preference votes had been counted, gave Yousaf 52% of the vote, which was enough to secure the leadership.
As the results of the election were announced, Humza Yousaf declared ‘I am not just humbled - and I most certainly am, I also feel like the luckiest man in the world to be standing here as leader of the SNP. A party I joined almost 20 years ago and that I love so dearly."
He reflected on the experience and struggles of his own parents as migrants to this country over 60 years ago from the Punjab in Pakistan, saying that “As immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland."
He went on to raise the issue of the importance of respecting migrants, which seemed almost deliberately to contrast with the noticeably hostile language coming from Westminster, by stating:
‘From the Punjab through our parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us we should be celebrating and always celebrate the migrants that contribute so much to our country.”
The outgoing First Minister - Nicola Sturgeon was one of the first to pay tribute to the three final candidates, reserving her most full praise for Humza Yousaf saying "Most of all I congratulate Humza Yousaf and wish him every success…he will be an outstanding leader and first minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me."
Once Humza Yousaf’s appointment is officially confirmed on Tuesday by the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood), tributes and statements of congratulations are expected to pour in from international Heads of State. The new SNP leader however did receive a number of high profile public congratulations from UK politicians including the UK Prime Minister - who himself had only recently become the first Asian to hold the Prime Ministership. UK Prime Minister - Rishi Sunak publicly recognised the significance of the appointment of an Asian to lead the Scottish government.
The Labour Leader - Sir Keir Starmer tweeted “Congratulations to @HumzaYousaf -the first First Minister of an ethnic minority background is a significant moment for Scotland.”
The Muslim community’s response clearly showed their recognition of the significance of the appointment of first Muslim Leader in a UK nation. The Secretary General of The Muslim Council of Britain - Zara Mohammed, issued a statement which read:
‘The election of Humza Yousaf is not only momentous for Scotland but also for the United Kingdom: the first leader of a British nation from a Muslim background…“We hope the new first minister will actively work to address those critical challenges facing communities at this current time and be a source of great unity across communities. We look forward to working with the first minister, for the common good.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar - who is himself a practising Muslim said “While I question his mandate and the SNP’s record, it is important to reflect on the election of what will be the first first minister from an ethnic minority background. Regardless of your politics, this is a significant moment for Scotland.”
Speaking on BBC News, Habib Malik, the former Head of Islamic Relief Scotland who has known Humza Yousaf since he was 18 years old and started doing charity work said ‘His beliefs are very strong and he works hard. He knows that beliefs on its own are no good. he knows ‘I’ve got to deliver this with excellence and he gives 100%.”
As Humza Yousaf awaits the vote at Holyrood on Tuesday which he expects to formally confirm him as first minister of Scotland, he expressed a voice of reconciliation with those who had given their support to other contenders in the election process. His victory speech concluded with the words:
"We are no longer team Humza, or team Ash, or team Kate, we are one team…We will be the team,