Discrimination against different faiths is more of a problem than racial discrimination, said members of a new interfaith project in West London. Racial differences once formed the basis of prejudice in Britain, but project members said that religion now plays a more important role.
Speaking from one of the most religiously diverse areas of the UK, Ealing and Southall, the group argued that people are far more aware of religious identities.
Reflecting on the change in attitudes towards Muslims since 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings, the group discussed how the increasing reassertion of faith through symbolism and dress and the rise of Islamaphobia may also be responsible for divisions within Britain’s Asian communities.
“When I was growing up we were collectively known as Asians”, said Sikh member of the interfaith group Ravinder Dhesi.
She added: “No one ever talked about faith, but that’s changed now.”
The comments came at the second meeting of a new project, the Muslim and Sikh Media Monitoring and Response Group.
The group is the first of its kind in Britain, created to bring together individuals from Ealing and Southall’s Muslim and Sikh communities.
Members will now meet every eight weeks to identify points of tension between the two faiths and to build bridges between them in West London. Discussing changes in interfaith relations local Muslim project member Shah Shahin added: “Since 9/11 and 7/7 the race issue has become a faith issue”
Members of the group also went on to argue that tensions between the religions have been worsened by right-wing political parties. This month, members of the nationalist group the English Defence League (EDL) branded the project as ‘propaganda’. The project’s members were united in condemnation however, accusing the EDL of forging ties with the Sikh community in order to exploit divisions and promote Islamaphobia.
The project’s organiser and Director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal, said: “This project shows that Muslims and Sikhs can work together within the community, despite the negative messages being spread by nationalist groups.
“It is vital to local communities that divisions on the grounds of faith do not widen, interfaith groups such as these are stopping that happen.”