In response to this week’s Independent article on Sikh Youth UK (SYUK), see below for Sikh Press Association concerns about a lack of context, a Sikh Council statement and an interview where SYUK directly address the allegations made at them.
The Sikh Press Association is a news agency created to specifically mediate between panthic Sikh organisations/individuals and the media.
Sikh PA are an apolitical organisation. We never have and never will advocate any Sikh organisation or individual working with Tommy Robinson or any other politically tied figure as a representative of any Sikh issue/ideology.
We openly welcome any investigations/news reports on Sikh related issues and strive to help provide whatever information or resources are required for coverage. Our only condition is stories are covered accurately and fairly, within the correct context.
As per our role, Sikh PA were asked to liaise between Adam Lusher, the journalist conducting the investigation, and Sikh Youth UK. We also discussed the issue with Sikh Council UK who were another organisation contacted in regards to the story.
In dialogue with all groups, it was collectively decided that SYUK would not be speaking to the journalist directly, nor would they be answering questions sent via email prior to the story being published. The following were deemed areas of concern by Sikh PA:
- The journalist attempting to use quotes without permission from conversations had with Sikh organisations/individuals.
- No intention to highlight SYUK being an award winning community group (2016 Sandwell Council Outstanding Volunteer for Deepa Singh) and working hand in hand with authorities.
The Sikh Press Association also wishes to highlight that just last year the BBC gave former leader of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson a platform on Radio 4 and online. Talk radio channel LBC, one of the most popular radio stations in Britain, also gave right-wing media personality Katie Hopkins her own radio show, after she infamously suggested guns be used on migrants in her Sun newspaper column. Neither organisation has been accused of “propagating hatred” in the same manner SYUK have been by the Independent.
In regards to the article itself, we would like to point out the following missing context from the Independent article:
- Tommy Robinson attended a screening of SYUK film Misused Trust as a reporter for Rebel Media. Made in Birmingham TV also covered the film upon its release.
- SYUK met with Tommy Robinson in Huddersfield nine months ago. The Facebook status about his Sikh Channel appearance was two years ago. These are the only two times SYUK have done anything which can be suggested as advocating Tommy Robinson in at least five years of existence.
- In regards to questioning the validity of SYUK’s messages on the work of grooming gangs, it must be noted the group not only work with the police and social services on such matters, they also speak to hundreds of Sikhs about the issue on a near weekly basis via their work with Sikh student societies and in Gurdwaras across the UK.
- SYUK also offer support to various other communities impacted by abuse or addiction, including Muslims, as shown on their social media.
- SYUK’s community work is based on Sikh advocated practices such as connection with sangat (Sikh congregation), simran (recitation meditation), sports and further education in Sikh history and philosophy.
Sikh Council Statement on SYUK
Sexual Grooming and exploitation is an issue of national concern and requires the police, local authorities, educational establishments and communities to work together towards both prevention and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
From our understanding the Sikh Youth UK raise contemporary issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying and grooming. We understand the dramatised film ‘Misused Trust’ produced by them is an artistic expression of the issue of grooming and needs to be considered within that context.
It is encouraging to see young people becoming actively involved in promotion of active and healthy life styles, self help and community safety towards responsible citizenship.
Hate crimes are unfortunately on the rise and Sikhs have been susceptible to attacks in particular due to their distinct identity. In some cases Sikhs are the victims of hate crimes in sheer ignorance where the perpetrators are motivated by Islamophobia. We would encourage all community groups rightly concerned with issues such as grooming to be mindful of far-right groups who may seek to exploit these issues to demonise and divide communities.
Interview with Sikh Youth UK on Independent allegations
The following is an interview with SYUK based on the allegations made by the Independent. The answers were given as a collective.
“We have never advocated any of Tommy Robinson’s views on Islam, nor will we”
Q) How would Sikh Youth UK characterise its relationship with Tommy Robinson?
A) Nine months ago Tommy Robinson covered a Sikh Youth UK event for news channel Rebel Media. He has also shown an interest in sharing our work in tackling issues around grooming gangs. This is no different from the kind of “relationship” SYUK have established with journalists from the BBC and other news organisations. To be clear, SYUK are not in regular contact with Tommy Robinson and have no connection with any right-wing group.
Q) Are SYUK “propagating hatred towards Muslims” as Dr Katy Sian stated?
A) Just last week SYUK shared a post on our social media pages of us working with a young Muslim girl, supporting her on issues of domestic abuse. We have never advocated any of Tommy Robinson’s views on Islam, nor will we.
The fact is that as we saw recently with former Labour MP Sarah Champion when she said the UK has a problem with “Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”, anyone who publicly states the commonly (but usually privately) held belief about where many grooming gangs are produced is demonised. SYUK do not believe in sheltering truths of this nature, especially when they only work against tackling this heinous crime. SYUK’s voice will not waiver in the face of allegations of “propagating hatred” or political correctness.
“There are dozens of Sikhs in Leicester who will attest to the fact that details of a grooming gang forcing a Sikh girl into prostitution were handed to police in 2013…nothing was done about it”
Q) Why did SYUK make a video about the London Mayor?
A) SYUK volunteer Deepa Singh was simply making a factual statement; that a non-Sikh was dictating how to run a Sikh event (Vaisakhi in the Square). As our social media shows, SYUK also openly condemn those of a Sikh background who involve non-Sikh practices in Sikh festivals.
Q) What do you say to suggestions your film Misused Trust encourages vigilantism?
A) The film was based on real life events, detailed to us by girls we have supported as victims of sexual grooming. The fact of the matter is that because of self-admitted failures of our authorities to deal with grooming gangs, groups have taken issues into their own hands in the past. This type of vigilantism is part of Midlands Whilst it is something we do not condone, it is part of real life, which was why it was documented in the film.
There are dozens of Sikhs in Leicester who will attest to the fact that details of a grooming gang forcing a Sikh girl into prostitution were handed to the police in 2013. When nothing was done about it, it unfortunately resulted in a clash between members of the Sikh community and a known grooming gang that operated out of a restaurant. This resulted in Sikhs with no prior history of any criminal activity going to jail. This is the last thing we want to happen. The only thing we want is for the activities of sexual grooming gangs to be stopped.
By being vocal about this and working closely with authorities we are able to stem any future instances of vigilantism. This is an important part of our relationship between the Sikh community and West Midlands Police.
“If SYUK were a group which worked of “baseless fears”, we would not have the relationship with the authorities that we do. West Midlands Police often take cases directly from us”
Q) The Independent article suggested there is “no evidence” that incidents of the kind that Misused Trust depicted actually occur. Is this true?
A) This kind of callous attitude forces victims of grooming into the position of having to do interviews with the media publicly or face allegations of dishonesty. SYUK never ask any of the victims we work with to come forward publicly, just so we can appease doubters.
Those who suggest groomers have not pretended to be Sikh in order to entrap Sikh girls cannot claim to share the level of experience SYUK have in dealing with this issue. Not only do we have a reach across the UK which has seen us support victims from East London to Bradford and further, one of our senior volunteers Deepa Singh is also welfare secretary of Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, a role which sees him interact with thousands of people at one of the busiest Gurdwaras outside of India. He is an executive member of the Sikh Council. As an ear for the Sikh public he only reiterates the concerns of the sangat (Sikh congregation) he interacts with, which is why he is a respected Sikh community figure.
It must also be noted, if SYUK were a group which worked of “baseless fears”, we would not have the relationship with the authorities that we do. West Midlands Police often take cases directly from us, to ensure a buffer between families and the police. We have and will continue to work with the authorities on these issues.
Q) How has Misused Trust been received in general?
A) The film has been seen by thousands across the country and unanimously supported by viewers for breaking barriers in the way Sikh grassroots org spread messages.
Q) The Independent article seems to accuse SYUK of spreading unjustified fear. Is this fair?
A) SYUK do not aim to spread fear, just awareness. There are literally hundreds of girls across the UKthat have been victims of sexual grooming gangs made up of either entirely or predominantly Muslim men. This is an undeniable fact, one which has been highlighted by Lords, MPs and the media regularly. Sikhs have been vocal about members of our community being targeted by such gangs for decades. However, we always openly say in our talks that this is something that shouldn’t stain the entire Muslim community.