Are ‘Muslims the new blacks’?


by Sunny
4th December, 2007 at 4:09 pm    

Monday’s Media Guardian supplement carried a small piece by me that you can read if you wish. But for reasons of space, they cut my already short piece down further, which made it difficult to see what I was getting at (I think anyway). So I thought I’d publish the whole thing here…

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BBC2’s recently announced season on white working classes in modern Britain was curiously full of dramas and documentaries concerning Muslims and immigration. Is that central to exploring the disenfranchisement of a demographic given, ironically, the channel actually has to commission a special season just for them?

Is controller Roly Keating simply jumping on the bandwagon where Muslims are not only being used to spice up any issue, but the media is fixated with them to the exclusion of other minority groups? If yes, he would not be the only one.

I recently met playwright Parv Bancil, who related an increasingly common story of a friend applying to write at a new venue in London, only to be told only Muslims need apply. He says: “I feel that non-Muslim British Asian stories are now being ignored even to the point where a BBC researcher told me that they were passé!”

He adds: “As a brown-skinned man living in the UK I empathise with the alienation and the prejudice many Muslims face today; but somehow I feel that I am being squeezed out of the mainstream debate.”

At a recent debate I attended on multiculturalism, a black audience member said she felt bad for being somewhat relieved the negative media spotlight had moved on. “Muslims are the new blacks,” she said.

Positive or negative portrayals aside, it seems non-Muslim minority stories don’t even feature anywhere. British Hindus or Sikhs anyone?

The BBC isn’t the only culprit. Commenting on Channel 4’s drama Britz, writer Sarfraz Manzoor said it was “entirely typical” that “every dramatist and documentary-maker in search of their next commission leaps onto the Muslim bandwagon.”

The problem isn’t that only white middle-class writers are passing commentary on everyone else including white working classes, otherwise we get into the silly debate of everyone having to be “authentic” on issues, but that this is patronising to British Muslims themselves.

Do some in the media believe lavishing them with attention will somehow solve terrorism? A theatre artist privately told me last year that since 7/7 he was getting a lot more attention, which was patronising since he wanted to be judged on his work, not religion.

Similarly, Britz actor Rizwan Ahmed is optimistic that this spotlight gives Muslims an opportunity to get heard, but says there is too much emphasis on his background.

“It’s frustrating when you give an interview about your music or acting, and when you read the piece all the focus is on the fact that you’re Muslim. You think, why do they need that extra angle? I’ve got enough going on with work to write about in it’s own right.”

Will the BBC get around to telling stories that are good and not just because they represent a trendy constituency?

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  1. Sofia — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:41 pm  

    the whole britz concept annoyed me..the only time a programme has been made about muslims is when it’s on terrorism, inter religious marriage, where it breaks down cuz the muslim (pakistani/arab) husband is a wife beating hypocrite, girls being forced into marriage, or shock horror going against the faaaaaaamily…
    It’s all a bit boring and does not help muslims to be heard at all..as for being the new blacks..in what context?

  2. Roger — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

    “as for being the new blacks..in what context?”
    Probably not for their sense of rhythm.

  3. Refresh — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

    I would have thought Are ‘muslims the new jews’ would be more appropriate.

    Who knows, perhaps this baptism of fire will lead to a brighter world.

    ‘Mr Sarkozy said on Monday: “There is nothing that more closely resembles anti-Semitism than Islamophobia. Both have the same face: that of stupidity and hate.” ‘

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7124548.stm

    It would be interesting to know how other minority groups see this focus on muslims. Would they also be relieved?

    As for Parv Bancil, he should join the fray. The battle against this era of enormous stupidity will not be won without everyone joining in. On the right side of course.

  4. Sid — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:55 pm  

    Probably not for their sense of rhythm.

    Wasn’t Charlie Parker a muslim?

  5. Refresh — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:56 pm  

    Apologies everyone:

    “It would be interesting to know how other minority groups see this focus on muslims. Would they also be relieved?”

    I appear to presume that one person’s view is that of a whole group of people. Clearly not the case. However interesting the observation.

  6. Sofia — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

    coming from sarkozy, that’s rich…

    Charlie who?

  7. Sofia — on 4th December, 2007 at 4:58 pm  

    as for rhythm..i have rhythm..hmm..although not sure if its muslim rhythm..

  8. Katy — on 4th December, 2007 at 5:03 pm  

    Charlie “Bird” Parker Jr. One of the greatest saxophonists evah.

  9. Refresh — on 4th December, 2007 at 5:04 pm  

    Sofia

    “coming from sarkozy, that’s rich…”

    That was my first reaction. We shall wait and see, he is supposed to be the French Blair.

  10. halima — on 4th December, 2007 at 5:57 pm  

    “as for being the new blacks..in what context?”
    Probably not for their sense of rhythm.

    I seem to remember wasting away the early 1990s listening to loads of arists who sided with the 5 per cent nation and for whom ‘I was raised like a Muslim. Preying to the East’ was an anthem. Pete Rock and Cl Smooth and a raft of others whose names I now can’t remember but they had rhythm.

  11. Boyo — on 4th December, 2007 at 6:01 pm  

    Actually, I think if any group is the “new blacks” it is the white working class, or “chavs” as they are commonly known. Honestly, it is tough to think of a group held in more contempt and less represented in the mainstream.

    Middle class commissioners are for more cosy with Muslims – they are less close to home.

  12. Roger — on 4th December, 2007 at 6:25 pm  

    Take a look at the attitude of strict muslims to music and you’ll see what I meant; in fact, as drums are the only musical instruments allowed by strict muslims, I think, the reference to rhythm wasn’t accurate. All the same, referring to anything as “the new” whatever is so often a way of avoiding thought that it’s wiser not to do it.

  13. Cover Drive — on 4th December, 2007 at 6:28 pm  

    Nice piece Sunny. I agree that the media is full of stories about Muslims nowadays. I getting a little tired of it all myself and I’m not a Muslim.

    The first sentence of the statement from Gillian Gibbons, the teacher at the centre of ‘Teddygate’, at Heathrow Airport this morning was:

    “I’m very glad to be back and I’m a little shocked about all the media attention that I have been getting.”

    Generally speaking the publicity Muslims are getting is all negative, so I don’t think ‘black’ is best label. The new ‘jews’ or ‘whipping boy’ seems more appropriate. One controversy after another and the media just love to cash in on it whether or not it merits the attention. Other communities just don’t seem to get the same kind of media attention and I dare say this is leading to some resentment in those communities.

    It’s a pity talented artists like Parv Bancil feel they are being overlooked just because they are not Muslim.

  14. Don — on 4th December, 2007 at 6:45 pm  

    Boyo has a point about the easy contempt with which the media portrays ‘chavs’, a point which PP has addressed more than once.

    Lee Barnes, on the other hand, shows how a perfectly sensible point can be twisted into something pretty vile. Plus, he has the brass-neck to stick a Blake engraving on his toilet of a blog.

  15. Sunny — on 4th December, 2007 at 7:04 pm  

    Lee is a BNP troll so I’m not gonna bother tolerating him. Happy to delete his rubbish.

    I agree on the contempt for white working classes, and we’ve covered this plenty of times. But then, when has Britain ever been free of class warfare? The working classes can’t hide their contempt for the middle-classes either.

    How are they the new blacks? I think because of the negative media coverage. In the 80s and 90s most of the negative coverage was around British blacks… I remember when becoming more political and reading all these stupid stories of how British black music was causing violence. All that stupidity over So Solid Crew. Sheesh.

    I’m not convinced by the ‘Muslims are the new Jews’ analogy because some people, like unnamed Muslim “leaders” have a tendency to try and stretch this too far.

    I think liberals and conservatives are both guilty here – the former for fetishising Muslims (as Parv and Riz point out) and the latter for constantly writing the negative stuff and nothing else.

  16. Refresh — on 4th December, 2007 at 7:22 pm  

    “I’m not convinced by the ‘Muslims are the new Jews’ analogy because some people, like unnamed Muslim “leaders” have a tendency to try and stretch this too far.”

    We don’t really want to wait for the day we could say we told you so. Surely you have some more sustantive reason than not wanting to acknowledging some unnamed muslim leaders’ observation.

  17. sonia — on 4th December, 2007 at 7:38 pm  

    is it cos i is black?

    in that context i imagine so!

  18. Jai — on 4th December, 2007 at 7:40 pm  

    Brown is the new black, folks. New for the winter season ’08.

    ;)

  19. Don — on 4th December, 2007 at 7:58 pm  

    …with more juvenile bullshit.

  20. Sunny — on 4th December, 2007 at 10:10 pm  

    We don’t really want to wait for the day we could say we told you so.

    Sikhs are the new Muslims and Muslims are the new Jews and blacks are the new Muslims and Hindus want to be the new Muslims but the Christians ain’t getting no love.

    And when the day comes, I’ll tell you so.

  21. Kaalia — on 5th December, 2007 at 2:40 pm  

    yep, blacks and whites alot of them just assume anyone from indian subcontinent most probably is a muslim.
    a black guy i work with and have done for 7 months at least recently remarked he thought I was muslim. he knew i was indian was his only erstwhile bearing on me.(i am hindu)

    not just that, alot of peeps i see and chat to only ever mention buddhism as an eastern religion or islam! forget about anything else!!
    at least muslims have coverage and exposure!!

  22. Kaalia — on 5th December, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

    sikhs with turbans oh they are definitely muslim or something islamic to alot of whites!

  23. bananabrain — on 5th December, 2007 at 3:33 pm  

    i think you’ll find the new jews are in fact the same as the old jews – the actual jews. our existence has been threatened many times, but rarely by PR-speak:

    “oh, judaism, that’s just soooooo bronze age”

    hah.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  24. Anas — on 5th December, 2007 at 3:41 pm  

    Are black Muslims the new themselves?

  25. Anas — on 5th December, 2007 at 4:00 pm  

    Why are Hindus and Sikhs crying about the lack of attention they’re getting? Don’t they understand about the attendant villification and hatefulness directed against Muslims that is very much part of the whole package. It’s not very pleasant reading stories in the tabloids every day that question Muslim allegiance to this country or that are quite happy to demonise Muslims as the currently fashionable out-group.

    A lot of Muslims would (maybe not literally) kill to be in the position of being able to moan about not being paid enough attention to. I mean it almost seems tasteless to make a comment like:

    “As a brown-skinned man living in the UK I empathise with the alienation and the prejudice many Muslims face today; but somehow I feel that I am being squeezed out of the mainstream debate.”

    When the debate involves questioning the suitability/viability of your very existence as a community in this country, about whether your whole religion is at war with the West, it’s not a that bad a thing that you’re being squeezed out of that particular discussion.

  26. Deep Singh — on 5th December, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    Kaalia wrote:

    “sikhs with turbans oh they are definitely muslim or something islamic to alot of whites!”
    —————————————————-

    Whilst this is still true in some parts of the country, being a Turban-wearing Sikh myself, I will have to say that on the whole it is not as common in the UK as say it was a decade or so ago.

    Amusingly enough (and apologies for deviating from the main piece), I have been frequenting Germany recently and the local Turkish (Muslim) community also mistake me for, what I can only assume to be some form of Islamic religious figure, given the profusely respectful “as salam alaykum”‘s that get offered – so, it is not only ‘a lot of whites’ who hold such an opinion!

  27. douglas clark — on 5th December, 2007 at 4:20 pm  

    Anas @ 24,

    Very good!

  28. Sofia — on 5th December, 2007 at 4:26 pm  

    I remember a time when muslims were ignored and no one understood us…the only thing that has changed is that we are no longer ignored…the rest is pretty much the same..heck i don’t even understand certain muslim communities…

  29. Ambrosio — on 5th December, 2007 at 5:09 pm  

    Anas

    The guy is talking about being passed up for employment for being a non-Muslim.

    The very fact that Muslims are looked on favourably in the jobs market now is indicative of how they most certainly are NOT subject to ‘vilification and hatefulness’.

    (Of course, most Muslims in the UK (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, particularly the women), like a lot of the white working class, prefer to live off of the state.)

  30. douglas clark — on 5th December, 2007 at 5:17 pm  

    Ambrosio,

    (Of course, most Muslims in the UK (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, particularly the women), like a lot of the white working class, prefer to live off of the state.)

    Care to back that up? That is one sweeping statement, that is.

  31. Ambrosio — on 5th December, 2007 at 5:24 pm  

    Sure. Most Pakistani and Bangladeshi women get married young, get impregnated young (and have a minimum of five children – I have never known of a P or B family to have less), and do not work for the rest of their lives.

    As for men, if they do work (a rarity), they are to be found driving cabs or sweeping the floor at an ‘Indian’ restaurant.

    Of course, the exceptions prove the rule.

    A quick google search will confirm my points.

    As for the white working class, they are not know as God’s laziest race on earth for nothing.

  32. Sid — on 5th December, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

    The Sikh Morgoth anyone? ;-)

  33. andrewb4u — on 5th December, 2007 at 6:41 pm  

    No they are not because black people intergrate better. I see mixed race marriages between black and white and I think a big fat zero between muslims with whites or negros. So I don’t think you can compare them. Muslims are in a league of their own.

  34. zohra — on 5th December, 2007 at 10:09 pm  

    Sunny @20, you haven’t answered the question. Why is the analogy not a good one? The fact that other people ‘have a tendency to try and stretch this too far’ isn’t a reason why it doesn’t work at all.

  35. Sunny — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:07 am  

    Why is the analogy not a good one? The fact that other people ‘have a tendency to try and stretch this too far’ isn’t a reason why it doesn’t work at all.

    Because it’s like multiculturalism – depends what you mean. Sure, there is lots of media hype. But laws actually aimed at discriminating against Muslims? I don’t think so.

    Anas – tell me, who is threatening the existence of Muslims in Britain… and who is at war with Islam?

  36. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:46 am  

    OT

    Anas, could you join us on this thread and tell me whether I’m right or wrong?

    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1566#comment-92638

  37. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:59 am  

    Sunny,

    No-one on this planet seems to be able to move these days without the devil on their shoulder screaming at them:

    “Existential Threat! No, Really! Existential Threat! Tell everyone!”

    I’m sure there was a fable about something like this. Though, to be fair to Anas, it can’t have been a lot of laughs being a Muslim in the UK over the last few years. Perhaps if they had opened up instead of closing ranks, things might have been better?

  38. zohra — on 6th December, 2007 at 11:25 am  

    Douglas @37: what would opening ranks look like? And when you say ‘they’, are there specific people you’re talking about?

    ’cause I’m open. Truly. But it’s not working. I’m still thinking I’ll emmigrate ’cause of stuff like this (and let’s not pretend this isn’t about Muslims, ok?): Smith plans 42-day terror limit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7130072.stm

    (PS on your point @ 36, have responded here: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1566#comment-92653)

  39. sonia — on 6th December, 2007 at 11:39 am  

    24, yeah anas, good one. nice to see you ‘back’.

    i agree about who would want to be constantly in media attention?

    still, i guess for those who want media attention, being Muslim now is clearly something they can use to their advantage, if they want to do so. ( I would hate to be so classified, but still!) Good time for book deals etc. etc. – if you dont mind a fatwa or two on your head.

    being muslim in the UK for the last few years has meant for me – as a woman – very little – in terms of police and people on streets, but the “closing of ranks” amongst fellow muslims has triggered quite a lot – for me personally, how i feel about the religion i grew up with. I suppose for all of us, it brough the whole “being muslim” thing into some kind of increased focus.

  40. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:05 pm  

    andrewb4u @ 33. stated:

    “No they are not because black people intergrate better. I see mixed race marriages between black and white and I think a big fat zero between muslims with whites or negros”

    To be fair, this statement is flawed. Muslims are not a racial group, there are amongst them Black, white and other non-Pakistani, non-Bangladeshi and non-Indian ethnic groups. Amongst these it is not an exception to find mixed racial marriages (for want of a better term).

    Islam (Sunni or Shia varieties) is quite clear on it requiring a Muslim female to marry only a Muslim male (hence, a White, Black, Indian, even Pakistani etc person of non-Islamic background will need to convert) and a Muslim male being restricted to “people of the book”. Please correct my understanding if I am mistaken, however on the basis of the above and including the Shia Islamic ‘temporary marriages’, it would appear mixed race marriages are perfectly compatible within the Islamic framework, providing one converts to Islam.

    The questions andrewb4u needs to ask are:

    1. Why are there so few mixed marriages between Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians and other races?

    2. Are mixed marriages a necessary sign of integration or simply assimilation into mainstream culture?

  41. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

    From personal experience I’ve seen a lot more inter-racial marriages between Muslims than I have in other communitarian identities such as Sikhs and Hindus – which tend to be race/caste based.

  42. Kismet Hardy — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:21 pm  

    Are ‘Muslims the new blacks’?

    What a tasteless unnecessary headline

  43. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:25 pm  

    From personal experience

    Which is limited to East London council estates.

    sid, do stop attempting to make sweeping generalisations based on your extremely limited personal experiences.

  44. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:32 pm  

    Muzu/Ambro, I think you’ll find your generalisations of Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and the White Working Class to have permanently relegated you to the role of PP’s resident idiot – but that’s old news now.

    Sikhs and Hindus do not intermarry outside of their race and it is highly frowned upon. But Muslims do marry interracially because religion trumps race. If you have facts to suggest otherwise, bring them up. But it’s far more likely you’ll shit on your own doorstep because no one seems to like to spoil your own credibility better than you do. ;-)

  45. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:44 pm  

    Sikhs and Hindus do not intermarry outside of their race and it is highly frowned upon

    What an outrageous and ridiculous statement. While I cannot speak for hindus, Sikh Punjabis are racially Indo-Aryan.

    No Sikhs look specifically for an Indo-Aryan spouse for themselves or their family. Beyond that, Sikhs in the US (largely white, black and Mexican Sikhs) all partake in inter-racial marriage.

    You seem to be forgetting the fact that Sikhs are not all Punjabi: Afghans, Keralans, Bengalis, Peshawarans, Kashmiris, Americans, Mexicans, Africans etc). It is an easy mistake to make. If you are an ignorant fool.

    Not to mention the fact that your hero Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal married a white chick.

    In addition, my (staunchly Sikh side of the) family has several inter-racial marriages (these include Caucasians, Kashmiris and Afghans).

  46. Adnan — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:47 pm  

    Re #33: Muslims (presumably, brownies ?), blacks /negros, and whites ?

    Yes, we’re in a league of our own AndrewEngageBrainB4UOpenMouth

  47. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:52 pm  

    Muzambro:

    But you’re going to have to concede, if you value your cred and the paintwork on your doorstep, that Sikhs and Hindus would be socially/doctrinally against marrying off their children to white or black people in this country. Nirpal fucking Dhaliwal notwistsanding.

  48. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:55 pm  

    socially/doctrinally

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by the above.

    I cannot speak for Hindus, but in terms of Sikhism, race is not an issue ‘doctrinally’.

    If marrying inter-racially would obviously lead to assimilation into another tradition, then yes, Sikhs would take issue with that. But so would Muslims.

    So your point is null and void.

  49. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 12:58 pm  

    *And the objection would not be on grounds of race, but on the deeper issue of assimilation.

  50. Sofia — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:00 pm  

    Ambrosio, I know lots of pakistani and bengali women who don’t have any children let alone 5. As for living off the state..sheesh..let’s just generalise away..you sound like a party political broadcast for the bnp in Tower hamlets

  51. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:01 pm  

    The stats and patterns of Hindu and Sikh inter-racial marriage are very much based on social/doctrinal lines – in spite of your ignorance on the matter. How many Sikhs marrying black people remain accepted by their Sikh/Hindu social/family networks?

  52. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:02 pm  

    Sid @ 44.stated:

    “Sikhs and Hindus do not intermarry outside of their race and it is highly frowned upon.”

    I think we are mixing up various concepts here – Sikhs and Hindus are again, not themselves races and marrying out of race versus marrying out of religion/culture are two seperate discussions.

    There many inter-racial marriages between Punjabis and Gujratis with White spouses for instance and there is nothing within Sikh or Hindu doctrine preventing this as is being alluded to above.

    Cases of a Sikh or Hindu girl being murdered by her own relatives for ‘marrying out’ are also not as common as their ‘Pakistani Muslim’ counterparts if one was to use the type of generalisations being made above (i.e. media coverage and hearsay) to derive conclusions – not that it makes such crimes any more tolerable.

    So I ask again, are mixed race marriages are necessary sign of integration, since in any event, arguing about who is worse Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs is a pointless debate as all “SE Asian” communities are relegated considerably behind Afro-Caribbean and White mixed marriages, or are we fundamentally mixing two distinct issues together (i.e. race and religion?)

  53. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:04 pm  

    sid

    How many Sikhs marrying black people remain accepted by their Sikh/Hindu social/family networks?

    This wasn’t your original point. Your original point was:

    From personal experience I’ve seen a lot more inter-racial marriages between Muslims than I have in other communitarian identities such as Sikhs and Hindus

    You are now back-tracking on this statement by trying to veer the conversation onto social acceptance, a different matter entirely.

    The stats and patterns of Hindu and Sikh inter-racial marriage are very much based on social/doctrinal lines – in spite of your ignorance on the matter

    What stats? Silence me with some stats.

  54. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:05 pm  

    you sound like a party political broadcast for the bnp in Tower hamlets

    That’s because if there is a social stereotype on this thread, it is Muzuambro fulfilling the Sikh BNP supporting mentalist. He also sounds like he cut his milkteeth on the BNP chatrooms.

  55. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:11 pm  

    “That’s because if there is a social stereotype on this thread, it is Muzuambro fulfilling the Sikh BNP supporting mentalist.”

    Sid, with due respect, there are more Sikhs on this thread than this “Muzuambro” chap and I being one of them, take serious issue to any Sikh-BNP relations.

    Just because one pathethic accountant with his tribal mentality sought to do this, it was in no way supported by the vast majority of Sikhs (staunch or layman).

  56. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:16 pm  

    Deep Singh (#52 & 55)

    Well said. Sid doesn’t seem to understand the difference between race, religion and ethnicity. And now that we have shown him up, his only recourse is to calling people members of the BNP. It’s quite sad.

    sid

    Better get those stats soon.

  57. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:17 pm  

    Deep – no argument there. I’m referring specifically to Ambrosia, who’s track record of trollery thus far on this blog has been a site to behold.

  58. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:19 pm  

    What stats? Silence me with some stats.

    Would that it were that easy, but I suspect you will remain a supercilious troll with all the facts in the world. I don’t have any stats at hand at this moment, but I would bet folding money that there are far more instances of Muslim interracial marriage than there is Sikh/Hindu interracial marriage. And by inter-racial I mean interracial not by dint of naturalisation. Obviousley the main reason for more Muslim interracial marriage is because Muslims are far more racially diverse than caste/community based Sikhs and Hindus. But nevertheless, I’ve not seen any Sikhs marrying Black/Chinese/Malay folks in my experience. Have you?

  59. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:27 pm  

    Unlike you sid, I come with evidence:

    http://www.mrsikhnet.com/index.php/2007/10/21/guru-gadhi-day-in-espanola/

    There you have black, white, Mexican, puerto rican till your heart’s content – and they all intermarry.

    Now, in future, if you are going to talk about ‘stats’, they better exist.

    You have now been exposed as a liar.

    You are no longer worth communicating with. Thank you for your time.

  60. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:31 pm  

    Nice blog, thanks Ambrose.
    But instances of marriage does not suggest that it is the norm or universally accepted. What the blog doesn’t show is the number of Sikh girls or boys in this country alone, who have been ostracised from their social and family networks for marrying Muslims or Blacks or even white folks.

  61. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:37 pm  

    But instances of marriage does not suggest that it is the norm or universally accepted.

    But that wasn’t your point. you said that ‘other communitarian identities such as Sikhs and Hindus – which tend to be race/caste based.’ I have shown you that your original point was rubbish.

    What the blog doesn’t show is the number of Sikh girls or boys in this country alone, who have been ostracised from their social and family networks for marrying Muslims or Blacks or even white folks.

    Again, you are trying to save face by changing the topic to social acceptance.

    I agree with you on this point. there are plenty of guys/gals ostracised for ‘marrying out’. So what?

    It doesn’t relate to your original baseless statement that Sikhs don’t marry out of ‘race’ – even though there is no such ‘doctrinal’ concept as race in Sikhism.

  62. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:41 pm  

    My topic has been social/doctrinal acceptance all along – I don’t know what you’re suggesting it to be.

    Posting a blog with pictures of cute kids and holding up Nirpal Dhaliwal does not detract from the fact that Sikh and Hinduism is largely community/race based faiths. And therefore there will always be inbuilt resistance to inter-racial marriage. This does not apply to Muslims because the religion is not race/caste based.

    That’s all.

  63. andrewb4u — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:51 pm  

    Adnan No. 46

    By your own assumption that Muslim = Brownie you obviously have a chip on your shoulder.

    Deep Singh No. 40

    I don’t care what any book says. I never see any muslims marry a different faith and I never see black muslims with (as AD’anotherchiporNANonshoulder labels these people) Brownie or White Muslims.

  64. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 1:55 pm  

    My topic has been social/doctrinal acceptance all along

    I have shown you that Sikh societies in America socially accept inter-racial marriages. I have told you, many times, that Sikhism as a doctrine does not distinguish between different races.

    the fact that Sikh and Hinduism is largely community/race based faiths

    Every religion is a ‘community based faith’ – ever heard of the ‘Ummah’? I have told you before: Afghans, Kashmiris, Punjabis, Keralans et al are not the same race, so, in terms of Sikhs, your argument collapses.

    And therefore there will always be inbuilt resistance to inter-racial marriage

    Given that you know next to nothing about Sikhism, you are the last person to pass comment on the Sikh psyche.

    This does not apply to Muslims because the religion is not race/caste based.

    I haven’t stopped laughing since I read this. Funny how you are quick to point out the failures of Sikh society in dealing with inter-racial marriages and yet fail to see that Muslim societies also have their own prejudices revolving around race (see: Sudan, Saudi Arabia – where every slave used to be black -, Pakistan – where light skin is worshipped and they frown on the Bangla man).

    That’s all.

  65. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:04 pm  

    Sid (#60.) stated:

    “But instances of marriage does not suggest that it is the norm or universally accepted.”

    Sid, I’m trying to be neutral as possible, however the example Ambro is providing is not isolated, there are many cases of mixed race marriages within Sikhs, these have increased considerably since the 1970s with the rise of Sikh converts in the Western world (beginning in the US and now across the Globe in Europe, Russia and China).

    This is exactly the same for Islam, as per your comment under #58. where you state:

    “Obviousley the main reason for more Muslim interracial marriage is because Muslims are far more racially diverse”

    however your assertion that this is purely down to a “caste/community” bias is flawed, Islam is racially diverse because (a) it is older than Sikhism and hence has had more time to spread (b) it is actively sought to convert others as part of its doctrine and (c) several political, social and economic factors have been integrated into (a) and (b) to allow such racial diversity to exist. Sikhism is now, as religion considerable a lot younger beginning to move into multi-racial territory in a significant manner.

    The politics of caste and community are best discussed elsewhere, however the bottom line is no group is free of this issue, religous or secular, whether one chooses to call it caste, community, class etc.

    We all know for example that Islam is not the 100% unified brotherhood that it often presented, and I refer not only to doctrinal splits such as the Shia and Sunni divide, but racial aspects, since it is common knowledge as to the relations between Bangladeshi Muslims and Pakistani Muslim compared to say Iranian Muslims let alone what happens to their perceived ‘brotherhood’ in Saudi Arabia.

    Sikhs and Hindus are subject to exactly the same issues, as a Afro-Caribbeans with Africans, the list goes on and frankly is a separate discussion.

    You go on to suggest:

    “I’ve not seen any Sikhs marrying Black/Chinese/Malay folks in my experience. Have you?”

    There are exmaples of Sikhs from the very backgrounds you highlight and they all intermarry with other Sikhs of white, indian and other backgrounds. It is no different to the inter-racial marriages within Islam, the bottom line is one is marrying another muslim, the same for the inter-racial marriages within Sikhs that Ambro is alluding to.

    Your closing comment:

    “What the blog doesn’t show is the number of Sikh girls or boys in this country alone, who have been ostracised from their social and family networks for marrying Muslims or Blacks or even white folks.”

    is a little necessary, for the same reason, as we are now confusing religion and race – by the same token, there are plenty of cases of the same for Muslim Girls and Boys ostracised for marrying a non-Muslim (who has not converted to Islam).

    We can carry this tit-for-tat nonesense all day long, I sincerely hope this will be the end of it, as it is really doing nothing to add to the debate.

    Sid, I note, you have no argument with me (and I none with you), however you and Ambro need to settle you personal issues by either addressing the point in concern (i.e. provide statistics if you refer to them and/or better evidence for sweeping statements rather ‘just do a google search’ etc), as I mentioned above, discussing social flaws within Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities as some sort of competition is not adding to this discussion, but rather, it highlights the immaturity that prevails certain segments of these communities and the increasingly ghettoised nature of the so-called multi-cultural UK that we all love to believe in!

    Reality is ‘integration’ is almost always confused with ‘assimilation’, minority communities have isolated themselves in ghettos and formed ridiculous sub-cultures which are not British or belonging to their ethnic/religious/cultural background and everyone is more concerned with bickering about their narrowly defined ‘world’ view.

  66. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:05 pm  

    Funny how you are quick to point out the failures of Sikh society in dealing with inter-racial marriages

    Mind that doorstep again! Now I see the reason behind the acute defensiveness in your replies. I’m not pointing out the failures of Sikh society, I’m merely saying that it is not predisposed to interracial marriage because of the nature of Indian religions which are, with the exception of Buddhism, based on caste and community – hence (Indian) race. And by the way, there is no real racial difference between a Keralan and a Panjabi and a Kashmiri

    Every religion is a ‘community based faith’ – ever heard of the ‘Ummah’?

    Yes I have. And if you have then you’ll know that it is religion-based and not race-based. So a man from Djibouti is perfectly entitled to marry a woman from Malaysia, and it happens.

    That’s all.

  67. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:11 pm  

    andrewb4u @ 63. you state:

    “I don’t care what any book says. I never see any muslims marry a different faith and I never see black muslims with (as AD’anotherchiporNANonshoulder labels these people) Brownie or White Muslims.”

    I ask again, are inter-racial marriages a NECESSARY sign of ‘integration’?

    Do you agree that there is a difference between “Integration” and “Assimilation”?

  68. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:18 pm  

    Sid,

    Please read clearly:

    1. Sikhism is not in any way doctrinally limited to Punjabi Indians or for that matter Indians.

    2. It has its cultural ties there, in as much Islam does with Arabs.

    3. As I have explained, being a younger religion is only now beginning to grow in racial diversity.

    4. Intermarriage between races (i.e. a White Sikh female marrying a Punjabi Sikh male) is hence not forbidden, either by doctrine or social norm.

    Please can Sid and Ambro kindly stop attacking each other using community politics as you are dragging all other members of Islamic and Sikh communities into your petty quabbles!

    Thanks!

  69. Adnan — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:23 pm  

    #63: Andrew: just reread your posting

    “I see mixed race marriages between black and white and I think a big fat zero between muslims with whites or negros.”

  70. Pounce — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:26 pm  

    Sunny wrote;
    “Lee is a BNP troll so I’m not gonna bother tolerating him. Happy to delete his rubbish.”

    Anybody got a link to his blog. Just want to ask the bloke how many medals he has for serving his country?
    Seeing as I have quite a few and have dark skin. I would love to see how he relates to me. But then I do find that vocal MEMBERS of the BNP are gifted in having an extra chromosome. Must be what makes them so special.
    P.S
    To that BNP twit who was singing “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack” down the street the other month. Why did you shut up as I turned the corner and walked past you. Yup, a real hero if ever I saw one.

  71. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:27 pm  

    Deep, you’re a lovely bloke, but I’m not attacking Sikhism. I am merely comparing patterns and attitudes to inter-racial marriage in Indian faith-based society. Please don’t confuse the cut and thrust with ignorant prejudice. We’ll leave that to Muzumdar, shall we?

  72. Kismet Hardy — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:34 pm  

    “To that BNP twit who was singing “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”

    I’ve never understood that particular war cry. I can just about fathom red necks, but surely there’s no place here for blue skinned folk?

  73. Kismet Hardy — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    “I see mixed race marriages between black and white and I think a big fat zero between muslims with whites or negros.”

    What a terrible prat you are. Shit loads of Muslims marry English women and vice versa. I myself had children with a quarter-Jewish/rest-Brighton lady.

    Prick

  74. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    Sid – your comments (#71) are noted, however my responses are addressing precisely that (i.e. your perceived notions of “patterns and attitudes to inter-racial marriage in Indian faith-based society”.

    Cheers,

    Deep.

  75. Sofia — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:39 pm  

    aint no pink in the union jack either..
    and on a separate note..why is inter religious marriage an integration litmus test…i can happily marry someone of a different race to me..but i didn’t choose to marry someone of a different religion…as I would like to bring my children up as muslim..nothing wrong with that..as religion is a choice..

  76. Sofia — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

    kismet..obviously you’re a figment of your own imagination…

  77. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:46 pm  

    sid

    not predisposed to interracial marriage

    You have been proven wrong on this count. I have shown you documented evidence to back up my claim. Case closed.

    the nature of Indian religions which are, with the exception of Buddhism, based on caste and community

    Sikhism is not an Indian religion and it’s not based on caste – in fact, what differentiated it from other faiths was is casteless-ness. Case closed.

    by the way, there is no real racial difference between a Keralan and a Panjabi and a Kashmiri

    Yes there is. Keralans are Dravidians, Punjabis are likely to be Indo-Aryan and Kashmiris Aryan. Case closed.

    And if you have then you’ll know that it is religion-based and not race-based

    Exactly. Same with Sikhism. My brother is my brother, whether black, white or brown. Case closed.

    Your complete failure to show any ‘stats’ – the very basis of your argument – combined with your typical misunderstanding of Sikh theology, and your intellectual annihilation by myself and Deep on this thread have shown you to be utterly useless as an opponent.

    But you are nevertheless most amusing.

  78. Kismet Hardy — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:51 pm  

    Why you say that Sofia?

  79. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:57 pm  

    Back to the wider topics:

    1. Are Muslims the new Blacks?

    2. Is Integration the same as Assimilation?

  80. Sofia — on 6th December, 2007 at 2:58 pm  

    kismet: according to ambrosio you don’t exist…
    as for ambrosia’s assumption that sikhism has no castes..in theory yes..but in reality..no..i have been to plenty of sikh weddings and have heard plenty of aunty jis asking about what caste the munda/larki is from…hypocrisy..which is also similar to hypocrisy in muslim communities…ambrosia needs to quit bein an ostrich

  81. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:05 pm  

    zohra @ 38,

    Re my post at 37. I actually have a lot of time for oor Anas. Who, is a Muslim, I believe. Who has been involved enough with political debate to be bothered. Who has talked about the difficulties Muslims have faced in this post 9/11 world. Who has offered solutions. All I’m saying is that if there were more folk like him and your good self, it would be far harder for the bad guys to keep winning.

    I happen to think, in my more optimistic moments, that we can all make this stupid country work.

    If you ever actually met me, you’d probably assume, just by looking at me, that I was your enemy. I am old, I am white and I am male. I am all of these things, but I am certainly not your enemy.

    Where were you thinking of going? Most Muslims I know seem to want to become ex-pats in Spain.

  82. Ambrosio — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:09 pm  

    Sofia

    according to ambrosio you don’t exist

    What? Have you been on the huka again? I know full well that Kismet exists: as an editor of some trashy mag that features pictures of semi-naked women and articles that Wayne Rooney could have written better.

    as for ambrosia’s assumption that sikhism has no castes..in theory yes..but in reality..no.

    Couldn’t agree with you more. But sid is unaware of the theory and has shown himself wholly ignorant of the different Sikh societies that exist in the world who live by the theory.

    I always get confused between you and sofi; are you the young lady who volunteers at the local Gurdwara, or is that sofi?

  83. Belinder — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:22 pm  

    Ha ha ha, loved reading Ambrosio’s comments! Completely agree. And thanks for the link to Mr Sikhnet’s blog- very cool.

  84. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:36 pm  

    Y’know, sometimes talking to women is allowed. Since Zohra and I had our relatively incredible intellectual exchange of views, I see the boys have had their dicks out.

    What they fail to understand is that the sex, religion and politics game is in fact fixed. It is a game, much like finding a pea under three thimbles. And the only result is going to be….wait for it, sex!

    So, fuck the lot of you.

  85. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:44 pm  

    Sofia wrote @ 80 wrote:

    “as for ambrosia’s assumption that sikhism has no castes..in theory yes..but in reality..no..i have been to plenty of sikh weddings and have heard plenty of aunty jis asking about what caste the munda/larki is from…hypocrisy..which is also similar to hypocrisy in muslim communities…ambrosia needs to quit bein an ostrich”

    The subject of caste within Sikhism (and I imagine Islam) is not as clear cut as the traditional understanding of the subject under the Law of Manu.

    This is a complicated topic that has been over simplified (admittedly, often with the best intentions, however it does cause problems nonetheless) and whilst this particular thread may not be the best place for this discussion, a few pointers:

    1. Caste as per the Law of Manu (which later developed into what is sometimes termed ‘Brahmanical Law’ separated society into 4 segments (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishas and Sudras) these over time became fixed and rigid, hence the common issues and concerns one hears and many religious and secular movements/traditions/groups have sought to eradicate the resultant problems (i.e. Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, various Hindu reform movements and mainstream secular politics – see caveats below).

    2. Caste, as it is understood in Sikh doctrine refers to the rigid structure as described above and hence speaks against this effectively bigoted and racist practice (i.e. restricting access to secular and spiritual education, employment, basic human rights etc and well being on the basis of one’s birth).

    3. Caste, as per social custom amongst the Sikhs (and I imagine Indian/Pakistani Muslims – however will leave this to be corrected) is not directly derived from the 4 segments of the Law of Manu, but relates to hereditary occupation (i.e. farmers, carpenters, businessmen etc), these will all qualify within the 2 lower rungs of the 4 segments of the Law of Manu if one was to view them as such, but in effect amount to class and social distinctions in practice rather than any religiously enforced distinction and certainly does not include any restrictions on access to education, employment or legally sanctioned human rights abuse.

    4. For the record, although Hinduism is often attacked on the basis of the caste system, particularly by evangelical Christians and Muslims and more recently politicised Sikhs, the truth of the matter is (a) the Law of Manu is not a religious text defining any Hindu tradition (i.e. Vaishnavs, Shaiva etc) and by any stretch of the imagination, does not qualify as ‘shruti’ (i.e. divinely inspired) alongside the Upanishads etc, so such arguments should attack the legal text and/or social practice not Hinduism per se and (b) the political aspects of caste in India (the caveat mentioned above) is the main issue often ignored by the ‘do-gooders’, since ‘affirmative action’ style policies have meant, many Dalits and other so-called ‘low’ or ‘scheduled’ classes do not wish to be rid of such labels even when presented with the opportunities to do so, since there are more economic incentives to remain ‘low caste’ than there are to be rid of it.

    Apologies for the long post, however this being a SE Asian related forum, I imagine caste is a topic that will come up repeated (if not now, in the future) and hopefully the above summary highlights the complexity of views and practice on the subject.

  86. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:55 pm  

    Deep Singh,

    Don’t ever apologise for a long post. In short, there is some sort of economic advantage in playing the caste card? Is that what you are saying?

  87. Sofia — on 6th December, 2007 at 3:58 pm  

    Thank you deep singh…i have often wondered about castes in sikhism…i am not well versed enough in hinduism so would not know..but find the social practice of castism..to be abhorrent..i also find it abhorrent when muslims talk of racial equality and then find interracial marriages unacceptable..yes it is sometimes harder to have dual heritage marriages…but it’s not impossible and has always occurred…how else would tribes have grown…

  88. Sunny — on 6th December, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    Pounce – haha, nice one.

    Ambrosia / Muzumdar is back to being deleted again.

  89. Adnan — on 6th December, 2007 at 6:01 pm  

    #87, #70: I did not read Lee’s original post but I did look at his blog. I think he’s some kind of legal advisor for the BNP so he can probably construct a good argument. He models himself as a 21st century nationalist.

    As I said, I did not see his original post so cannot comment on how widely racist it may or may not have been. The thing is he pursues an anti-muslim line – there’s a load of Eurabia, and Mufti of Jerusalem stuff (to make points about the MCB and Holocaust Memorial Day). Also, a load of stuff about war hero ancestorsm, and relatives who died in death camps (in WWII Far East?).

  90. sonia — on 6th December, 2007 at 6:59 pm  

    oh for goodness sakes. everyone who has ever had any rellies from the indian subcontinent knows its highly frowned upon for all of us to marry outside the very small pool of ‘suitable’ types, as we discriminate on so many axes within race and religion even. Anyhow, point is that doesn’t mean marriages don’t happen with “non-suitable” people, but depending on your particular family and extended family, there will be a variation in the level of fuss. But generally enough fuss is made for the faint-hearted to think twice about such marriages.

    oof. and this applies to pretty much all of us!

  91. marvin — on 6th December, 2007 at 7:15 pm  

    Are Muslims the new ‘blacks’?

    According to the FBI, religious attacks in the US are currently broken like this

    In 2006, a whopping 66% of religiously motivated attacks were on Jews, while just 11% targeted Muslims, even though the Jewish and Muslim populations are similar in size. Catholics and Protestants, who together account for 9% of victims, are subject to almost as much abuse as Muslims in this country.

    http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=281576932449479

    It’s the same story in the UK. Jews are SIX times more likely to get attacked than Muslims.

  92. Ruby — on 6th December, 2007 at 7:34 pm  

    Actually, I think if any group is the “new blacks” it is the white working class, or “chavs” as they are commonly known. Honestly, it is tough to think of a group held in more contempt and less represented in the mainstream.

    Really? So Eastenders, Coronation Street, movies like Billy Liar, TV dramas like Shameless and The Street, all of these prime time programmes and blockbuster movies are not mainstream representations of working class white life and experience? Incredible.

  93. Sid — on 6th December, 2007 at 7:45 pm  

    Ambrosia / Muzumdar is back to being deleted again.

    You’re taking a very proprietary attitude to your Ambrose Muzumdars. I know you’re the pack leader but can I be the Muzumdar-whisperer? I want to set him free. :)

  94. Ruby — on 6th December, 2007 at 7:53 pm  

    Why are Hindus and Sikhs crying about the lack of attention they’re getting? Don’t they understand about the attendant villification and hatefulness directed against Muslims that is very much part of the whole package.

    I agree. The vilification is horrible to see taking place. Although I think Parv Bancil is simply saying that people realise that the Muslim experience is not the only one that relates to modern ‘multicultural’ British life, and it does no harm to make that point.

  95. Ruby — on 6th December, 2007 at 8:16 pm  

    Where is the bickering on this thread taking you or us? Is this a progressive Asian blog? For goodness sake people. There’s bigger issues out there. Like dealing with extremism, dealing with the demonisation of ethnic minorities, the rise of the BNP. Bickering like this that doesn’t amount to much is ridiculous. I don’t think the atmosphere is conducive to really discussing these things in an honest matter.

  96. Rumbold — on 6th December, 2007 at 8:17 pm  

    Lee:

    You doth protest too much- you have obviously listened to a lot of this ‘rap’ music. So what is your point? These rappers are unpleasant oiks, and so are the BNP.

  97. Deep Singh — on 6th December, 2007 at 9:04 pm  

    Doug Clark @ 86 asked:

    “In short, there is some sort of economic advantage in playing the caste card? Is that what you are saying?”

    With respect to the situation in modern Indian society, yes this is exactly the case when it comes to groups such as Dalits and other so-called “scheduled” or “low-castes”, which is something often missed and/or ignored by the commentaries on the caste system in India.

    For the record, I am not supporting the caste system, simply outlining that the majority of analysis is over emotional and sensationalised and hence incomplete as to the wider picture.

    For clarity, the practice of caste discrimination is forbidden in Sikh and Islamic doctrine, however one needs to understand that social observances of caste groups are more cultural and do not necessarily conflict with the religious rulings – i.e. Sikhism and Islam speak of brotherhood, hence to say caste doesn’t exist is a little like saying race doesn’t exist (and indeed many tout various biological studies to help prove this PC POV), however in simply acknowledging some is Black or White, or if someone is a Khatri (a mercentile trading caste in India) or a Jatt (a farming caste/tribe) doesn’t necessarily mean that one is being racist or ‘casteist’, likewise, marrying within the same ‘race’ or ‘caste’, IMHO, doesn’t conflict with any religious or legal injunction not to discriminate against another’s race or caste.

    Of course, people do step over the line and as with the subject of race, people get overly hung up on caste.

  98. Lee Barnes — on 6th December, 2007 at 10:12 pm  

    You won find anything like that anti-white rap racism in the BNP, but you can buy it at HMV. I havent seen the UAF demanding HMV remove this racist filth from the shelves of the shops.

    When will liberals take notice of the majority of victims of race crime in the UK – who are whites – instead of perpetuating the nonsense that some sort of racist epidemic threatens blacks /muslims etc.

    It is whites who are main victims if race crime and yet their suffering is ignored and minimised.

    Liberals are complicit in this racist crime wave against whites, as they lie about ethnic minorities being the majority victims and refuse to debate the fact that it is the ethnic minorities who are the main perpetrators of race crime not the white majority.

  99. Adnan — on 6th December, 2007 at 10:41 pm  

    #97: Deep, there was something on More4 about 8:30pm last night about Dalits and the way they’re treated in India. I missed a load, but what I saw did not make nice viewing.

  100. Deep Singh — on 7th December, 2007 at 10:08 am  

    Adnan @ 99.

    I didn’t see the programme, but yes, a lot of terrible things do happen to Dalits and that needs to be resolved as a basic human rights issue.

    The socio-economic situation is however, more complicated and not as black and white as often presented, much like race-relations and religious/non-religious rights.

  101. Sofia — on 7th December, 2007 at 10:49 am  

    Deep singh..i’m not sure I understand your definition of caste..is this merely a sub section within a particular religious group, vaguely based around tribes/regional populations?

  102. Deep Singh — on 7th December, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    Dear Sofia (@ 101),

    You asked:

    “Deep singh..i’m not sure I understand your definition of caste..is this merely a sub section within a particular religious group, vaguely based around tribes/regional populations?”

    For clarification, it is not my definition of caste, I am simply trying to summarise the topic in a more objective manner.

    “The caste system” as commonly understood for Hindu society comes from ‘The law of Manu’, an ancient text accorded legal status by the Brahmanical ruling class. It is here one finds the division of society into 4 subclasses, which over time became rigidly enforced (i.e. from birth your ‘class’ has been determined).

    Within other indian traditions and societies, the term caste doesn’t necessarily relate to this “classical” use of the term.

    In Punjab for instance, one finds Jats (farmers), Tarkhans (carpenters), Lohars (blacksmiths), Nais (Barbers), Khatris (Merchants), Chamars (Leatherworkers), Chooras (sweepers), Suneyaras (Goldsmiths), Mahajans (Bankers) and many more – as you can see, these do not correlate to the 4 ‘classical castes’ of Manu and Hinduism.

    Moreover, from an economic, religious and social practice (which I believe is what practically concerns us today), the observance of these “castes” is different to the way the ‘classical caste’ system worked.

    In a nutshell, under the Law of Manu, the classical caste system limited much of secular and religious eduction to Brahmins, Kshatriyas were permitted some, however Vaishas were pretty much limited and Sudras totally denied access to any form of education and in many cases, basic well being.

    The concept of “pollution” was also enforced under this regime, whereby a Brahmin would not eat food prepared by a Sudra, leaving aside inter-marriage, basic social interaction was in many cases forbidden (image a more radical form of ‘segregation’ in the Deep South), so much so, one can find stories of Sudras undergoing the most horrendous human rights abuses for no reason other than their birth being in a so-called ‘low’ caste.

    The Sikh Gurus, Islamic Sufis, Bhakta (predominantly) Hindu saints and various other religious movements in the Indian Subcontinent all worked to eradicate this practice of discrimination on the basis of caste and allow access for one and all to education and basic human requirements (in the Sikh context, the langar kitchen is prehaps the most obvious case where even the Great Moghul Emperor Akbhar had to sit on the floor and dine alongside his common man, composed of all castes, when visiting the Sikh Gurus, who were themselves in similar service).

    That I trust clarifies the classical caste issue under the Law of Manu and the position of almost all Religious and Secular movements and traditions on the subject (i.e. Discrimination and Segregation of society on such grounds is inherently wrong).

    Coming to the modern case amongst Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and even non-religious groups in India, the term ‘caste’ often refers to the examples provided above for the Punjabi community. In this case, they are related to one’s family occupation, however also form tribes in their right. Whilst it may not be a totally acadmemic site, good old wikipedia has some articles on Jatts, Tarkhans and Khatris which should outline the background to these tribes and communities.

    So, your understanding that castes today amongst Sikhs for example are more akin to “tribes/regional populations” is not too far off the mark. The important thing to note is whilst many prefer to marry within caste, there is no issue of sharing food, pollution concepts or other human rights issues between castes in the way that the Law of Manu sanctioned.

    Hence, whilst aknowledging that certain other issues do arise (see below) from the modern observance of caste amongst Sikhs, Muslims and others, overall acknowledgement of one’s caste is in my opinion, no different to acknowledgement of one’s race (as white, black, brown etc), provided tomorrow one doesn’t begin to refuse education, jobs, access to institutions (secular or spiritual) on the basis of one’s race or caste (tribe), I personally see no conflict with the religious teachings of Sikhism and Islam (i.e. the brotherhood of the humankind) or secular race-relations acts, if one is simply identifying themselves as black, brown or white and/or as a Khatri, Tarkhan, Jatt or Pundit etc.

    Problems between castes arise in much the same way as they do with race, i.e. when one insists on segregation and discrimination.

    Within the Punjabi context, marriages were arranged in the recent past on the basis of caste simply to allow easy transition for the girl being married (i.e. just like certain family traditions/customs are unique, or at least more typical, to say a black family vs. a white family vs. a brown family, the same is true of different castes).

    This is purely a social aspect to Punjabi marriages – as affluence and upward social mobility has occurred, increased access to education, changes in extended family structures and so forth, today the concern for the girl to adjust to the new family structure has changed with social attitudes and customs, although as with many things change in attitudes is not always so swift.

    To give a personal example, I would describe myself as a fairly orthodox Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh man of a particular Punjabi caste and 4th generation British (i.e. my Great-Grandfather was the first to leave Punjab back in the early 1900s).

    I married my girlfriend a few years back who is also a Sikh lady, but of a different caste and 2nd generation Canadian (i.e. her Parents were the first generation to leave India).

    When we sought to get married, the only concern our parents aired was if I would be able to adjust my then present circumstances to life in North America or her (being born and raised there) adjust to life in the UK, given the inherent customs and lifestyle factors that come with each location.

    The issue of adjusting from a family of one caste to another wasn’t an issue (although me and my wife often joke about the idiosyncrasies of our respective castes and associated family life) since even amongst our own caste groups, our families had already developed differing attitudes being the 4th and 2nd generations abroad.

    Moreover, we were both looking to live by ourselves rather than in an extended family set up as is often the case in India and also amongst many 2nd and 3rd generations abroad, wherein marrying within the same caste can be an easier transition for the married couple, particular if one chooses to have an arranged marriage (in which case, marrying within one’s caste is nothing more than finding basic common ground).

    I hope this lengthy post (which taking Doug’s advice, I won’t apologise for) helps clarify the situation further and more objectively.

    Best regards,

    Deep Singh.

  103. Sofia — on 7th December, 2007 at 12:11 pm  

    Deep Singh,
    thank you for your considered response. The reason I asked was to see where sikhism stood in terms of caste, as I was of the opinion that technically it did not exist. I suppose caste may be a bit of a misrepresentation of the word “zaat” which is what I think you are referring to when talking of the different occupations??
    This concept of “zaat” does exist in muslim communities, predominantly in rural areas…and the sub continent..and the socio-economic reasons for marrying within this context is understandable historically. What I have a problem with, is the modern day practice of this..where ppl use zaat/caste as a reason for not allowing marriage outside of these parameters. My heritage is pathaan (indian)..and our family has only recently begun to marry non pathaans..this is due to a mix of reasons..such as migration where there are not that many indian pathaans in this country…and also the fact that i don’t necessarily subscribe to this mentality..
    the other problem of castism and zaats is of looking down on certain people simply because of where they come from..my mother looked down on pakistanis..my husbands family looked down on urdu speaking indians…each side has its own prejudices..for me..if as a muslim i believe in racial equality, then these issues should not exist..if someone chooses to marry out of their own caste/race/zaat then that should be a non issue…in religious terms…in practical terms yes there will always be issues with the mix of cultures and languages etc…

  104. Anas — on 8th December, 2007 at 6:18 pm  

    Anas – tell me, who is threatening the existence of Muslims in Britain… and who is at war with Islam?

    Huh?

  105. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2007 at 9:45 pm  

    Sofia:

    “if as a muslim i believe in racial equality, then these issues should not exist..if someone chooses to marry out of their own caste/race/zaat then that should be a non issue…in religious terms…in practical terms yes there will always be issues with the mix of cultures and languages etc…”

    Sofia, hon, your comments are so invariably tied up to religion. This may be hard to believe, but you can actually believe in racial equality, dismiss caste, and marry others without caste/zaat/race being an issue as a Muslim or not.

  106. Deep Singh — on 10th December, 2007 at 12:34 pm  

    Sofia @ 103,

    You are correct, that the social practice amongst Sikhs (and for clarification, Sikhism itself speaks against the caste system and does not propagate its belief) is akin to what you describe as “zaat” (and what most rural Punjabis would pronounce as “jaat”).

    I concur that problems arise when one holds on so steadfast to their ‘jaat’ that it effectively becomes another form of racism, however my personal opinion is that observance of one’s caste/jaat/race/nationality in itself does not make one a racist bigot.

    Desi Italiana @ 105 stated:

    “you can actually believe in racial equality, dismiss caste, and marry others without caste/zaat/race being an issue as a Muslim or not”

    My experiences of when caste/jaat/race have become an issue is more often than not amongst those who in fact are not that religious, i.e. in my own community, amongst Sikhs this has typically been non-Amritdhari and/or non-Turbaned Sikhs, that is those who are more “Punjabi” than they are Sikh.

  107. Desi Italiana — on 11th December, 2007 at 10:04 pm  

    Deep,

    “My experiences of when caste/jaat/race have become an issue is more often than not amongst those who in fact are not that religious,”

    Hmmm… that’s interesting. In my experiences, it’s the
    “secular” Sikhs who boast about being jatt.

    But my comment was geared to those who must fit equality and rights into the schema of religion and derive justification in these ideals from religion.

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