Where Unity Is Strength
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Dr Gurdeep Singh and Gurmel Singh Kandola

Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib ji in West Bromwich was less than a third full (perhaps 50-60 people present) on 21 December 2019, when Dr Gurdeep Singh and S Gurmel Singh Kandola, claiming to speak on behalf of  all UK Sikhs, began an extraordinary attack on S Ranjit Singh Dhadrian Wale, Harinder Singh and the Nirvair Khalsa Jatha, demanding they be banned from preaching in all gurdwaras in the UK.

The Sikh religion is a strong faith rooted in compassion and commonsense and has nothing to fear from discussion and questioning. Our Gurus were far-sighted human beings who far from claiming special powers, warned us against superstitious beliefs and idle speculation about peripherals of belief. Our responsibility as Sikhs is to live true to the teachings and make them known to the wider world. We should never follow the practice of other faiths in trying to deify our Gurus. Christians talk of an empty tomb following Christ’s crucifixion, Muslims that Mohammed ascended to heaven on a horse. Such superstition and conjecture are contrary to Sikh teachings.

S Harinder was shown in a video played at the gurdwara trying to make this very point. Unfortunately, he got carried away by his own rhetoric with unnecessary speculation over the circumstances surrounding Guru Nanak’s death rather than keeping to the topic of what happened to Guru Nanak’s body after his death. The correct response would have been to support S Ranjit Singh’s suggestion to ask S Harpreet Singh, Jathedar Akal Takht for his guidance.

Both S Harinder Singh and S Ranjit Singh Dhadrian Wale have done much to emphasise the importance of Sikh teachings and it is wrong for a few self-proclaimed guardians of the Sikh faith to issue un-Sikh like ‘resolutions’ against those that do not conform to their view.

The NSO requests all Sikhs to look to the real issues facing the Khalsa Panth in this 550th year of Guru Nanak’s birth, such as the overt attempt by the RSS/BJP to absorb the Sikh faith into Hinduism, the alarming mushrooming of sants, babas, deras and others to dilute and distort Guru Nanak’s teachings beyond recognition.

 

         2011 census statistics | England and Wales 

        Total census Sikh population:  430,020

No. of Sikhs who identified themselves as Sikhs under ethnicity:  83,362

No. who identified themselves as Sikhs under both religion & ethnicity:  76,500

No. Sikhs who identified themselves under ethnicity only:  6,862

      % Sikhs who do not want to be identified by religion 6,862/430,020: 1.6%*

The 2011 census results show that 98.4% of Sikhs in 2011 were happy to be identified by religion.

Comment:

The above statistics show that the 2011 census accurately reflected the Sikh population. This effectively destroys the Sikh Federation UK’s (SFUK) case of under-representation. Facts and figures however mean nothing to the SFUK anxious to downplay our religious identity and show Sikhs as a tribe or sect needing state protection. Their staggering response is now to suggest without any evidence, that the true population of Sikhs is as much as 800,000.**Nearly twice the census figure, suggesting some 370,000 beings, so-called ‘ethnic Sikhs’ are wandering around refusing to be identified under ethnicity.

Dr Jhutti-Johal an academic from the University of Birmingham supports our position when she concludes, ‘It is difficult to see what additional benefit that data collected through a Sikh ethnic tick box would bring. ONS research has already suggested that the existing Sikh religion tick will capture virtually all Sikhs in the UK.’[i]

Whist previously boasting that Sikhs lead other communities in home ownership, in a classic example of double-think SFUK have since claimed Sikhs face discrimination in housing.[ii] They contradict themselves. In the 2016 UK Sikh Survey, The Sikh Network (their sister organisation) suggested, ‘92% of Sikhs are owner occupiers the highest for any group in the UK’.[iii]The 2014 British Sikh Report made a similar point, ‘In terms of wealth and assets, home ownership is very high amongst British Sikhs with 87% of households owning at least a portion of their home’.[iv] Why the U-turn by SFUK?

Worse still the legal action against the Cabinet Office was brought by the Chair of the SFUK, namely Amrik Singh Gill (on behalf of SFUK), the owner of apparently more than 100 properties, who was recently described as a ‘rogue landlord’ and fined more than £50,000 for housing tenants in overcrowded and substandard conditions.[v] We have asked the SFUK to confirm or deny if their Chair Amrik Singh Gill was the subject of the fine and gave them an opportunity to comment on the decision, we did not hear back from them. The phrase, ‘physician heal thyself’ comes to mind.

The SFUK are now seeking permission to appeal the High Court decision against them,[vi] with Gill as the appellant on behalf of the SFUK.[vii] Neither Gill nor, the SFUK represent the view of the majority of British Sikhs who are content with describing themselves as Sikhs by religion in the census.

All Sikh organisations urgently need to make clear that the ‘rogue’ Sikh Federation UK in no way speaks for British Sikhs.

*https://bit.ly/36M335J

**https://www.leighday.co.uk/Sikh-Federation-UK-to-seek-permission-to-appeal

[i] https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/sikh-ethnic-tick-box-ons-assesses-evidence.aspx

[ii] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/campaign-to-include-sikhs-as-ethnic-group-in-census-reaches-high-court-a4285236.html

[iii] http://www.thesikhnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/UK-Sikh-Survey-2016-Findings-FINAL.pdf

[iv] http://www.britishsikhreport.org/british-sikh-report-download-2014/

[v] https://news.derby.gov.uk/rogue-landlord-fined-over-50000/

[vi] https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/3407.html

[vii] https://www.leighday.co.uk/Sikh-Federation-UK-to-seek-permission-to-appeal

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