Daycare Accused of Discriminating Against Kids with Muslim-sounding Names

In November 2020, Humza Yousaf — Scotish Secretary of Health and the first non-white Muslim to hold office in the Scottish Cabinet. — and his wife Nadia El-Nakla applied for a nursery for their 2-year old daughter, Amal. Their application was immediately denied. The nursery, Little Scholars, cited the lack of available schedules. In May 2021, the Health Secretary and his wife applied for another schedule in the same nursery. Again, they were immediately declined, with Little Scholars citing the same reason. 

In an interview with Daily Record, a Scottish news outlet, Nadia explained that the second time her application was declined, she felt in her guts that "there was something not right about it." Nadia was referring to the very abrupt denial of their application for the same reason. Yousaf believed there must be a valid reason and that the nursery must have an explanation for the strangely quick denial of their application.

Yousaf and his wife asked their white Scottish friend to send an application. 

On May 10, 2021, Nadia sent an email application for a schedule for their daughter at the Little Scholars nursery. On the next day, Michelle Mill, the nursery's manager, declined Nadia's application explaining that "at present, I have no available spaces in the nursery." Nadia asked to be included in a waiting list and was required to complete a registration form, with a disclaimer that "no space can be guaranteed" even with the waiting list.

On May 11, 2021, three hours after Mill sent a decline notice to Nadia, Julie Kelly — Nadia's friend — sent an email inquiring about a schedule of her 2-year old son. Mill asked Kelly to complete the registration form so they can "check availability for you (Kelly)." Kelly did not fill out the registration form but asked for a schedule anyway.

On May 12, Mill told Kelly that schedules were available for her 2-year old son, including a schedule for a nursery tour.

After Kelly received Mill's response of the available schedule, Nadia, in the Daily interview, expressed her disappointment when Mill declined her application without discussing options for another schedule. "If there was nothing at present, why was Julie [Kelly] told there was?"

The couple asked Annie Brown, the Associate Editor and columnist of the Daily Record, to investigate and verify their findings. Brown did the same thing; she created two profiles; one profile has a Muslim-sounding name, while the other is a typical white Scottish name. The Muslim-sounding name got rejected, and was told that there were no available schedules. 

In a series of tweets, Yousaf explained what confirmed his and El-Nakla’s suspicion, "Within 24 hours of refusing our application, my wife's friend’s was accepted." He explained that the Little Scholars was declining admission for children with ethnic and Muslim sounding names and were freely admitting other "western" sounding names. Yousaf claimed that the nursery has been discriminating against his daughter on the grounds of her "either ethnicity or religion." 

Usha Fowdar, a spokesperson for the Little Scholars, said that the nursery rejects religious or ethnic discrimination accusations. Fowdar added that they "would refute in the strongest possible terms" the allegations made by the Health Secretary.

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