AN AYRSHIRE bowler who was kicked off Scotland’s Commonwealth Games team last summer after making social media comments branding Rishi Sunak and Humza Yousaf ‘Islamist’ has denied that he or his comments were racist.

Garry Hood was named in the Scotland para bowls team for last summer’s Games in Birmingham in February 2022.

But just weeks before the start of the event, he was axed from the team after making the comments in a post on Facebook.

He says that Bowls Scotland’s statement wrongly inferred that the comments he made were racist in nature.

Hood, 61, who is originally from Mauchline but plays his bowls at Craigie Bowling Club in Ayr, had been set to make a Games return after seven years grappling with Gullain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition that affects the nervous system.

The call-up came 28 years after Hood represented Scotland in the men’s fours at the Games in Victoria, British Columbia, where he finished seventh in the men’s fours.

But with less than a month to go until the start of the Games in Birmingham, he was kicked out of the team for the comments.

In the post, which was followed by an ‘angry’ emoji, Hood said: “We’re about to see the final moves in our country folks. Sunak (Islamist) & Yousaf (Islamist) are about to run our UK!”

Mr Sunak is Hindu, not Muslim.

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The term ‘Islamic’, defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “connected with the Muslim religion, or with people or countries who follow it”, is not synonymous with ‘Islamist’ – defined by the same dictionary as “a person who believes strongly in Islam, especially one who believes that Islam should influence political systems”.

In a statement following Hood’s dismissal from the Games team, a Bowls Scotland spokesperson said the organisation “is firm in our belief that we welcome participants from all communities, nations and backgrounds and there is no room for racism in our sport or in society”.

But Hood says the governing body’s statement inferred that the comments were racist – and insists that he, and his comments, are not.

“I’ve not been accused of being racist,” he said.

“Nobody’s accused me of being racist. My letter from Bowls Scotland doesn’t accuse me of racism. It accuses me of being Islamophobic.

“I don’t think [my comment] is Islamophobic at all.

“Humza Yousaf didn’t think it was Islamophbic. I’ve got Islamic friends who didn’t think it was Islamophobic.

“I’m not a racist. People know I’m not a racist. I’ve got black friends and Indian friends.

“I was never accused of being racist by Bowls Scotland or Sport Scotland. But they released a statement inferring that I was racist and I’m not.”

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In addition to being axed from the Commonwealth Games team, Hood, according to Bowls Scotland, was suspended from all competition for three months – a period which has now long since ended.

He was also told to undertake equality, diversity and inclusivity training by the Scottish game’s governing body by June of this year at the latest – training which he says was due to take place on Wednesday of this week (April 26).

Hood raised a complaint with media watchdog IPSO earlier this year following the publication of the Advertiser’s story on Bowls Scotland’s announcement last summer, and says he did likewise with other news organisations.

He says that while he does not know who made the complaint about his Facebook post, he believes that it was only seen by five people, and that he deleted it around an hour and 15 minutes after it was posted following a comment made by a fellow para bowler.

“He wasn’t actually disagreeing with what I’d said,” Hood said. “He was surprised that I put it on Facebook.

“I thought ‘I don’t want to be having friction between myself and fellow para bowlers who might be going to the Commonwealth Games’. So I deleted it.

“One person saw that post who has been apparently offended.

“I don’t believe for a minute anyone was offended by that post. Not one minute.

“I’ve yet to meet a bowler who said that they were offended, or could understand anybody else being offended.”

The Advertiser was made aware of the complaint to IPSO in February.

IPSO advised the Advertiser that while it had not reached any decision on whether its code had been breached, it wanted to “allow you the opportunity to resolve the matter satisfactorily direct with the complainant”.