The British Sikh experience is closer to the British Muslim experience than most people think or even acknowledge. Dr Gurharpal Singh’s article below illustrated how the fight over religious exemptions started with the former decades ago. This negotiation for exemptions is not the death-knell of secularism but should be part of any society’s committment to tolerance and respect. It applied to Jews before them and so on. The line isn’t clearly defined of course – it has to be negotiated and deliberated in each case. For example I’d support exemptions for halal food or turbans but not different criminal laws for groups on the basis of race or faith.
But the similarity between Sikhs and Muslims also extends to the inter-generational tension between younger British-born offspring and the older generation born back in the sub-continent. In a follow-up article to Dr Singh’s, I’ve also written a short piece for Catalyst magazine on the parallels between ‘youngsters’ of these two faiths in contemporary Britain.
But the more religious youngsters are increasingly on a path of conflict with the older generation because the latter are seen as unconcerned about such issues. Management committees are notoriously opaque and difficult to engage with, and are frequently prone to allegations of corruption or other wrong-doing.
This inter-generational tension is further exacerbated by the lack of open media platforms to foster debate and tackle relevant issues. Here too, there is an unwillingness to push the boundaries of free speech within the community. When someone then raises a taboo issue in the mainstream media, as Gurpreet Bhatti did with her play Behzti, there is an instinctive defensive reaction that â€˜dirty laundryâ€™ must not be aired in public.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Religion,Sikh