Sikhism in the United Kingdom
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Sikhism was recorded as the religion of 432,429 people in the United Kingdom at the 2011 Census. (Other sources regard the Sikh population as being between 600,000 and 750,000.) While England is home to the majority of Sikhs in the UK, small communities also exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. According to the 2011 England census there were around 420,196 Sikhs living in England alone.
Note that the first Sikh settler in Britain was Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the last Sikh Emperor of the Imperial Sukerchakia Dynasty, from 1844-1849. He arrived in England in the year 1854, having been exiled from his Kingdom by the British. His mother, Empress Jind Kaur (1817-1863), arrived in 1860 at Kensington in Victorian London and settled permanently, after fighting the British for a long time until the fall of the Sikh Dynasty in 1849. She was given permission by the British Parliament to settle on English soil. A jewel on the UK queen's crown belonged to, and was stolen from Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
The First Sikh Settlers started migrating from the Punjab in 1911, when the first Sikh Gurdwara was opened in London. During the start of the First and Second World Wars respectively, there was already an established Sikh presence in many parts of England. In London itself the community was small but this grew very rapidly during the 1950s and 60s and faced much racism and discrimination, mainly owed to the appearance and skin colour.
Sikhs still suffer from this racism. In June 2013 the British Sikh Report was first published documenting the Sikh communities needs for the first time in a concise report. The report also details the history of the Sikh community in Britain since the start of the 19th Century to the present date. The report indicated that around 74.5% of Sikhs experienced racism in the United Kingdom, with around 53% experiencing racism in the past 18 months alone. The BBC also reported that around 71% of British Sikh women "have experienced gender discrimination" and "have done so within their extended family". Other findings include that 30% of British Sikhs identified with caste, but only 3% thought it was important. In addition to this around 95% said they were proud of being born and living in the UK. Overall 650 Sikhs filled out an online questionnaire from which the data was extrapolated.
Sikhs are exempt from a couple of British laws; for example they are permitted to ride motorcycles without a helmet (so long as they are wearing a turban) and are permitted to carry around their Kirpan in situations where it would otherwise be seen as an offensive weapon. In February 2010 Sir Mota Singh, Britain's first Asian judge, criticised the banning of the Kirpan in public places such as schools.
In 2007 a Sikh girl's family claimed that she had been forcibly converted to Islam, and they received a police guard after being attacked by an armed gang. In response to these news stories, an open letter to Sir Ian Blair, signed by ten Hindu academics, argued that claims that Hindu and Sikh girls were being forcefully converted were "part of an arsenal of myths propagated by right-wing Hindu supremacist organisations in India". The Muslim Council of Britain issued a press release pointing out there is a lack of evidence of any forced conversions and suggested it is an underhand attempt to smear the British Muslim population.
An academic paper by Katy Sian published in the journal South Asian Popular Culture in 2011 explored the question of how "forced conversion narratives" arose around the Sikh diaspora in the United Kingdom. Sian, who reports that claims of conversion through courtship on campuses are widespread in the UK, says that rather than relying on actual evidence they primarily rest on the word of "a friend of a friend" or on personal anecdote. According to Sian, the narrative is similar to accusations of "white slavery" lodged against the Jewish community and foreigners to the UK and the US, with the former having ties to anti-semitism that mirror the Islamophobia betrayed by the modern narrative. Sian expanded on these views in 2013's Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations.
A BBC Inside Out (London) programme televised in September 2013 interviewed several young Sikh women who were allegedly groomed and sexually abused by Muslim men, with one alleged ex-groomer even admitting that they specifically targeted Sikh girls. Bhai Mohan Singh, working for the Sikh Awareness Society (SAS), told the BBC he was investigating 19 cases where Sikh girls were allegedly being groomed by older Muslim men, of which one ended with a successful conviction. In August 2013 four Muslims and two Hindus were convicted at Leicester Crown Court of paying a "vulnerable and damaged" 16-year-old Sikh girl for sex: the investigation which had led to their being arrested and charged had been opened due to evidence Bhai Mohan Singh had presented to the police. However, a report published in the previous year by Faith Matters (which runs the TELL MAMA anti-Muslim violence helpline and works closely with the Jewish Community Security Trust) claimed that the Sikh Awareness Society included radical anti-Muslim elements among its members; Faith Matters furthermore alleged that it was a matter of "common consensus" that the radical Sikhs said to have had secret meetings with the English Defence League were members of the SAS. The SAS deny the allegations and have distanced themselves from the organization, a spokesperson telling Hope not Hate: "We would have nothing to do with any racist or fascist group, certainly one that uses religion to divide people…I know nothing about this and no, we are not in any kind of talks and discussion with them". The BBC Nihal Show on the Asian Network also discussed the issue and debated the merits of the grooming claims in September 2013.
- List of Sikhs
- Sikhism in England
- Sikhism in Northern Ireland
- Sikhism in Scotland
- Sikhism in Wales
- Udham Singh - Sikh who shot dead British soldier Michael O'Dwyer in March 1940 in London.
- Sikhs in Britain: the making of a community (Zed, 2006) by Prof. Gurharpal Singh and Dr. Darshan Singh Tatla.
- 2001 Census, Office for National Statistics
- Neiyyar, Dil (2010-02-25). "Sikh campaigners threaten legal fight over 2011 census". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- "Sikhs celebrate harvest festival". BBC News. 2003-05-10. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- "Religion by measures: England". NOMIS. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "BSR British Sikh Report An Insight into the British Sikh Community" (PDF). 2013. BSR British Sikh Report. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Talwar, Divya. "British Sikh Report finds majority 'proud of Britain'". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Taneja, Poonam (8 February 2010). "Sikh judge Sir Mota Singh criticises banning of Kirpan". Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Cowan, Mark (Jun 6, 2007). "Police guard girl 'forced to become Muslim'". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
- Hundal, Sunny (13 March 2007). "Where is the Hindu Forum’s evidence?". Pickled Politics. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
Dear Ian Blair,
As academics teaching at British universities, we are disturbed by your recent announcement reported in the Daily Mail (22 February), Metro (23 February) and elsewhere, that the police and universities are working together to target extremist Muslims who force vulnerable teenage Hindu and Sikh girls to convert to Islam. Your statements appear to have been made on the basis of claims by the Hindu Forum of Britain who have not presented any evidence that such forced conversions are taking place. In fact the notion of forced conversions of young Hindu women to Islam is part of an arsenal of myths propagated by right-wing Hindu supremacist organisations in India and used to incite violence against minorities. For example, inflammatory leaflets referring to such conversions were in circulation before the massacres of the Muslim minority in Gujarat exactly five years ago which left approximately 2,000 dead and over 200,000 displaced
In our view, it is highly irresponsible to treat such allegations at face value or as representative of the views of Hindus in general. While we would condemn any type of pressure on young women to conform to religious beliefs or practices (whether of their own community or another) we can only see statements such as yours as contributing to the further stigmatising of the Muslim community as a whole and as a pretext for further assaults on civil liberties in Britain.
- Sian, Katy P. (6 July 2011). "'Forced' conversions in the British Sikh diaspora". South Asian Popular Culture 9 (2): 115. doi:10.1080/14746681003798060.
- Katy P. Sian (4 April 2013). Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 55–71. ISBN 978-0-7391-7874-4. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
-  BBC Inside Out London, 02/09/2013: see from 06:00
- "Code of silence on sexual grooming?". http://bbc.co.uk. 2 Sep 2013.
-  BBC Inside Out London, 02/09/2013: see from 24:10
- "Leicester child prostitution trial: Men admit paying girl, 16, for sex". BBC News. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Clegg, Nick. "Deputy Prime Minister extends funding to tackle hate crime against Muslims". Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Retrieved 06 October 2013.
- Lane, H.S.; Feldman, Matthew (September 2012). "A Study of the English Defence League" (PDF). Faith Matters: 29.
- Elgot, Jessica (2012-09-24). "EDL Target Religious Groups Including Jews And Sikhs For Recruitment, Exploit Anti-Islam Tensions, Says Report". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- Hope Not Hate magazine, July–August 2012, p.27 (cited by Faith Matters on page 29 of their report on the EDL)
- "Nihal". 02/09/2013. BBC Asian Network. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
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- Reassessing what we collect website – Sikh London History of Sikh London with objects and images