February 18, 2010
Posted by Antifascist
I must have missed the turkeys voting for Christmas a couple of months ago. Anyway, my friend Hardeep Singh, who is press secretary for the Network of Sikh Organisations UK writes to me and I thought I’d offer what he has to say on Rajinder as a personal view. It’s particularly interesting, I think, that Islamophobia among Sikhs can make them sympathetic to neo-fascists in the BNP – my enemy’s enemy and all that. I haven’t tidied up Hardeep’s open letter, because I think it should be read as he wrote it; it’s a magnificent Sikh insight into racial hatred. Here it is, with many thanks to Hardeep
A Lapsed Sikh & the BNP: A Personal View by Hardeep Singh
When someone mentions the British National Party, I can’t help but construct ghastly images of frog marching skinheads with scowling faces performing the Nazi salute to all the ‘darkies.’ Albeit now just figments of my imagination – these images were on the contrary, once a stark reality for my parents & grandparents and many of their generation who moved to West London in the 1960’s, from the leafy villages of rural Panjab. They lived through the Southall riots where Sikhs along with others formed a vanguard against aggressive ‘Paki -bashers’ of the National Front, (the BNP parent movement), it was during these tumultuous events in 1979 that Blair Peach was tragically killed.
As a British Sikh, my closest encounter with a ‘skin-head’ with a swastika festooned on his forehead was on a bendy London bus. On politely paying my fare to the driver on entry (the full seventy pence worth), my detractor loudly uttered the unforgettable words “Rag heads got more of a cockney accent than I have!” Fortunately for me he was just the commentator type, not a fully fledged head-butting storm trooper.
That’s why it’s difficult to fathom the penchant Mr. Singh, a man born into the Sikh faith, has for becoming the first non Caucasian member of the BNP, if the BNP decide to change their membership requirements and acquiesce to the EHRC demands for an amended constitution.
The communications and campaigns officer Martin Wingfield has endorsed Mr. Singh and called the party to “adapt and survive and give the brave and loyal Rajinder Singh the honour of becoming the first ethnic minority member”.
Mr. Singh has inadvertently become a political pawn utilised in explicit rebranding by the sharp suited fascist brigade, he may also emerge symbolic of a seismic shift in British politics based on the fear of radical Islamism held by both white non-turban wearing and in his case strategic Panjabi turban wearing Brits. Could this be part of a pseudo-reality whereby Mr. Griffin is a likened by Mr. Singh to Bruce Willis and will for better or worse save a bedevilled Britain from Islamism, with nothing but a dirty vest? Or is it more like a fatal attraction and will Singh’s infatuation for the far right all end up in tears and symbiotic failure?
Born in West Punjab in 1931, Rajinder Singh witnessed the violence of Indian partition firsthand. Millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were killed during partition, his father among them, murdered when Singh was only 15. He lays the blame squarely with Muslims. The memories of partition (which Singh refers to) are a synapse transmission away from many who lived to tell the tale, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. There was butchery on all sides along with acts of great humanity shown by fellow human being to his brethren, be it Sikh, Hindu or Muslim.
Although it is understandable why someone like Rajinder Singh has such a perspective considering the loss of his father during partition, it’s not justifiable from a moral standing and equally from a Sikh perspective. The importance of this, I cannot stress enough…
My grandfather survived partition in one of the ‘death trains’, he was a commissioned officer in the British Army, a proud Sikh infantryman with what I would describe a touch of swagger. His experience of brutal massacre did not lead him to a deep-seated hatred of adherents of Islam, because this would have been inconsistent with Sikh teachings. My grandfather took the example of another Sikh who suffered immense personal tragedy at the hands of Muslims, the tenth and last human spiritual leader of the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh, some 300 years ago.
Inspite of loosing his father at the age of nine (Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed at the behest of the Emperor Aurungzeb for standing up against the forced conversion of the Hindu Holy men in Kashmir) and his four sons, two of whom were bricked alive and two whom died in battle against Mogul aggression, Guru Gobind Singh did not use any of these examples to vilify, demonise or tarnish any of the adherents of Islam.
In fact, Guru Gobind Singh actively promoted the notion of desiring the wellbeing and happiness of the entire human race without any kind of distinction or bias regarding people’s individual religious affiliations or ethnic background for that matter. He explicitly promoted the teaching that people should “view the whole of humanity as one race”
It is in the spirit of true Sikh teachings, that stories like those of Dr. Anarkali Kaur Honaryar bring a smile to the face of many worldwide, rather than a general ambivalence to the controversial Mr. Singh. She is a 25 year old from Afghanistan and was chosen by Radio Free Europe’s Afghan chapter as their “Person of the year”. The award has made her a household name in the Afghan Capital Kabul.
Since the ‘Talibinisation’ of Afghanistan in the early 1990’s the numbers of Sikhs which was estimated to be 50,000 has dwindled to around a 3,000, Sikhs have been reported to be kidnapped and held hostage by Taliban affiliates as well as forced in some instances to pay the jizya (tax imposed on non-Muslims). Inspite of the appalling treatment of minority groups including her very own community, heroines like Dr. Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, A Sikh – continues to work for the Afghan Human Rights Commission (which she joined in 2006), fighting for amongst others the rights of Muslim women in Afghan society. Many of her relatives chose to move to avoid the hostilities and emigrate to safer part of the world such as Canada, Europe & India.
I think we should spend far more time celebrating heroes and heroines of this ilk and much less time on the strategic turban wearing Mr. Singh and his reprehensible grandstanding with Mr. Griffin’s party. Perhaps he should be reminded that it wasn’t that long ago that Mr. Griffin was talking about the voluntary repatriation of Sikhs to India so that ‘West London, wouldn’t be so crowded at rush hour’.
If he chooses to join the ranks of the far right, he will do so at the disgust of the vast majority of Sikhs across Britain. He is lapsed not only in his appearance, but more importantly in his love affair with an organisation that totally rejects Sikh teachings on the equality of all human beings.
Hardeep Singh is is a freelance journalist & broadcaster & the Press Secretary for the Network of Sikh Organisations, UK.