"THERE'S no surprise, there's a level of 'my god, here we go again'," says Mariam Ahmed.

The chief executive officer of Amina Muslim Women's Resource Centre, which is based in Glasgow, is talking about the weekend claims of discrimination by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, who says she was told her "Muslimness" was a problem by a key party figure and cost her her ministerial position.

Boris Johnson says he's taking the claims "extremely seriously" and has ordered a Cabinet Office investigation. Ghani has welcomed this, but wants it to include what was said to her by a whip she's not named, but who has identified himself as Mark Spencer MP – though Spencer has denied her account of the conversation.

Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has called for an inquiry into Islamophobia while Michael Fabricant MP has questioned Ghani's timing and suggested that she does not look "obviously Muslim". "Nus Ghani claims her being Muslim made people uncomfortable," he said. "I don't buy that at all as most people wouldn't have had a clue whether she was Muslim or not. And if they had, prejudice would of course be wrong."

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At Amina, Ahmed and her colleagues have been having their own conversations about the matter, which has led to renewed public debate about issues of prejudice, race and religion. "It impacts us," she says. "It impacts a lot of Muslim women."

In Scotland, Muslim representation in politics is thin on the ground and just one of our MPs, the SNP's Anum Qaisar, is from a black or minority ethnic background.

Sameeha Rehman, chief executive officer of Ubuntu Scotland says she can "easily see why many Muslim women are put off politics altogether by some people's attitudes".

"No one should have their religion held against them," she says of Ghani's claims. "It does not impact on a person's merit to carry out their role.

"Personal choice should always be respected.

"There is no one specific look for Muslim women, or Muslims in general. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world with more and more people of other faiths converting. Therefore, there is no one size fits all approach to how people look. Wearing a hijab is a choice; not wearing one does not mean you are less committed to your faith. I don't wear a hijab and proud to say I am a Muslim and would not accept anyone making any judgements otherwise based on how I look.

"If this is how merit in political office is going to be judged going forward, politics in the UK is going down a very, very dark road."

Khalida Bostani, the women's coordinator for the charity Glasgow Afghan United (GAU), says that's a road women in her community have come here to escape. "We escaped the Taliban to come here and choose our own way of dressing; now we have members of parliament talking like them," she says of Fabricant. "It's a disgrace, how can he say things like this? Leave people to chose their own identities and self-expression."

Khadija Mohammed, a senior lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland, says appearance is often the biggest contributing factor to the abuse of Muslims. She wears a hijab and says she's often "hyper-vigilant in everyday spaces". "As an academic, often I'm in a space as the only person of colour, and I'm also visibly Muslim. It's that double-whammy," she explains.

"I didn't always wear the hijab, I chose to wear it to explore my own Muslim identity. I was born and raised in Scotland and I had tried to assimilate into the majority even as a teacher.

"The media constantly reinforces stereotypes of Muslims; men are always dominant and aggressive and women are passive. The hijab is seen as something that is forced upon women by men, but I find it quite liberating. Do we ever ask what a Sikh man or a Christian woman should look like?

"Nusrat Ghani looks like anyone else. She looks professional; she's doing her job.

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"This is one of the prevailing things we face in society. The underlying factor is racism. We don't have enough diverse representation in politics and those we do have, their very being is questioned. Those who choose not to fit in are then accused of being problematic."

Johnson claims he's taken Ghani's claims "extremely seriously" since she first raised them with him in private 18 months ago.

Ahmed says these are indeed extremely serious matters. "If you are discriminated against for your race or your religion, how do you prove that? Sometimes internal processes are not there to support you. It doesn't help that here there is Boris Johnson, who we already know has said a lot of things that would be inappropriate when it comes to race and religion.

"It gets called Islamophobia, but a phobia suggests that there's a fear of something. I think the other name for it is anti-Muslim racism. It's just racism."