Where Unity Is Strength
Header
Free speech has been challenged at a number of British universities over the last few months

Free speech has been challenged at a number of British universities over the last few months

The suppression of free speech in universities was the subject of a debate in the Lords this week following a question tabled by Baroness Deech.

A spate of recent disruptions at Goldsmiths, Kings College and Canterbury has put into question the notion of free speech in universities. Baroness Deech asked the government what measures were being taken to “ensure freedom of lawful speech at universities.” She pressed the Minister to speak with vice-chancellors to ensure free speech would be upheld.

Last year a video emerged of a Muslim reformer being heckled and aggressively interrupted by Muslim students at Goldsmiths. Earlier this year police were called to Kings College following reports of violent protest against a speech being given by Israel’s ex secret service chief. The meeting organised by the Israel society was brought to a halt by violent pro Palestine protesters.

The Minister agreed with Baroness Deech and said Universities have a clear legal duty to ensure legal views can be heard, challenged and debated.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations said, “My Lords, debate should always be conducted in courteous terms but does the Minister agree that words such as “antisemitism” and “Islamophobia” and those relating to any other type of religious phobia should not be used as shields to stifle legitimate debate?”

The Minister responded thus, “we absolutely want to support students and universities in ensuring that legitimate, lawful debate and the challenging of ideas happens in our universities.”

Houses of Parliament

Palace of Westminster

A question on how the government intends to respond to resolutions made at the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning the actions of IS as genocide was the subject of a debate in the Lords earlier this month.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (who asked the question) said it was futile for Britain to be a member of the 1948 genocide convention if it, “declines to name this horrific cruelty for the genocide that it is.” He described the horrors perpetrated by IS, including the forced conversion, abduction, systemic executions and enslavement of Christians and Yazidis.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) said, “My Lords, when a few months ago I asked for government support for an international inquiry into supposed genocide against the Sikh community in India, I was told, in a very short reply, that it was solely a matter for the Indian Government. That was not a very Christian sentiment.”

He went on, “would the Minister agree with the sentiments of the Sikh guru who gave his life defending the right of followers of another religion to worship in the manner of their choice? Human rights abuses against anyone are the responsibility of us all, and the Government should take every measure to bring those guilty of them to justice.”

The Earl of Courtown responded thus, “My Lords, the noble Lord refers to a Question that my noble friend Lady Anelay answered. We will of course take careful note of what the noble Lord said, including how important it is that people have the freedom to worship in their own faith.”

 

Parmjeet

Parmjeet Singh

Paramjeet Singh fled from arbitrary arrest and torture in India in 1999, and in the following year was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after a finding of a justifiable fear of persecution if he was made to return to India.

Paramjeet is married and is the father of 4 children age 7 to 11. In December 2015 the family went on a short Christmas holiday to Portugal where he was arrested by Interpol at the request of the Indian government and is now facing extradition proceedings for his forced return to India. It seems that the Indian government had taken exception to his speaking out on human rights abuse in India. Lord Singh, for the NSO, has raised his concerns with the Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Sikh groups have also raised concerns with both British and Portuguese governments.

In an interview on 3rd January 2015 with a Portuguese television channel outside the House of Lords, Lord Singh was asked why had Paramjeet Singh after being granted asylum, continued to attack India’s attitude to human rights instead of simply getting on with his own life.

Lord Singh responded that we all have a responsibility to condemn the ill treatment of others, and for Sikhs this responsibility is embedded in religious teachings and is obligatory.

He appealed to the authorities in Portugal not to be used like pawns in a backdoor attempt by Indian authorities to silence criticism of their human rights record, and return Paramjeet to British jurisdiction.

UK government_0

A question on the progress of a government review into funding of extremist interpretations of Islam was the subject of a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week.

A Government review announced by the Prime Minister last year is scheduled to report back by spring 2016. Analysts across government departments are looking into sources of funding, which include those from overseas.

A government commissioned report last year into Islamist organisations concluded:

“Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”

In questions in the Lords, Lord Singh of Wimbledon the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations asked Her Majesty’s government:

“My Lords, when we talk about Islamic extremism, should we not attempt to be more precise in what we are talking about? There are passages in the Koran that might have been relevant to the time when the infant Muslim community was under siege from all sides but may not be so relevant today.”

He went on, “It is important that those passages be put in the context of today. Should the Government not be working with Muslim leaders to that end”

Other contributors to the debate included the Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

 

HNY

We cannot say if a person is tall or short, thin or fat without comparing. In the same way, we cannot understand the true value of Sikhism without comparing it with other faiths. A fairly full study of other religions helped enhance my own understanding of Sikhism.

My hope is that we make 2016 a year in which we look again at the powerful and uplifting teachings of our Gurus, and make others aware of balance guidance highly relevant to today’s troubled world.

The attached table (NSO Faith Quiz [1]) was produced in October at the request of young Sikhs in Salt Lake City and California. We should encourage our children, young (and not so young) Sikhs, to complete it objectively to the best of their knowledge. The exercise will result in a greater appreciation of the richness of their heritage.

Best wishes for Guru Gobind Singh ji’s Gurpurb and a happy 2016.

Indarjit

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is pleased to acknowledge positive steps taken by the government, following its campaigning on the issue of separate monitoring for anti-Sikh hate crime.

A Home office spokesperson said, “Crime motivated by hatred or hostility towards someone because of who they or their religious beliefs are absolutely deplorable.”

They added, “We announced a new cross-Government hate crime plan. We also announced that we will work with the police to provide a breakdown of religious based hate crime as part of the data recorded by the police – this will ensure that in future there is accurate data on crimes committed against people because of their faith and race – including crimes committed against Sikhs.”

Lord Singh who has raised the issue on a number of occasions in the last year said, “NSO persistence in constantly raising this issue with ministers in the Lords and in discussion with the DCLG finally appears to be paying off.”

He went on, “The government now seem to realize the seriousness of race and mistaken identity hate crimes against members of the Sikh community.”

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) expresses disappointment at the government’s continuing apathy on the subject of Sikh victims of hate crime.

In October the government announced anti-Muslim hate crime would be monitored as a separate category across all police forces, providing parity with the recording of anti-Semitic hate crime.

In contrast Britain’s other minority faiths like Sikhs and Hindus are not separately tracked, although the government has given assurances it will address hate crime against all communities even-handedly.

The NSO has learnt that it is likely that Sikh victims of anti-Muslim hate crime in London are being incorrectly recorded as victims of ‘Islamophobic offences.’

The MET does not break down Islamophobic hate crime by faith group.

The NSO is pressing government officials to monitor Sikh hate crime within a separate category, to provide parity with provisions already in place for Jews and Muslims.

In a debate last week which focused primarily on concerns about violence against Muslims post Paris, Lord Singh of Wimbledon said,

“The Minister will be aware of numerous attacks on Sikhs as a result of mistaken identity. While hate crimes against the Muslim community have been monitored by every police force in the country, not a single penny is being spent on monitoring hate crimes against Sikhs.”

He went on, “the American Government are well aware of this problem which Sikhs suffer from and are taking steps to monitor that hate crime. When will the British Government catch up?”

Members of the Sikh community expressed concerns last month over a potential backlash in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.

Senior government figures have contacted Lord Singh about a possible backlash against British Sikhs following the Islamic terrorist atrocities in Paris. Lord Singh informed the Head of Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that attacks on Sikhs, and Sikh places of worship were a real possibility. He gave examples of where right wing extremists in Britain had been unable to distinguish turban-wearing Sikhs from Muslim extremists, and had attacked them. He also spoke to a Minister from DCLG citing other incidents driven by an increase in racism per se, rather than ‘Islamophobia’.

In September 2015 a Neo-Nazi was given life imprisonment for attempting to behead a Sikh dentist in ‘revenge’ for Fusilier Lee Rigby. Lord Singh had previously expressed concern that BBC Newsnight had incorrectly attributed the incident to ‘Islamophobia’. The victim, Dr Sarandev Bhambra, was in fact targeted because of the colour of his skin. In an environment post 9/11 Sikhs have suffered backlash because of both an increase in racism and ‘Islamophobia.’

During a debate this summer Lord Singh raised the difficulty facing Sikhs asking a DCLG Minister, “Does the Minister agree that hate crime is hate crime against any community, and that it should be tackled even-handedly, irrespective of the size of the community?” The Minister agreed, and said “The noble Lord is absolutely right—hate crime is hate crime.”

Despite these assurances DCLG announced last week that hate crime against Muslims was to be separately monitored by every police district in Britain. This provides parity for Muslims with provisions already in place for Jews. Despite the history of violence against Sikhs post 9/11, the government does not currently considered hate crimes against Sikhs worthy of separate monitoring. This inequality needs to be urgently addressed.

Lord Singh informed government officials that earlier this year the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had started to separately track hate crime against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs. The separate monitoring was given a sense of urgency following the Oak Creek massacre in August 2012, when a white supremacist shot dead six Sikh worshipers in a gurdwara.

He told the Minister Britain should not lag behind the US. The Minister and Head of DCLG said they would urgently follow this up.

The Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), Lord Singh has rejected an invitation to the ‘UKWelcomesModi’ reception and dinner hosted by the Indian High Commissioner.

The events being held this Friday are in honor of the Indian Premier Narendra Modi, who is on an official state visit to the UK.

Europe India Forum, organisers of ‘UKWelcomesModi’ have billed the forthcoming welcoming reception in Wembley as “the Diwali event for the family this year”. They aim to bring together, “individuals from the 1.6 million-strong Indian community in Britain- from all backgrounds, generations and regions – to celebrate two great nations with one glorious future.”

Thanking the High Commissioner for the invitation, Lord Singh responded, “Sikhs are delighted that under Mr Modi’s premiership, the widespread killing of Sikhs in 1984 has now been recognised as ‘genocide’.”

He went on, “This is a big step to bringing the Hindu and Sikh communities together, and in this context, as a leader of Britain’s half million Sikhs, I would be grateful for 5-6 minutes with Mr Modi to suggest ways of taking his initiative towards closure, in a way that brings the Hindu and Sikh communities closer together for the benefit of India as a whole.”

The High Commissioners office confirmed there would be no opportunity to discuss issues with Mr Modi, bar a handshake. Lord Singh declined the offer.

In separate developments, the Network of Sikh Organisations can confirm Lord Singh has been in communication with the Labour leader’s office, who confirmed Jeremy Corbyn will be raising the 1984 Sikh genocide with Mr Modi.

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

The office for the leader of the Labour Party has said Jeremy Corbyn will be taking up the issue of the 1984 Sikh genocide with the Indian premier during his visit to Britain this week.

The development comes following recent correspondence between Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations, and the Labour Leader’s Office.

Lord Singh informed Mr Corbyn’s office that prior to Mr Modi’s landslide victory, he and his party had placed the blame for the killings of Sikhs on the then Congress government. Furthermore, following appointment to office Mr Modi’s Home Minister described the killings as “genocide”.

He wrote: “According to cables from the American Embassy in Delhi at the time, more Sikhs were brutally murdered by government orchestrated violence in the first three days of November 1984 than the total number of those killed in the long terror years of General Pinochet’s rule in Chile.”

He went on, “Sikhs are acutely concerned that a year after his election, Mr Modi has done nothing to bring identified Congress leaders who urged gangs of hooligans, to kill, murder and burn Sikh men, women and children, to justice. They now freely roam the streets gloating of their achievements to the bewilderment of relatives of those murdered, as well as the wider Sikh community.”

Lord Singh requested Mr Corbyn to ask Mr Modi to help bring closure to the remaining grieving families by setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which indicts those responsible for inciting murderous mobs. He said this would allow others to learn lessons, for what David Cameron described last year as “the worst stain on the history of post partition India.”

Mr Corbyn’s office confirmed he would be taking up the issue with Mr Modi when they meet later this week.

Skip to toolbar