The Sikhs who join in the hatred of Muslims are deluded if they expect to avoid racial exclusion
Rajinder Singh, a British Sikh with an extreme dislike of Muslims, is, according to the BNP, "the kind of immigrant you want if you're going to have them". And if, as expected, the party members vote to allow ethnic minorities to join, Singh will be the first to be conferred this "honour". Sikh organisations have dismissed him – and fellow BNP wannabe "Ammo Singh" (a pseudonym) – as unrepresentative, and it is easy to write them off as self-hating lunatics or pranksters. But to do so is to obscure the larger realities of how race, religion and hate operate.
What has been lost in the storm over Nick Griffin's BBC appearance and the debate over the freedom to voice hatred in the guise of "white rights" is that modern racism survives through a parasitical alliance of vicious groups and ideologies, each of which thinks it is superior to and more entitled to preservation and growth than the others. What they share is a commitment to delusions of absolute racial or religious grandeur and purity even as they compete for victim status.
The two Sikhs' hostility to Islam is strong enough for them to overlook the contempt in which the BNP ultimately holds all racial minorities. Communities in Britain with links to the Indian subcontinent have, over time, seceded from their rich shared heritage and the assertive "Asian" banner under which they fought successfully for their rights in the 1960s and 1970s. Dispersed into the sectarian religious identities of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim, they have all but forgotten how to mobilise together against the threat of an opportunistic ethnic majoritarianism that does not, ultimately, make fine distinctions among those it perceives as outsiders.
Generalising labels like "Asian" may have their drawbacks but, as Arun Kundnani of the Institute of Race Relations notes of Sunrise Radio's bizarre decision to drop "Asian" from its banner under sustained pressure from extremist groups like the World Hindu Council, the hope underlying such disaffiliation is that "racist whites could be persuaded to exclude Hindus and Sikhs from their hatred, and focus instead solely on Muslims". A 2006 Runnymede Trust survey claims that as many as 80% of Hindus and Sikhs in Britain wished to be seen as specifically distinct from Muslims. "Don't Freak, I'm a Sikh", urged T-shirts printed after the 7 July bombings.
Griffin's assertion that "many" Hindus and Sikhs support the BNP is a wild exaggeration. But we need to face up to the messy reality of a society where ethno-religious fragmentation and tensions between minority groups work to the advantage of majority chauvinism. Kundnani points out that as early as 2002 the BNP was able to persuade a tiny Sikh faction called the Shere-e-Punjab to participate in its anti-Muslim campaign. Even if such collaborators are a tiny fringe, minority communities need to be aware of the ways in which their participation in divisive categories and separatist communal warfare only strengthens the positions of the racists who seek to subordinate them entirely.
Anti-immigrant views among migrants are not new, but what extremisms also share is an exaggerated fear that other groups are numerically overwhelming theirs. When Sikh-Muslim gang fights broke out in Slough, the language used mimicked the defensive territorial language of the BNP. "Muslims run Slough," one gang member insisted at the time. "Why are Sikhs coming from outside?"
Ammo Singh told the BBC, which has made a habit of using fringe groups as representatives of entire communities, that Islam was planning to take over Britain through "a combination of immigration, high birth rate and conversion".
Rajinder Singh, like many Hindus and Sikhs, has invoked the 1947 partition of India, in which he lost his father, as the cause of his enmity towards Muslims. This selective emphasis conveniently obscures two facts. The first is that it was the British empire and its policies of divide and rule which culminated in the partition that was its last official act. The second is that all three communities are fully responsible for the horrific butchery, bloodletting and rape that followed. Rather than mourning the tragedy of partition, men like Rajinder Singh seek to re-enact it in Britain, once again under the aegis of British racial supremacism.
The time has come for us to recognise racial and religious hatred in all its manifestations for what it is and take a stand against it – alongside right-thinking whites – not only when it is directed at us, but also when it is undertaken in our name. The colour line hasn't disappeared yet, but the real struggle is between fascist hatreds and humane solidarity.
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