Where Unity Is Strength
Header

Above image: Gurpreet Anand – Sikh Council UK (left) with orange turban on KTV programme ‘Sangat Di Kachehri’ – 10th Oct 2020

It has been brought to our attention that Gurpreet Anand of one of the two simultaneously existing Sikh Council UK’s, made a series of inaccurate and misleading statements about anti-Sikh hate crime on a programme called ‘Sangat Di Kachehri’ on KTV on 10th Oct 2020. The interview (which we have on file) was conducted in Punjabi by the host, and the responses were given by Mr Anand in both English and Punjabi (at times both together). For the purposes of this article we have translated his words into English.

He began by saying when he and his colleagues met the police (presumably post 9/11) to quantify how many attacks on Sikhs there had been, they were informed they cannot tell them, because the police do not count Sikh victims of hate crime. This may well have been the case, but Mr Anand does not clarify when the said meeting took place, the full details of the conversation, and who exactly provided them this information. We wrote to the Sikh Council UK to ask them for these particulars, and what Mr Anand and his colleagues had done since to make sure Sikhs were recorded appropriately. We had no response.

To set the record straight, hate crimes against Sikhs are currently recorded under both religion and race, and we successfully lobbied for the disaggregation of ‘Islamophobic hate crime’ – so that these figures are transparent to include a breakdown of all faiths and none in this category by the Home Office. The latest Home Office statistics have just been reported. The number of religious hate crimes recorded by the police in 2019/20, included 202 incidents recorded against ‘Sikh’, which is 3% of all recorded (perceived) religious hate crimes in England and Wales.[i] A 7% rise from the previous year as observed by Dr Jhutti-Johal from the University of Birmingham.[ii] Hate crimes where the victim is of a Sikh heritage can of course be recorded under different flags aside from religion, e.g. if they become victim of a homophobic attack, or if they are targeted in a racially aggravated attack.

In the interview segment, Anand suggests Sikhs are still not counted properly, and oddly appears to conflate the Sikh Federation UK’s (SFUK) census tick box debate, inferring that if there was a Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box this would go some way in solving the Sikh hate crime problem. This is misleading and indicates a very poor understanding of hate crime, which is recorded by the police on a perception basis. How does a Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box in the census change an individual’s perception? The answer is, it does not. Besides, Sikhs are already recorded as victims of racially or religiously motivated hate crime (or both) based on perception of the victim, or any other person. The issue he miserably fails to grasp is the solution to the problem is not in belittling others, but (i) improving religious literacy (for ‘mistaken identity’ attacks in particular) and (ii) encouraging people to report all incidents in the first instance.

We have made some guides to assist the community in this regard with a project funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and facilitated by Galop. Can Mr Anand tell us what happened to the Sikh Council UK’s failed Sikh Aware (hate crime monitoring platform), and why no one has been held accountable for it? He may say this was under a previous administration, or the responsibility of the other concurrently existing Sikh Council UK. He may say this matter does not therefore concern him. We are not entirely sure which of the two coexisting Sikh Council UK’s we should talk to, nor we understand are the government.

He then goes on to make a veiled reference to us, saying these other Sikh organisations are debating whether Sikhs should be counted or not. Again, this is peculiar, and he appears to be ignorantly conflating the SFUK’s Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box issue with perception-based hate crime reporting, when the two are separate and distinct. He says ‘we say [The Sikh Council UK he heads] we should be counted. We should know what’s happening with our ‘kaum’ and what problems there are’. Notably, the use of ‘kaum’ mirrors the language often used by the SFUK.

Anand should be aware, it was the NSO who discovered Sikhs and others are being recorded under ‘Islamophobic hate crime’ – something appreciated by Christians, Hindus, Atheists and others. It was the NSO that pushed back against Action Against Hate (2016) for marginalising the non-Abrahamic faith communities in favour of Abrahamic faiths. It was the NSO that then influenced (through giving oral and written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee) policy when the government made a commitment to support Hindus and Sikhs in reporting hate crime. It was the NSO that has worked alongside Galop over the summer and collaborated with other organisations, the police and policy makers in #TogetherAgainstHate2020. We could go on.

Mr Anand boasts, ‘we are looking to get things done’, then refers to an APPG for British Sikhs Zoom meeting on anti-Sikh hate crime in which he participated. He later refers to other Sikh organisations, and asks the presenter if they are ‘democratic’ and ‘transparent’, then asking him if the NSO has ever come on his show? We asked The Sikh Council UK if Mr Anand was suggesting we are not ‘democratic’ or ‘transparent’, they did not respond. To set the record straight, we are happy to debate Mr Anand, but were not extended an invite to KTV, to have a right of reply. It’s important to note that Mr Anand’s friends, both in the SFUK and Preet Gill MP have previously ignored the offer to debate the ill-conceived Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box with our Director, Lord Singh on more than one occasion.

Most shamefully of all Mr Anand failed to mention that in November 2008, the NSO organised the screening of the UK premier of Valarie Kaur’s film Divided We Fall Americans in the Aftermath in Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) London with a Q&A afterwards, with one Mr Anand. He can be seen giving an interview following the screening here.[iii]

We asked the Sikh Council UK to comment on why Mr Anand did not mention this given it was germane to the interview segment related to anti-Sikh hate crime, but they did not get back to us.


[i] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/925968/hate-crime-1920-hosb2920.pdf

[ii] https://twitter.com/JhuttiJay/status/1315947974241980418?s=20

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&gl=GB&v=en5ekzMWGVM

Last month we reported that we had produced hate crime guide to help signpost members of the Sikh community to organisations who can support them, as well as encouraging victims to report incidents to the police. We additionally produced a second guide designed to support organisations supporting Sikh victims.

The guides have been complied as part of a project, Together Against Hate, co-ordinated by the UK’s only specialist LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop. The project has been funded by The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC).

Following a number of requests from gurdwaras and consultation with members of the community we have now translated the guides into Punjabi as well. We believe this step will ensure the important message of reporting incidents to the police and knowing where to get help and advice, will reach a much wider audience.

The Punjabi guide for individuals can be downloaded here:

For organisations supporting victims here:

[Ends]

Sri Guru Singh Sabha Hounslow © Copyright Des Blenkinsopp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This advice is primarily for the 130 NSO gurdwaras and other affiliated Sikh organisations. Please feel free to share it with other gurdwaras and groups.

Around 17th March 2020 many places of worship including churches, mosques and synagogues made the difficult decision to restrict or hold back services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This followed direction from the Church of England (CoE), the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Office of the Chief Rabbi. The CoE recommended live stream sermons as an alternative to worship in church. At the same time, the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) gave advice along similar lines to gurdwaras we collaborate with. On 20th of March we announced:

‘Many gurdwaras have already taken steps to curtail or completely stop services. Although it’s not an easy decision to make, following discussion with medical professionals some of whom are at the frontline of tackling the disease, we have concluded UK gurdwaras should seriously consider temporary closure of normal gatherings to prevent transmission of Covid-19.’

We followed this up with telephone calls to individual gurdwaras and management committee members.

Filling the gap caused by the temporary closure of gurdwaras

Our gurdwaras provide two main functions:

1. Congregational prayer or prayer in the sangat, which enhances individual prayer.

2. Strengthening Sikh community cohesion and a commitment to service, through langar (free kitchen) and social activities. The Covid-19 pandemic should be seen as a ‘chardi kala’ (high spirits) opportunity by Sikhs, to look afresh at the teachings of out Gurus, individually and within the family, and to reflect on how these can help us in our journey through life. The internet can help us through the establishment of a virtual congregation. Sikh women’s groups have already taken a lead through the establishment of Zoom facilitated Sukhmani Sahib prayer and similar initiatives. A gurdwara in Reading is now relaying kirtan (devotional hymns) from members’ homes to a wider audience in a way that keeps the local congregation together.

When is it safe to reopen gurdwaras?

The government is hoping that that places of worship will be able to function normally by 4th July 2020 (subject to scientific recommendations.) The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government taskforce have stressed it has to be a ‘phased and safe reopening of places of worship’. Unfortunately, the politically driven taskforce concept fails to understand the very real differences between Sikhism and the Abrahamic faiths, as well as different degrees of risk from Covid-19. We are sadly aware of the controversy surrounding the appointment of a Sikh ‘faith leader’ to the government taskforce, his resignation following community disquiet and the related harassment. The unseemly jostling to replace him has also been regrettable. It appears the government has been playing musical chairs with ‘prominent’ Sikhs.

Gurdwaras have a responsibility to follow government guidance. Before considering reopening gurdwaras it is important that management committees firstly follow existing government advice on mass gatherings and social distancing to help prevent the transmission of Covid-19 and control the spread of the virus.

One size does not fit all

We must also remember what applies to the CoE or synagogues may not necessarily apply to gurdwaras – the setting, environment and practice are different, as is the congregation’s demographic. For example, we have higher risk congregations in gurdwaras than most churches. As BAME communities and the over 70s are higher risk groups, gurdwaras need to be especially mindful. Many of the congregation who visit gurdwaras are almost always from the BAME community, being predominantly of Punjabi heritage. They also include a larger proportion of the elderly who are likely to have risk factors like diabetes and heart disease.

Other factors to consider

We must also factor in risks associated with the preparation and distribution of langar, and our ability to be able to socially distance in langar halls, as well as the Darbar hall. This may not be possible in all gurdwaras, due to limited space and it may not be feasible to create one-way systems for queueing as we have seen in supermarkets and in some gurdwaras. The installation of further sinks and facilitates to allow hand washing, and the availability of hand sanitising equipment should also be considered carefully when planning for a phased reopening. We should respect local autonomy in ensuring gurdwaras only open with necessary preparedness.

Specific suggestions to minimise risk of Covid-19

  1. Write to gurdwara members and place notices reminding those wishing to attend for private prayer or services that they must be responsible for their own head covering and that scarves, dupattas or rumals will not be provided.
  2. A recommendation that sanitising hand gel is applied as soon as practical on entering the gurdwara premises. (although we are cognisant some gurdwaras may not want to install alcohol gel dispensers on their premises, it will ultimately be their personal decision based on pragmatism, and the overriding objective to deal with Covid-19 in order to safeguard the community).
  3. Ensuring adequate hand washing facilities and (or) a supply of sanitising hand gel at convenient points.
  4. Disposable paper towels or air dryers that do not have to be operated by touching or the press of a button.
  5. Bags or bins to collect disposable paper towels.
  6. Reminders that members and visitors walk in the gurdwara keeping to one side, without coming in contact with other worshippers.
  7. On entering the Darbar hall, individuals should respect social distancing rules and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib without touching the ground with their head or hands, and then move to a place in the congregation respecting social distancing requirements. Two-meter gaps to guide the sangat could be marked on the floor with masking tape.
  8. We have given advice on funeral arrangements separately here.

The congregation’s health and safety are paramount

We believe gurdwara management committees need to consider the health and safety of the congregation (sangat) above and beyond anything else. A phased and managed reopening of gurdwaras in line with government guidance, but taking special precautions as mentioned previously is paramount. Although the financial implication of lockdown and the restrictions on gurdwaras is regrettable, this is a secondary issue and should under no circumstances be the primary focus of management committees. The most important thing is the health and safety of the sangat. Gurdwaras that choose to compromise on this may well be held accountable.

4th June 2020

Network of Sikh Organisations

E-mail: info@nsouk.co.uk

Website: www.nsouk.co.uk

Twitter: @Sikhmessenger

[Ends]

Disclaimer: This document is advice for UK gurdwaras affiliated to the NSO rather than strict guidance and should be treated as such. All gurdwara management committees ultimately have a duty of care to the congregation, they must follow government guidance and we recommend they also consider our advice carefully in looking to the safety and well-being of the congregation.

(religion is already adequately recorded in the census)

Peers debated the contents of draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 in the Lords earlier this week. The flawed Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box argument was raised following a debate in the Commons last week in which Labour party politicians briefed by the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) cited questionable statistics.

Our Director, Lord Singh who has been a prominent opponent of the SFUK’s tick box campaign told peers about the misunderstanding of the Mandla case from the 1980’s which SFUK rely upon and for which he was expert witness.

He said, ‘The law then protected ethnicity, but not religion, against discrimination. The Law Lords ruled that as most Sikhs in the UK then were born in Punjab and had Punjabi ethnicity, Sikhs were also entitled to protection. The criteria of birth and origin would not be met today, as most Sikhs are born in the UK, nor is such a convoluted protection necessary. The Equality Act 2010 gives full protection to religion.’

He went on, ‘The politically motivated federation falsely claims mass support, with questionable statistics. The ethnicity argument was discussed at the large gurdwara in Hounslow, in front of ONS officials, and was firmly rejected, yet the federation includes Hounslow among its supporters. Many Sikhs and people of other faiths are appalled at the way in which some politicians, anxious for votes, are willing to trample on the religious sensitivities of others and accept as fact the absurdities of those who shout the loudest. I urge that we look to what the different religious groups actually do for the well-being of their followers and wider society.’

Supporting Lord Singh’s position on the issue, Former Bishop of Oxford and crossbench peer Lord Harries of Pentregarth, said: ‘I believe that ​Sikhism is a great and very distinguished world religion. I do not think there should be any blurring of that fact and I worry that putting this in the ethnic minority category will somehow diminish what Sikhism has to offer as a world religion.’

Once the Order has been approved, Census Regulations will be laid before Parliament. According to the House of Commons Library, ‘the ONS aims to publish an initial set of census reports one year after it has taken place, and to make all outputs available within two years.’

We hope the British Sikh community can now move on from this debate and focus on the uplifting teachings of our global world religion, and all it has to offer today’s fractured society.

There is general guidance for Sikhs at a time of bereavement detailed in the Sikh Code of Practice (Sikh Reyat Maryada).

This will need to be amended/adapted in view of the necessity of limited contact to ensure safety in the current pandemic. General Sikh practice is described first, followed by specific suggestions to meet the current emergency.

BEREAVEMENT GUIDANCE FOR NORMAL TIMES

(a) No rituals derived from other religions, or from any other source, should be performed when a death occurs. Solace must be found in reading the Guru Granth Sahib and meditating on God.

(b) Deliberate exhibitions of grief or mourning are contrary to Sikh teachings. The bereaved should seek guidance and comfort in the hymns in the GuruGranth Sahib and try to accept God’s will.

(c) A dead person, even one who dies very young, should be cremated. However, if arrangements for cremation do not exist (e.g. at sea) the body may be disposed of by immersion in water.

(d) Cremation may be carried out at any convenient time whether day or night.

(e)For baptised (amritdhari) Sikhs, the five Ks should be left on the dead body, which should, if possible, be cleaned and clothed in clean garments before being placed in a coffin or on a bier.

(f) Hymns should be said as the body is taken to the place of cremation.

(g) A close relative should initiate the cremation and those assembled should sing appropriate hymns from the GuruGranth Sahib.

(h) The cremation ceremony is concluded with the Kirtan Sohila prayers and the saying of the Ardas.

(i) Prayers for the departed soul should then be commenced at the deceased’s home or at a convenient Gurdwara. These prayers should commence with the usual six stanzas of the Anand Sahib, the saying of Ardas and distribution of Kara Prashad, and should be continued for about ten days. The near relatives of the deceased should take as large a personal part in reading and listening to recitals from the Guru Granth Sahib as possible.

(j) The ashes of the deceased may be disposed of by burial or by immersion in water, but it is contrary to Sikh belief to consider any river holy or especially suitable for this purpose.

(k) The erection of a memorial in any shape or form is contrary to Sikh belief.

GUIDANCE ON BEREAVEMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC

While we should bear the above guidance in mind, social distancing requirements will result in only a few close relatives of the deceased being present. In some circumstances no one may be able to attend. We should bear in mind that funeral rituals are designed to help surviving relatives and friends accept their sad loss in a dignified and contemplative way. This helps us understand that the soul has left for its heavenly abode and that the physical body of the deceased is no more and should be disposed of in a hygienic way, preferably by cremation.

Prayers in remembrance of the departed can be done at home by the family members or remotely (via video-telephony apps) with other friends and relatives participating. A donation to an appropriate charity in memory of the departed should also be considered. A full service in memory of the departed can, assuming pandemic restrictions are eased, be held on the first anniversary of the bereavement.  

Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE

Director, Network of Sikh Organisations

A tribute to Manjeet Singh Riyat

April 21st, 2020 | Posted by Singh in Current Issues | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on A tribute to Manjeet Singh Riyat)

The NSO is saddened by hearing about the death of Mr Manjeet Singh Riyat (52), Emergency Medicine Consultant at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, who passed away yesterday (Monday 20 April) after contracting COVID-19 at Royal Derby Hospital.

Mr Riyat was a widely respected Accident & Emergency (A&E) consultant who played a lead role in developing the Emergency Medicine Service in Derbyshire over the last two decades. He was widely respected amongst his peers and seen as a role model in the British Sikh community.

Gavin Boyle, Chief Executive of the hospital, said:

‘I want to pay tribute to Mr Manjeet Riyat, who has sadly passed away. Mr Riyat, known to his colleagues as Manjeet, was a widely respected consultant in emergency medicine nationally. Manjeet was the first A&E consultant from the Sikh community in the country and was instrumental in building the Emergency Medicine Service in Derbyshire over the past two decades. He was an incredibly charming person and well loved. Manjeet knew so many people here across the hospital, we will all miss him immensely.’

Our Director, Lord Singh said:

‘Manjeet Singh Riyat embodied everything a Gursikh should be. Although he was a leader in his field, he was always ready to work at the sharp end of A&E, setting the highest standards of care and inspiring all those who worked with him. Sadly, his dedication to duty cost him his life. May Waheguru bless his soul. Our thoughts are with his wife and family. May Waheguru help them bear their sad loss.’

Mr Riyat leaves behind a wife and two sons

At this time of national crisis, we also pray for the health and safety of the hundreds of doctors and care workers working tirelessly to help COVID-19 victims.

Yesterday Sikhs in Britain and worldwide woke up to the heart wrenching news of the cold-blooded murder of 25 worshippers (including one child) in a gurdwara in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Islamic State gunmen have been held responsible for the massacre of innocent worshippers, and disturbing images of the dead, along with videos of panic-stricken children sitting in a room in the gurdwara, have been widely disseminated online. The Afghan security forces were engaged in a gun battle with jihadists and helped some members of the congregation escape.

The terrorist attack against the Sikh minority is nothing new. In the summer of 2018, a suicide bomber struck a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus arriving to meet with President Ashraf Ghani as he visited the eastern city of Jalalabad, an attack that killed at least 19 people and wounded 10 others. Almost the entire Afghan Sikh and Hindu leadership were killed, including the only Sikh candidate running for election.

At the time Lord Singh our Director, tabled a written question to the government: ‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the suicide bombing resulting in the death of 19 Sikhs in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in July, what representations they intend to make to the government of India to encourage it to offer asylum or safe passage to Sikhs wishing to leave Afghanistan.’

The minister’s response: ‘The British Government condemned the 1 July attack on a group of Sikhs and Hindus in Jalalabad. The Minister for Asia and the Pacific publicly described it as “a despicable attack on Afghanistan’s historic Sikh and Hindu community”. As part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the UK supports the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in its efforts to improve security for all communities in Afghanistan. NATO’s Resolute Support Mission is also assisting the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces with security planning for the upcoming elections. The UK regularly raises human rights issues with the Government of Afghanistan, including the need to protect the rights of all ethnic and religious groups in line with the constitution.’

At the time Lord Singh also asked the government whether they would provide asylum to Afghan Sikhs, to which they responded – ‘Those who need international protection should claim in the first safe country they reach – that is the fastest route to safety.’

In 2018 the Home Office put together a briefing paper highlighting the persecution of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan. It cited an article that revealed, ‘prior to 1992 there were about 220,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan with another putting that number as low as 50,000. By now, the very few remaining are concentrated in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kabul, and Ghazni’. Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities are being systematically ethnically cleansed from Afghanistan, a country Sikhs have resided in since the fifteenth century.

In response to the Kabul gurdwara massacre, we will continue to raise the targeting of Sikhs and other Afghan minorities with the government. We will also be raising the issue with members of the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief as a matter of urgency.

We request Sikhs write to their MPs requesting asylum rights in the UK for Sikhs escaping genocide, and for strong UK condemnation of the attack on innocent Sikh worshipers.

For further information contact Deputy-Director Hardeep Singh at: info@nsouk.co.uk


                                                                                 ‘Look beyond divisive factions to loyalty to all                           in our one human family’                 

Guru Nanak, Japji Sahib, Sri Guru Granth Sahib

On Tuesday the 12th November Sikhs worldwide will be marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism. Sikhism is a world religion dedicated to the promotion of compassion, equality and tolerance between different faiths and beliefs.

Sadly, on this very day of celebration where Sikhs and non-Sikhs will be marking a significant day in human history, the fringe Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) have a judicial review listed in the High Court challenging the ONS’s decision not to include a Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box in the next Census.

Religion is already an option for Sikhs in the Census, and we maintain the ONS made the right decision – it is an absurdity to suggest Sikhs are an ethnicity. SFUK and their ally Preet Gill wrongly suggest Sikhs are an ‘ethnic’ group, rather than the religion founded by Guru Nanak, and one which is open to all regardless of ethnicity, colour or background.

Worst still, the SFUK are asking others to demonstrate ‘against continued discrimination’ outside the High Court on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. What a way to commemorate the birth anniversary of someone opposing artificial factional divisions.

Jallianwala Bagh massacre April 13, 1919

In a debate earlier this week Lord Ahmad asked Her Majesty’s Government what initiatives they had in place to commemorate the contribution to the Great War of people who came from what is now Pakistan, or in other words undivided India.

The contribution to the war effort of all faiths was duly acknowledged by Lord Bourne, who said: ‘Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jains, Baha’is and people of all faiths and none, fall side by side with their Christian and Jewish comrades on the fields where they fought and died together.’

Whilst reflecting on the British Indian army’s contribution, Lord Singh took the opportunity to ask the Minister to address historic wrongs of Empire.

He said, ‘My Lords, undivided Punjab played a substantial part in the greatest volunteer army in history. One of the reasons that was done was because people were promised a substantial measure of independence following the end of the war.’

He went on, ‘Instead, there was fierce repression under the Rowlatt Act and, following that, in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of several hundred unarmed civilians. We British are justly known for our sense of fair play and justice. Given that, should we not now make an unequivocal apology to the people of the subcontinent?’

Asia Bibi

We are disappointed in the government’s decision not to grant Asia Bibi asylum. In the spirit of justice, religious freedom and defending those persecuted by extremists, Britain has a moral obligation to show the world we respect and uphold human rights and will give sanctuary to those oppressed overseas. In this regard, we cannot think of a more deserving case than that of Asia Bibi, and request the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office rethink their position.

Network of Sikh Organisations

 

Skip to toolbar