Nadia El-Nakla, wife of Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, has described the abuse she and her family have received in the past 24 hours as “sickening”.
Ms El-Nakla also says it shows an “underbelly of racism” in Scotland.
On Monday, the couple revealed they had lodged a complaint with the Care Inspectorate over allegations their two-year-old daughter Amal was discriminated against when she was refused a place at Broughty Ferry’s Little Scholars Day Nursery, who deny the claims.
But they have received a barrage of abuse on social media since going public in a Daily Record article.
‘Do I defend my family or let people say whatever they want?’
Ms El-Nakla says she was left in tears after reading some of the remarks on Twitter and Facebook.
Speaking to The Courier and Evening Telegraph, she said: “I have had the chance to reflect and, sadly, read some of the comments.
“And I asked myself, do I defend my family or let people say whatever they want?
“People are saying we are ‘playing the race card’, and ultimately they will have some kind of view, whether that is racism, Islamophobia, a dislike of Humza or our colour, and to me that shows the underbelly of racism in Scotland.
“What frustrates me is people who have never experienced discrimination in their life are telling me how I should deal with it.
“It is victim blaming at the highest level.”
She added: “Growing up when I have felt racism and been told it’s not true, I doubted it.
“But this time I felt it, I pursued it and I got evidence – but I am still being told I misunderstood [the situation].
“It is interesting when you share your experience of discrimination, the response is further discrimination and hate.
“When we talk about anti-racism people are told to call out racism.
“But look at what happens when you do – you are told it’s not true, or it’s a misunderstanding, or that you are trying to benefit from it.”
‘We’ve had emails saying our house deserves to be firebombed’
Ms El-Nakla says she has never received this level of abuse in the public eye but reveals her husband is no stranger to it.
She said: “Humza has experienced it for years and what he faces is disgusting.
“We have had emails saying our house deserves to be firebombed and the kids burned in the car.
“When my daughter got her baby box we put it on Twitter and someone wrote back saying she deserves to be drowned.
“I felt sad for that person – what kind of black heart do they have to type that?
“What bothers me is the hidden, veiled racism and it has made me determined to speak out.”
Of all the roles I've been given in life 'daddy' is the most important
I am sorry I could not protect you a little longer from hatred this world all too often throws at us
Thank you to everyone, particularly those across political divide, for kind msgs of solidarity & support pic.twitter.com/dOsthgZnl0
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) August 2, 2021
Ms El-Nakla and her husband – one of the most senior ministers in Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP Government – went public with their claims after their own probe into spaces available at the nursery in Broughty Ferry, where they have a family home.
They have lodged a complaint with the Care Inspectorate but say they are also seeking legal advice on what to do next.
The owner of Little Scholars Day Nursery insists it is open to all and “refute in the strongest possible terms” any claims “to the contrary”.
Frustration and anger
Ms El-Nakla, who works for Dundee East MSP Shona Robison, said: “The nursery has whitewashed it and it is so very frustrating and upsetting, and it makes me angry at the same time.
“The nursery gave no explanation for what has happened – they just said it is not true and an excuse was given.
“Someone needs to take responsibility for what has happened and we want answers.
“I don’t want it to be all ‘poor me’, but this is a stain on society.
“As individuals we make up society and are responsible for the change that needs to come.”
‘We have nothing to hide’
A spokesperson for Little Scholars Day Nursery, which is owned by Ushar Fowdar, said this week: “Our nursery is extremely proud of being open and inclusive to all and any claim to the contrary is demonstrably false and an accusation that we would refute in the strongest possible terms.
“In addition to our owners being of Asian heritage, across more than a decade we have regularly welcomed both children and staff from a range of different religious, cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds including two Muslim families currently.
“We have also regularly made arrangements to accommodate different lifestyles by, for example, providing a halal menu for those children who come from Muslim families.
“We note Mr Yousaf’s call for a Care Inspectorate investigation and this is something we would absolutely welcome.
“We have nothing to hide and look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the policies and procedures we have in place to ensure we are a nursery that is open and welcoming to all.”