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Britain’s decision to take military action against Syria is like Alice in Wonderland: ‘sentence first-verdict afterwards’, says Lord Singh

Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has said that the Cabinet’s decision to deploy military strikes against President Assad is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, citing Alice’s bogus trial when the Queen says, ‘sentence first – verdict afterwards’.

In a scathing speech, the crossbencher spoke out powerfully against the rank hypocrisy of Western military interventions in the Middle East. He cited Britain’s morally reprehensible arms supplies to Saudi Arabia, which continue to be deployed in a bloody war in Yemen against Houthis. Moreover he said he was personally ‘appalled’ when a Minister told him we should not raise human rights issues with China when talking about trade – the Minister’s suggestion here being trade trumps human rights.

Speaking from a Sikh perspective and challenging the established orthodoxy of today’s ‘power-bloc politics’ Lord Singh said, ‘Sikh teachings on the prevention of conflict almost parallel the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, formulated after the horror of the ​Second World War, and they stress the dignity and equality of all members of our one human family. They also legitimise the use of military force only as a last recourse when all other means have failed.’

Lord Singh said, that he found propaganda justifying military intervention in reported government statements as ‘morally questionable and hypocritical’. He said, Assad is no angel, but like many other leaders in the region we [Britain] have ‘propped up’ a brutal dictator. He said countries that we don’t like become to be known as ‘regimes’, and Assad himself has been referred to as a ‘monster’, which could be counterproductive if Britain is to be involved in future negotiations on the Syrian issue, something the PM has indicated to be a possible solution to the conflict.

He said, ‘I am saddened by the hypocrisy of our government and the governments of the USA and France. While wringing their hands about the monster Assad’s supposed chemical weapon attack on little children, they have all in the last two or three of weeks signed billion-dollar deals with Saudi Arabia to export arms for use in Yemen, so that Saudi Arabia can strut its military might in the Middle East with the continued bombing of men, women and little children in Yemen.’

He went on, ‘We are then expected to believe that President Assad, having secured control of much of the country, suddenly decides to launch a chemical attack on a children’s hospital. It could be true, although it sounds implausible, but it gave the US President an opportunity to withdraw from the conflict flourishing his military might. France and Britain dutifully backed him in a combined military strike against Assad. President Trump predictably tweeted “Mission accomplished”. It is sad that our PM should feel duty-bound to back military action prior to any investigation. I thought that it was only in Alice in Wonderland that we had the saying, “Sentence first—verdict afterwards”.’

In conclusion he said, ‘The whole concept of supposed strategic interest has, over the centuries, been shown to be deeply flawed and a recipe for continuing conflict. A Christian hymn reminds us: “They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin”. It is a truth echoed in Sikh teachings and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The only strategic interest worth pursuing is respect for human rights and social justice for all and for future generations in our highly interdependent world.’

Lord Singh’s full speech can be read here.

 

Emergency services attend to victims of the Tower Bridge terror attack

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) feels it’s time for the country to have an honest debate about the religious motivation behind the jihadist terror attacks in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge.

For far too long we have heard platitudes from politicians and commentators like ‘terrorism has no religion’ or ‘Islam means peace’, without questioning the real motivation behind the sequence of terror atrocities our country has faced. Many innocent lives have been lost and statements from the Prime Minister like ‘enough is enough’ must be backed with practical steps to get to the root cause of the problem without fear of being labeled ‘Islamophobic.’

We take the view that Western intervention in the Middle East has contributed to contempt for countries like Britain in the eyes of extremists, their sympathizers and sponsors. Moreover the duplicity of politicians like Trump, who on one hand pledge the destruction of Islamic State, whilst selling their backers Saudi Arabia weapons to murder Shias in Yemen, is counter-productive. However, we also know from the history of our forefathers who suffered terrible persecution under India’s Islamic invaders, this is not simply just about Western foreign policy. There is something else at play, and has been for a number of centuries. We must have the courage to name the elephant in the room.

The NSO takes the view that jihadist attacks are primarily motivated by foundational religious texts, and Britain can no longer ignore this. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend there is no doctrinal motivation. An honest conversation, however difficult, must now take place, acknowledging the existence of verses that are clearly being interpreted by extremist Muslims as a divine license to kill non-believers or kuffar (a derogatory term for a non-Muslim). This is how true interfaith must now evolve and where the conversation, however difficult, must go. We must be clear on which verses are problematic, and how they are being interpreted. We urgently need to know what the Muslim community will do to stop hate preachers from plugging extremist narratives, particularly ones that encourage hate, murder and mayhem.

Lord Singh NSO Director said, “Today’s response to terrorist outrages is frankly pathetic with statements like: ‘the vast majority of Muslims are decent law abiding people’. Of course, they are. So are followers of other faiths. But what of smaller numbers who earnestly believe murderous action against fellow human beings is justified by their religion? Statements like, ‘we must all stand together’, or, that ‘those that seek to divide us will never win’, are fine, but they, and pledges to increase security and intelligence, do nothing to address the underlying causes of religious terrorism.”

He added, “Today, there is an urgent need to look at the environment in which the cancer of terrorism thrives. We will never get anywhere until we are bold enough to attack and break down false barriers of arrogance and superiority between and within different religions. If we do this, we will find core ethical teachings have much in common. We will also find cultural practices of blatant discrimination against women, and others who are in any way different from the norm.”

He went on, “Such attitudes, questionable even centuries ago, have no place in the world of the 21st century and should be unceremoniously discarded. Not easy. It requires religious leaders to declare that oppressive cultural attitudes, and historical enmities embedded in religious texts, have no relevance to the world of today.”

The NSO extends its heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who lost loved ones during the London attack.

[Image: 'share of arms sales by country' by crossswords is licensed under CC by SA 4.0]

[Image: ‘share of arms sales by country’ by crossswords is licensed under CC by SA 4.0]

Last Saturday’s Saudi-led coalition strikes responsible for the killing 140 at a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa have led to widespread criticism, which last week extended to the House of Lords.

Peers questioned the ethics of British and American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with Lord Alton of Liverpool asking Her Majesty’s Government if since the devastating strikes they “are reassessing the licensing of United Kingdom weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since the conflict in Yemen began.”

Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development, Baroness Anelay of St Johns responded thus, “The UK Government are deeply concerned by the conflict in Yemen, including recent events in Sanaa. As part of the careful risk assessment for the licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, we keep the situation under careful and continued review.”

She added, “All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms and export licensing criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.”

Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) said, “My Lords, bomb fragments found at the scene of the funeral carnage were those from an Mk 82 American guided bomb. Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbaric countries in the world, with beheadings, amputations and the enslavement of women, while, at the same time, exporting its medieval version of Islam to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Sudan and Yemen.”

He added, “Can the Minister give me a good reason why the West—principally the United States and ourselves—supplies some £7 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia each year? I might add that boosting our trade by exporting the means of mass killings is not a good reason.”

In response Baroness Anelay reassured peers Britain complies with international humanitarian law and that she herself understood the sense of outrage felt by Lord Singh and others about the suffering of people in Yemen. She said, “I undertake that the UK will continue to press as strongly as we are able in the diplomatic sphere to achieve a peaceful resolution but, in the meantime, continue the aid that we provide there.”

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