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  • Making Sikhs visible to ‘decision makers’

    by Sunny
    29th January, 2006 at 3:54 pm    

    London Mayor Ken Livingstone is hosting a conference titled ‘Making Sikhs Visible to Decision Makers’ at City Hall organised by the Sikh Federation (UK) on Wednesday 1st February. Themes are: (a) Celebrating the contribution of Sikhs; (b) Key issues facing Sikhs today; (c) Challenges to the right to diversity and religious freedom. Don’t ask me what that entails.

    Speakers: Livingstone; Rob Marris MP, Chair All-Party Parliamentary Group for UK Sikhs; Dominic Grieve MP, Shadow Attorney General; Stephen Grosz, human rights lawyer; Dr Harkirtan-Singh Raud OBE; Dabinderjit Singh OBE; and Ravinder Kaur, Co-ordinator Young Sikhs (UK).

    It looks like a sad attempt by the SF to try and drum up political support when it has no real direction on anything, or any capability to lead anyone. Lord help us if more people paid attention to these people. Journalist Amardeep Bassey did a nice expose last year for Radio 4 on the people behind Sikh Federation.

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    Filed in: Race politics,Religion

    25 Comments below   |  

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    1. Jay Singh — on 29th January, 2006 at 4:01 pm  

      Ken Livingstone is mesmerised by anyone who comes to him with a victim complex and is organised and claims they need his help and attention.

      The Sikh Federation represent the most conservative strains of the Sikh people in the UK. Why does the London Assembly have to involve itself with such a nebulous concept as ‘celebrating the contribution of Sikhs’?

      What does that involve? Throwing a birthday party? With confetti and bhangra?

      These things are for people with low self esteem, and are invariably organised by the most conservative and sectarian elements in any community. Platitude and platitude upon platitude, using the language of ‘diversity’ and ‘freedom of religion’ to speak those platitudes.

      Gesture politics and victim rhetoric.

    2. Sunny — on 29th January, 2006 at 4:20 pm  

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    3. Jay Singh — on 29th January, 2006 at 4:26 pm  

      The SF want to wedge themselves into British life like the MCB have done or the Jewish Board of Deputies or the Hindu Forum or whatever they are called.

      The more I think of it, the more I think that Ken Livingstone is a well meaning idiot.

    4. Kiran — on 29th January, 2006 at 7:01 pm  

      Jay Singh I totally agree with what you have said, but I guess the Sikh Federation just feel that they shouldn’t be left behind in what I have no idea!!! These are people who have nothing better to do and are simply keeping themselves entertained. As far as Ken Livingstone is concerned I think he just wants to show everyone that he is doing hi job.

    5. inders — on 29th January, 2006 at 8:27 pm  

      Hopefully normal minded sikhs will tell these people in certain terms where they get off.

    6. Jay Singh — on 29th January, 2006 at 9:24 pm  

      They go against the very spirit of what t UK Sikhs have achieved. The whole thing about living in chaardhi kalaa, working hard and getting on with it. Sikhs don’t need to be ‘congratulated’ like an insecure child - since when have Sikhs ever had this victim mentality of needing to be protected by Ken freakin’ Livingstone?

      But Dabinderjit Singh OBE and all the rest of them get to eat plenty of samosas and have their picture taken in the brand new London Assembly - all the while saying that they speak for all Sikhs (we are the Sikh leadership blah blah blah) - get outta here!

      It is all undignified. That thing they say about how you’ll never see a Sikh beggar - well, this is begging. Begging for attention, begging for ‘congratulations’, begging for this and that - get over it. We are not beggars. Let other people beg.

    7. Kay — on 29th January, 2006 at 9:47 pm  

      Jay, i couldn’t have stated that better myself.

      True, the SF wish to be recognised as an institution in their own right, just like fellow Hindus with the HIndu forum and muslims with the MCB etc.

      Also, I feel that sikhs have made ‘huge’ contributions in the media, commerce and govt, repsectively.

      SO why all this now?

    8. Old Pickler — on 29th January, 2006 at 11:31 pm  

      The SF want to wedge themselves into British life like the MCB have done or the Jewish Board of Deputies or the Hindu Forum or whatever they are called.

      I’m not sure that the Board of Deputies of British Jews really claims to speak for all British Jews.

      Odd, though, that the Church of England, well the Arch Bish, anyway, is more liberal than most Anglicans, while the MCB, and now, it seems the Sikh Foundation is more conservative than most Muslims/Sikhs.

      What is the Hindu Forum? Never heard of it.

    9. Sunny — on 30th January, 2006 at 12:09 am  

      OP - any Hindu controversy, usually the Hindu Forum is behind it. Just take the silly baby Jesus stamp controversy as an example (you can search PP for that one).

      The point you make about Rowan Williams (who is practically the only religious figure I have real respect for) vs other religious orgs is true. And the sad fact is the media keep thinking these people are representative.

      Jay - The point about begging is true. I remember when travelling around India and some Singh reminded me of that too. He said, you’ll never see a Sikh begging. They’re too proud for that. The only time I did see one was at Hazoor Sahib (Maharashtra) where a Nihang was begging. It made me feel real sad to see a Nihang of all people begging.

    10. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 8:07 am  

      This is beggars politics. Whenever I see a group begging for respect, begging to be congratulated, begging to be noticed, I pity them - because I just see a beggar. It is humiliating. It is a sign of low self esteem. There is lots of that going around now - and the SF want to ape that kind of politics - “Me too! Me too!”

    11. j0nz — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:20 am  

      Very interesting. I had no knowledge of Sikh militant groups in the UK.

      “- a group which evolved from a bunch of anti-racist vigilantes into a militantly anti-Muslim street gang”

      Why anti-muslim I wonder? I mean surely the Jews or those English are more of a threat, aren’t they? How completely irrational. It’s almost as if sections of the Muslim community have declared war on the Sikh community…

    12. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:25 am  

      This is from the Sikh Federation’s website:

      However, we have every intention of encouraging practising Sikh candidates to be given the opportunity to be elected to Westminster and also to get representation for Sikhs in the House of Lords under the banner of one or more of the main political parties.”

      Note the phrase ‘practising Sikh candidates’

      What does that mean? The Sikh Federation is asking that whether or not a Sikh candidate is practising should be a factor in their selection for parliamentary candidature - in effect, a call to exclude any Sikhs who fall outside its definition of what a ‘practising’ Sikh is.

      Imagine for a minute the Jewish Board of Deputies making a similar ‘demand’ that liberal or reform Jews be marginalised - or even the MCB requesting that only hijab wearing Muslim women be selected.

      I can think of two Sikh MP’s off the top of my head - Piara Khabra and Parmjit Dhanda - but to all intents and purposes to the SF these MP’s are not Sikh because they do not conform to the test of ‘practising Sikhs’

      I sincerely hope that the Labour Party and any other party politely ignores this ‘demand’ by the Sikh Federation. It just shows that when mainstream politicians engage with conservative religious-identity based politicians, what happens is not an increase in the depth and breadth of access or understanding between them and the said community but a shrinking of the definition and horizon of what a Sikh should be. It would be a betrayal of modern British Sikhs for any political party to adopt any such criteria. It is a sign of the effectiveness of focussed campaigning utilising the rhetoric of ‘diversity’ and ‘plurality’ which masks an agenda that believes less in true plurality within the Sikh community than the imposition of criterias and conformist rules within it.

      Think for a minute of what they are saying - that if a Sikh candidate is deemed suitable for selection - that candidate should be subjected to a further test - that they should meet the criteria laid down by the Sikh Federation of what constitutes a ‘practising’ Sikh. It is objectively ridiculous, isn’t it?

      Sikhs have been victims of their own success - for so long, without handouts, begging or help, we have quietly done well in British society. In business, academia, the arts, music, politics, we get on with it and dont ask for special favours.

      However, this has a downside - it can render the community invisible to a certain degree, because of its very success - and this is one reason why the Sikh Federation is able to plant itself in the gap - to say that they are fulfilling some kind of need for representation.

    13. j0nz — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:27 am  

      Interesting when they say ‘militant’, they describe Bob Crow as ‘militant’, in the same way they describe people commit mass slaughter in Iraq.

      Could anyone clarify? When they say militant Sikhs, have they been slitting throats on British streets??? Genuinely need to know, the way the media reports race/relgiously motivated crimes is hopelessly erratic and weak willed.

    14. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:27 am  


      Please don’t turn the thread into another anti-Muslim bitch fest. The group you mention is comprised of drug dealers and gangsters who fought against Muslims - they were a street gang and could hardly be described as representative of Sikhs.

    15. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:32 am  


      The Shere Punjab were a street gang. You could describe them as militant because they liked to fight Muslims and became vigilantes. But they hardly exist any more in any real sense - for the simple reason that prosperity has taken many Sikhs out of those inner city situations, for a start, and the leaders of the gang grew old.

    16. j0nz — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:33 am  


      I was just wandering. I heard Sikhs teaming up with the BNP, to ‘highlight the threat of islam to the west’.

      Any political or ogranisation based on dogmatic religious principles is fundamentally flawed.

    17. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 9:37 am  


      Some madman who lost his family in the partition of India decided it would be a good thing to link up with the BNP to denounce Muslims. Even the Sikh Federation issued statements cussing the guy - and the young Sikh groups said they would batter him if they ever caught him. BAck in the 1980′s there was a Jewish lady who supported the BNP - madness afflicts all races.

    18. Sunny — on 30th January, 2006 at 12:55 pm  

      There were two idiots from Shere Punjab as well who joined the BNP. What a hoot! I swear some people still haven’t evolved fully from chimpanzees.

    19. bananabrain — on 30th January, 2006 at 3:14 pm  

      the problem with the board of deputies is that it is supposed to be representative. actually, it’s the same as the problem with the “chief rabbi” - he’s not actually the chief *of* anything very much. in actual fact, he represents the united synagogue (the mainstream modern-orthodox synagogual body) which it also has a chief exec, who is arguably more important. more importantly, he is not even the chief of the mainstream religious court, the london beth din, who are the authority in the matter of conversions, kosher food and all other aspects of jewish law - and, even then, the LBD are not the only beth din around; there are several others. any time chiefy tries to represent anglo-jewry, he gets people excited who he doesn’t really represent and then they all have a go at him. sometimes he deserves it and sometimes he doesn’t.

      the BOD, however, are a different kettle of fish. they have a purely representative function, rather than a religious mandate. they have to represent everyone, which means that they are unable to take a strong position on anything where there is a strong internal division. therefore their opinions can be more or less boiled down to this:

      1) antisemitism is bad.
      2) israel-bashing is bad.
      3) jews contribute a lot to this country.
      4) stuff which attacks ethnic and religious minorities is bad.
      5) long live the queen.
      6) if you want to pass laws which affect us, please consult with us in advance.

      the BOD also runs the communal organisation which deals with dangerous and violent antisemitism and liaises with the police and (presumably) the security services when necessary, as well as a number of sub-organisations which deal with charitable matters, i believe.

      however, almost without exception, the average jew-in-the-street regards the BOD as a bunch of useless windbags. there is of course some truth in this (although it’s not completely fair, there are some great people on it), but they are at least organised and that is no mean feat considering how fragmented the community is. what should be understood is that the BOD is a creation of the 19th century and that affects its structure and procedures. what should be remembered, i suppose, is that the BOD is, if nothing else, an excellent example of how to build a representative body for an ethnic group within the UK so that a civil consensus can be reached upon what the relationship should be between the community and the government. in other words, it’s an excellent official channel. so far, british muslims, hindus and sikhs haven’t really produced anything comparable, although the BOD has tried to help them out from time to time. and during the nail-bombing campaign, the met was able to work with all of them together because of the strong cooperative mechanism the BOD had built.

      i’d be interested to hear more about how the sikh community is organised.



    20. Sunny — on 30th January, 2006 at 3:17 pm  

      i’d be interested to hear more about how the sikh community is organised.

      Punjabis can’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, and that is a scandal considering how much they like to drink.

    21. Jay Singh — on 30th January, 2006 at 3:29 pm  


      Interesting post - thanks. You mention that the BOD has been around since the 19th Century. Sikhs have only been in this country in large numbers for forty or fifty years. And the kind of consensus needed to build an organisation like this is not there as yet. Too many divisions, both in terms of sects and schools, but in terms of the dynamics of politics, identity, orthodoxy-modernists, generational tensions and so on. As it is, organisations like the SF are mainly a self-appointed bunch of activists as much motivated by the politics of the homeland as they are by anything else. They cannot claim to speak for Sikhs with any credibility at all.

    22. bananabrain — on 30th January, 2006 at 4:01 pm  

      this is partly the reason the jewish community appears to be better organised and more successful - 100 years ago we were in exactly the same situation as the muslims are now. the difference is that wider society is a lot more tolerant and less prejudiced nowadays (believe it or not) and that minorities aren’t prepared to yes-massa the mainstream any more - and so much the better. i refer you to the old joke:

      “how did the jews integrate so well into british society?”

      “well, it was easy - 350 years and bang! here we are!”



    23. Kay — on 30th January, 2006 at 10:08 pm  

      Such ‘militant’ sikh groups i.e. shere punjab no longer exist, perhaps the ideologies do exist but the such extremist groups do not.

      We don’t need this all this ‘fighting’ amongst different racial/religious groups, we need unity.

    24. jay — on 18th February, 2006 at 10:33 pm  

      erm… the shere punjab do still exist, its just that from the days when this rubbish government didnt listen to sikhs, they had to riot to make apoint.. but nowadays, the big ones are low key, apparantly they carry out contract killingson bad muslims

    25. DoubleDouble — on 25th February, 2006 at 9:45 pm  

      Sihks and Hindus have worked hard without complaint and have tried to assimilate. Muslims however have used the freedoms they detest so much to hamstring the political system into inaction.

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