By Dawinderpal Singh
Are Sikhs extremists? Well, extremely nice maybe. Yet, this isn’t always how we are portrayed.
Sikhs are facing a tough time these days. There are people photoshopping images to make them look like terrorists. Indian politicians are spreading libellous dossiers on them whilst police murder Sikh civilians in Punjab. Even a peaceful protest in Britain saw Sikhs being arrested, making news all over the UK, yet ended up with the London Metropolitan police apologising for its conduct on the day.
And it makes me wonder why Sikhs are being subjected to this. We have been in the UK en masse for over fifty years now, and most British people seem to have formed the opinion that Sikhs are nice people. We’re polite and friendly. We’re law abiding, helpful neighbours. Our organisations and temples feed homeless people of all backgrounds without discrimination all over this country.
In Sikhi there is a very important concept called “Sarbat da Bhalla”. The term is repeated in our scriptures and is emphasised heavily in our daily prayers. It means “blessings for everyone” or literally “may everyone prosper”. This is actually what Sikhs pray for; not for our own prosperity, nor blessings solely for the Sikh community, and not even for the welfare of our own family. Sikhs are so committed to the concept of equality and freedom for all of humanity that we explicitly pray for it several times a day.
Is that really the behaviour of terrorists?
Sections of the British public often criticise Muslims for not condemning the violent acts committed by groups in the name of Islam. Well, as a Sikh, I wholly condemn the actions of any and all terrorists. Those who aim to strike fear into the masses and cause terror are the very people who the Sikhs stand up against.
We do not want the public to live in fear. We want people to have the freedom to say what they want, to express their beliefs and to be who they are. Sikhs want a world in which everyone is able to express themselves whether they are male or female; black, white or brown; Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or any other faith; straight, gay, bi – we don’t care.
We would like for all of humanity to live peacefully as one, and for us all to celebrate in our diversity. “Extreme” Sikhs are those who simply pray for it more often than the rest of us.
The Daily Mail recently reported claims that Sikhs are learning how to make explosives in their places of worship (Gurdwaras). This is defamatory nonsense. Gurdwaras are usually open plan, and in all cases there are no private areas; anyone off the street is allowed into them. It would be a ridiculous place to try to devise any strategy of terrorism.
Another ridiculous assertion in the same report is that a Sikh organisation has collected close to £100,000 to form a separate Sikh country. Sikhs typically tend to be well-educated people, while some Sikh gurdwaras in the UK are decked in marble and have gold trimmings all over them. Realistically, British Sikhs would not attempt to create a nation using a budget that does not even not cover the price of a studio flat in Southall.
These are clearly lies being spread by people who know little about British Sikhs or the key principles of Sikhi.
It’s no secret that there is animosity between India’s authorities and the Sikh community. Indian politicians have recently been accused of corruption and illegally exploiting the Sikh farmers of Punjab. Many Sikhs are still not satisfied that justice has been served following the genocide perpetrated against innocent Sikh civilians in 1984, which the government and armed forces of India supported. Just last month, two Sikh peaceful protesters were killed by Indian police. The Sikh diaspora are shedding their loyalty to India as a nation and today, a lot of UK-born Sikhs consider themselves simply as British; not British-Indian or British-Asian.
There is indeed a movement taking place. Sikh youths are beginning to take an interest in their faith. They are being inspired by seeing Sikh organisations offer free food to stranded or homeless people in the UK, as well as providing food, shelter and first aid to victims in war-torn or disaster-struck nations all over the world. And they are discovering for the first time how Sikhi preaches equality and freedom for all. It would be unjust to label this as a negative “radicalisation”.