Where Unity Is Strength
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When invited to a radio programme on the theme ‘what does God think of us, my jaundiced contribution was:’ If God had human emotions they would be of utter bewilderment and despair at the antics of the human race, coupled with a determination to keep us well away from any truly intelligent life in the vastness of Creation. Today, in the aftermath of the religion-linked massacres in Paris and Mali, this seems to be a bit of an understatement.

Such killings are nothing new. At the time of Guru Nanak, whose birth anniversary falls today, Catholics and Protestants were at each other’s throats in Europe and, in India, there was religious conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Why do our different religions with much to offer, ignore important commonalities and focus negatively on supposed difference and notions of exclusive access to God’s truth?

It was a concern close to Guru Nanak’s heart. In his very first sermon, he courageously suggested that the one God of us all was not impressed by our different religious labels, but by what we did for our fellow beings. The Guru devoted his life to stressing commonalities and questioning the validity of some supposed differences.

Today in our demographically changed world, while recognising and respecting genuine difference, there is an urgent need to counter the use of difference to justify hatred and violence towards others. The concern over the capacity of those working with ISIS to persuade young Muslims to leave the UK, to join fighters in Syria highlights the need to reach hearts and minds. I can fully understand the revulsion felt by those who say we should bomb ISIS off the face of this earth, but such statements, can be cynically used by extremist as ‘an attack on our religion’.

A letter in yesterday’s Times by nearly 200 Muslim scholars deploring terrorism in the name of Islam gives hope. They point out that there is nothing Islamic about the so-called “Islamic State” and no acts of terrorism, hate and violence can be justified. Distortion and misinterpretation can happen with many historic religious texts and is why, particularly in the context of today’s times, it’s necessary to stress the important commonalities with other faiths. In this, all who speak out in such a way deserve our full support.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06nrzqp


Senior government figures have contacted Lord Singh about a possible backlash against British Sikhs following the Islamic terrorist atrocities in Paris. Lord Singh informed the Head of Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that attacks on Sikhs, and Sikh places of worship were a real possibility. He gave examples of where right wing extremists in Britain had been unable to distinguish turban-wearing Sikhs from Muslim extremists, and had attacked them. He also spoke to a Minister from DCLG citing other incidents driven by an increase in racism per se, rather than ‘Islamophobia’.

In September 2015 a Neo-Nazi was given life imprisonment for attempting to behead a Sikh dentist in ‘revenge’ for Fusilier Lee Rigby. Lord Singh had previously expressed concern that BBC Newsnight had incorrectly attributed the incident to ‘Islamophobia’. The victim, Dr Sarandev Bhambra, was in fact targeted because of the colour of his skin. In an environment post 9/11 Sikhs have suffered backlash because of both an increase in racism and ‘Islamophobia.’

During a debate this summer Lord Singh raised the difficulty facing Sikhs asking a DCLG Minister, “Does the Minister agree that hate crime is hate crime against any community, and that it should be tackled even-handedly, irrespective of the size of the community?” The Minister agreed, and said “The noble Lord is absolutely right—hate crime is hate crime.”

Despite these assurances DCLG announced last week that hate crime against Muslims was to be separately monitored by every police district in Britain. This provides parity for Muslims with provisions already in place for Jews. Despite the history of violence against Sikhs post 9/11, the government does not currently considered hate crimes against Sikhs worthy of separate monitoring. This inequality needs to be urgently addressed.

Lord Singh informed government officials that earlier this year the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had started to separately track hate crime against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs. The separate monitoring was given a sense of urgency following the Oak Creek massacre in August 2012, when a white supremacist shot dead six Sikh worshipers in a gurdwara.

He told the Minister Britain should not lag behind the US. The Minister and Head of DCLG said they would urgently follow this up.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06nrzqp

The Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), Lord Singh has rejected an invitation to the ‘UKWelcomesModi’ reception and dinner hosted by the Indian High Commissioner.

The events being held this Friday are in honor of the Indian Premier Narendra Modi, who is on an official state visit to the UK.

Europe India Forum, organisers of ‘UKWelcomesModi’ have billed the forthcoming welcoming reception in Wembley as “the Diwali event for the family this year”. They aim to bring together, “individuals from the 1.6 million-strong Indian community in Britain- from all backgrounds, generations and regions – to celebrate two great nations with one glorious future.”

Thanking the High Commissioner for the invitation, Lord Singh responded, “Sikhs are delighted that under Mr Modi’s premiership, the widespread killing of Sikhs in 1984 has now been recognised as ‘genocide’.”

He went on, “This is a big step to bringing the Hindu and Sikh communities together, and in this context, as a leader of Britain’s half million Sikhs, I would be grateful for 5-6 minutes with Mr Modi to suggest ways of taking his initiative towards closure, in a way that brings the Hindu and Sikh communities closer together for the benefit of India as a whole.”

The High Commissioners office confirmed there would be no opportunity to discuss issues with Mr Modi, bar a handshake. Lord Singh declined the offer.

In separate developments, the Network of Sikh Organisations can confirm Lord Singh has been in communication with the Labour leader’s office, who confirmed Jeremy Corbyn will be raising the 1984 Sikh genocide with Mr Modi.

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

The office for the leader of the Labour Party has said Jeremy Corbyn will be taking up the issue of the 1984 Sikh genocide with the Indian premier during his visit to Britain this week.

The development comes following recent correspondence between Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations, and the Labour Leader’s Office.

Lord Singh informed Mr Corbyn’s office that prior to Mr Modi’s landslide victory, he and his party had placed the blame for the killings of Sikhs on the then Congress government. Furthermore, following appointment to office Mr Modi’s Home Minister described the killings as “genocide”.

He wrote: “According to cables from the American Embassy in Delhi at the time, more Sikhs were brutally murdered by government orchestrated violence in the first three days of November 1984 than the total number of those killed in the long terror years of General Pinochet’s rule in Chile.”

He went on, “Sikhs are acutely concerned that a year after his election, Mr Modi has done nothing to bring identified Congress leaders who urged gangs of hooligans, to kill, murder and burn Sikh men, women and children, to justice. They now freely roam the streets gloating of their achievements to the bewilderment of relatives of those murdered, as well as the wider Sikh community.”

Lord Singh requested Mr Corbyn to ask Mr Modi to help bring closure to the remaining grieving families by setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which indicts those responsible for inciting murderous mobs. He said this would allow others to learn lessons, for what David Cameron described last year as “the worst stain on the history of post partition India.”

Mr Corbyn’s office confirmed he would be taking up the issue with Mr Modi when they meet later this week.

Peers discussed Anglo-Egyptian relations following a recent question about the ‘appropriateness’ of President al-Sisi’s visit to Britain.  

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) tabled a question asking Her Majesty’s Government whether President al-Sisi’s visit is appropriate in view of the state of the rule of law and human rights violations in Egypt.  
 
In response, The Earl of Courtown (Cons) said Egypt is important for Britain’s national interests adding, “We must work together on the immediate issues facing us, such as bringing stability to Libya, combating ISIL and countering extremism.”

Appalled by the Minister’s reluctance to speak on human rights abuse, Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB), the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations said,
 
“My Lords, we have recently lavished hospitality on the President of China, where, as we heard in the answers to an earlier Question, there are gross abuses of human rights and the ruling clique presumes to tell people how many children they can have.”
 
He went on, “We will shortly be lavishing similar hospitality on Narendra Modi, who until recently was excluded from this country and the United States for possible genocide against the Muslim community in India. We are rushing around trying to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most barbarous regimes in the Middle East.
 
To much laughter and applause he cuttingly concluded that it would be discriminatory to even think of excluding President al-Sisi from these others with questionable human rights records.
 
One Peer commented that he could not say what Lord Singh had said because he had neither the wit nor courage to put government complacency on human rights in such clear perspective.

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