British Sikhs, Solidarity and the Network of Sikh Organisations

It is with sadness that we read about the statement made by the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) about the support and solidarity that was being shown with Sikhs who are attacked because of their identity as Sikhs and because of racism. It is also clear that some Sikhs are attacked on the perception that they are Muslims, which does not detract from the fact that this creates fear within Sikh communities and impacts on families.

The reference made in the statement is to a project that took place 10 years ago – the Cohesive Communities project. The subsequent report is listed here and with clear references to explore issues of division between Sikh and Muslim communities and therefore deeply conflicting social narratives. These issues are even listed in the project overview and the Cohesive Communities report did not list some of the troubling discussions that took place which were confidential. The discussions caused facilitators to feel saddened that two communities with so much in common, were at polar opposites of the social divide.

We are also saddened to see that tweets that were made in 2012 and subsequently deleted are being used to create an atmosphere of mistrust at a time when communities need to work together and when the NSO statement itself suggests that a minority of participants were unhappy. Such difficult discussions around grooming, forced conversions, historical attacks against Sikhs by Muslim Indian rulers, amongst the many topics discussed at the Corrymeela Centre, are never easy and will bring out a range of emotions.

Given the Cohesive Communities report and what we heard, Faith Matters commissioned a further report to try and untangle and unpack the difficult narratives that were causing division. Hardly the act of an organisation that did not care or chose to reflect one communities’ perspectives. The Adab research report can be found here and details the narratives, history and perspectives coming from Sikh and Muslim communities.

However, we are glad to hear that the NSO (Network of Sikh Organisations) and partners in the Hindu community have a commitment to work with True Vision, which Tell MAMA has. Tell MAMA, which was founded by Faith Matters, has shown that its values are fundamentally based on inclusion and in supporting all communities who suffer hatred, prejudice and racism. Tell MAMA has also, on many occasions – stood against hatred against LGBT, Jewish, Shia and Ahmaddiya communities from a small number within Muslim communities showing that it will fearlessly stand for the rights of all communities and does not pick and choose on issues of human rights. Therefore, it is even more depressing to see that division is being called for at a time when Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and many other communities, should be working together. This on the basis of 4 individuals and on tweets made a decade ago on a project that explored some of the most difficult topics that were causing divisions between Sikhs and Muslims.

We within Faith Matters will continue to stand for the human rights of all communities to be protected. This means that when Sikh communities are attacked, their defence is our defence. When Sikh women or Gurdwaras are attacked, their honour and their integrity is our honour and integrity; and when young white girls in Rotherham are abused, their honour and their well-being is the responsibility of all communities, including ours. These are the core values of Faith Matters and what we stand on.

Finally, we have spoken to the Tell MAMA team and the round table was set up in solidarity with Sikh communities and was set up to share good practice. Support was also offered, though what was expressly stated was that it was for Sikh communities to find solutions within their communities to reduce hate crimes against Sikhs. This was expressly stated on a number of occasions at the meeting. Sadly, if the response for a call for solidarity is a call for division and separationism, then the only people who are strengthened by these actions are those who seek to divide and play off one community against another. In the end, protecting the dignity and safety of Sikhs means protecting the dignity and safety of us all as communities and people. We therefore continue to put out the hand of friendship to all communities and we will always do so. This also includes maintaining our openness to work with any group whose values are based on the defence of pluralism within communities.

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