Right Word | Hinduphobia in UK: Anti-Hindu violence in Leicester and Smethwick is tip of the iceberg

The recent violence against Hindus and attacks on their temples and homes and establishments are not standalone incidents

Arun Anand September 24, 2022 13:28:41 IST
Right Word | Hinduphobia in UK: Anti-Hindu violence in Leicester and Smethwick is tip of the iceberg

A mob vandalised a Hindu temple in UK's Leicester. Twitter

The recent attacks on Hindus and Hindu temples by radical Islamists at Leicester city and in Smethwick town reflect rampant Hinduphobia in the United Kingdom. This isn’t the first time when the local law enforcement agencies became a mute witness to attacks on Hindus and their religious institutions. To make it worse for Hindus, a section of UK media seems to be deliberately misreporting the facts and blaming the victims i.e., Hindus as perpetrators while turning a blind eye to the growing menace of radical Islam in their own country.

The Centre for Holistic and Integrated Studies (CHIS), a New Delhi-based think tank that tracks and analyses international affairs, has observed in its recent report released on 22 September, 2022, “An incisive study of the cases of Hinduphobia in the UK show that Muslims and other adversaries have attacked Hindus time and again over issues which are central to Hindu culture. For instance, on many occasions, Hindu festivities have been disrupted, their temples vandalised, their deities mocked, and religious symbols destroyed. This reflects the deep-seated hatred and fear which Islamists hold for Hindu civilisation. In the last one-year, religious hate crimes have increased by 9 per cent in the UK but there is no clarity on the increase of Hindu hate crimes. As observed on ground, Hinduphobia has risen severely but the exact numbers are unavailable.”

According to the report, there are several individuals, organisations and pressure groups in the UK that propagate an anti-Hindu sentiment. The organisations that comprise this anti-Hindu ecosystem in UK include among others, South Asia Solidarity Strive UK, the Muslim council of Britain, The Polis Project, Islamic Human rights commission, Scottish Indians for justice, International Sikh Youth Federation (UK), SOAS India society, The London Story, Apna Haq, Indian Muslim Welfare Society (IMWS), Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), Community Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), London Anti-Fascist Assembly, Sikhs for Justice (UK), Sikh Federation(UK) and International Sikh Youth Federation (UK).

Case Studies of Hinduphobia: Dubious role of UK Media

Here are some of the case studies that indicate how, over the last few years, Hindus have been under attack in the UK despite being a big contributor to the economy, community building as well as cultural diversity in the UK. These case studies also indicate that the recent violence against Hindus is not a one-off incident. It isn’t spontaneous but it is a part of the larger plan to target Hindus which has gained momentum especially since 2014. And it is supported and fuelled by a section of the UK media outfits as they have willingly become a part of the misinformation campaign targeting Hindus.

Case Study 1: British newspaper ‘New Statesman’ published an article on 24 May, 2022 titled ‘How Labour lost the Indian Vote.’

Here are some of the excerpts, that would give you a glimpse of how Hinduphobic narrative is built by UK media: “New India has new politics, favouring Hindu nationalism and social conservatism over progressive politics and secularism. A cocktail of patriotic pride and nostalgia for the motherland has united Hindu voters in support of the regime of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, and the nationalism of him and his party, the BJP. Streaming and cable TV have placed radical Hindu commentators in Harrow living rooms, evangelising about the horrors of Pakistan in digestible chunks for the diaspora.”

“When a radicalised Hindu voter sees prominent south Asians in the Labour Party (Sadiq Khan, Shabana Mahmood, Rosena Allin-Khan) they don’t see people who look like them — they see Pakistanis. New Labour multiculturalism no longer resonates with Indians.”

“Conservative supporters have repeatedly used anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaigning, and this sadly lands well with Hindu nationalist voters.”

“Reducing household waste and recycling are alien concepts to the wealthy Indian voter. In India waste management is mired in casteism, with handling waste historically a profession for scheduled castes, the most discriminated-against castes in India. Recycling has been virtually non-existent until recently, with the only recycling carried out by the extremely poor, scavenging landfills for reusable plastics. The average wealthy Indian probably grew up with staff picking up after them; from their perspective, taking out the bins now that they live in London is enough of a struggle without adding the separation of food, recycling and green waste. Pleas to reduce landfill and promote recycling will have fallen on deaf ears in this community, contributing to the Harrow bin crisis that the Conservative were able to capitalise on.”

Case Study 2: On 4 March, 2020, another British newspaper The Guardian published a derogatory caricature of the then UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel as a cow, which is a sacred Hindu symbol. The same cartoon shows then UK Prime Minister, Borris Johnson as a bull, mocking Hindu culture.

Case Study 3: Conservative MP David Amess was brutally murdered by a Muslim man of Somali origin, Ali Harbi Ali in October 2021. He was stabbed multiple times. But at that time instead of reacting to the threat of radical Islam to their own countrymen, a section of the British civil society and academia, supported by local media and some politicians mounted a campaign to host an anti-Hindu conclave which would be financed by the European Union. In October 2021, British Hindu leader, Pt. Satish K. Sharma revealed that €220,000 had been granted by the European Union for this conference.

Case Study 4: In July 2021, Oxford University President-Elect, Rashmi Samant was humiliated by her professor, Dr Abhijit Sarkar for her Hindu upbringing and her culture. Samant was the first Indian woman to be elected as the President of the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU). But she was bullied for being a practising Hindu and forced to resign.

Case Study 5: Religious Education is mandatory in British schools. But in large number if mainstream schools Hindu faith is projected as divisive and discriminatory. The textbooks perpetuate negative stereotypes about practising Hindus as bigots.

According to a study conducted by UK Insight titled “A report on the state of Hinduism in Religious Education in UK schools (Published in January 2021),” “Hinduism is the third largest religion practised in the UK, yet ..the teaching of Hinduism in mainstream UK schools is very limited, flawed and often ignored. This imbalance has led to an inaccurate portrayal of Hinduism and can result in feelings of negativity and ignorance when meeting UK citizens belonging to the Hindu faith. It is found that the lack of awareness and an incorrect portrayal of Hinduism in Religious Education results in: 1. Depriving students of a world view and understanding of the nature, diversity and impact of religion and belief in the contemporary world. 2. Depriving the knowledge of the world’s third-largest religion which is followed by one of the most contributing minority communities in the UK. 3. Insensitivity towards Hindu people and their beliefs resulting in bullying and hate crimes.”

Case Study 6: Aina J Khan a Pakistani journalist who works for The Guardian, tried to pin the violence in Leicester on ‘Hindus’ and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an India based socio-cultural organisation. She did a series of tweets that tried to take the focus away from the violent behaviour of radical Islamists. Some of the earlier headlines of the stories she has filed for The Guardian are self-explanatory about her bias:

UK Muslim charity trying to break record for blood donations in one day’

‘Pakistani diaspora groups and UK charities raise up to £1m for flood relief’

‘A Muslim dating site loses a trademark case against an industry giant.’

Incidentally, she has been designated as the ‘community affairs’ correspondent by The Guardian. But in her stories, Muslim community figures prominently and always positively! She is yet to file a story on radical Islamists creating havoc in UK.  While reporting on the violence at Leicester she equated the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ with anti-Muslim hatred. Here is the tweet:

“ …. I shared concerns about yesterday’s impromptu marchers chanting “Jai Shri Ram,” a Hindu chant appropriated by extremists in India, that has now become synonymous with anti-Muslim hatred.”

In a series of other tweets, she tried to drag the name of the RSS making baseless allegations. Here is the false narrative she tried to build through her tweets:

“It was a tense day of reporting from Leicester for me today. I interviewed a Hindu man wearing a motorbike helmet, holding an Indian flag on Belgrave road, the site of some of the unrest yesterday between a group of Muslim and Hindu men. Here’s what happened.

This man said he supported Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — a group whose founders took inspiration from Mussolini’s fascists.

This man exuberantly professed how great and altruistic RSS was, a stone’s throw away from a statue of Gandhi that stands adjacent to a Hindu temple. The irony here being that Gandhi was assassinated by an RSS member (who the RSS claim had left by then).”

According to CIHS report, “There has been a 9 per cent increase in hate crimes in the UK in the last one year as reported by the UK Home Office, however, the government has not categorised this reportage religion-wise. Therefore, a blanket rise in cases does not clarify the magnitude of hate crimes against Hindus in the UK.”

The Great British Indian Survey conducted by iGlobal News reported that nearly 80 percent of the British Indians feel prejudiced as a result of their Indian identity. Of this, the most common form of discrimination manifests as Hinduphobia. Hindus who have been subjected to hate crimes, stated that they faced Hinduphobia in terms of misrepresentation and mockery of their culture, exclusion and religion-based discrimination, derision, hatred, religious and racist slurs, and violence.

It is clear that the recent violence against Hindus and attacks on their temples and homes and establishments are not standalone incidents. The Hindus in UK would continue to suffer if the deep rooted ‘Hinduphobia’ is not addressed immediately and effectively at all levels by the UK government. The Indian government has already swung into action but it would need much more than the government’s intervention. It is time that Indians across the globe, collectively mount a pressure on the UK government to protect Hindus and end the ‘Hinduphobia’ there.

The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books. He tweets @ArunAnandLive. Views expressed are personal.

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