UK Politics

A New Discourse

Sunny is sketching out a new discourse at Pickled Politics:

When the first Guru (teacher) of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, started preaching around 1499, Panjab was a very volatile area rocked by tension between Hindus and Muslims. It was also susceptible to constant incursions by marauding armies from the area now broadly Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When he had his first major epiphany at the age of thirty, after which he started preaching, Nanak Dev said: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” meaning that such religious labels were unimportant. Only dedication to God and love towards fellow human being mattered.

Not too long after the tenth in line, Guru Gobind Singh, was laid to rest, the first and only Sikh kingdom by Maharaja Ranjit Singh also faced problems from Mughal, Hindu, Afghani and British armies. And yet one of his most memorable quotes was: “God intended me to look all religions with one eye, that is why he took away the light from the other.”

One can say that Sikhism was an ideology borne out of a need to deal with sectarian tension and deal with upheavals. It wanted people to cut the crap and get to the point (the point being God of course).

To that extent the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, known as the 11th and eternal teacher, incorporated teachings by Hindu and Muslim thinkers.

My personal stance on religion is broadly similar. Born into a Sikh family, I have gradually distanced myself from the idea of calling myself a Sikh. Instead I see myself as belonging to all major faiths in the spirit of, as I see it, the whole point of Sikhism.

This is admittedly quite a contrarian view.

And there is more.

Today he continues:

Even before I started barficulture it was obvious bigotry was driving British Asians apart. As this extends to wider British society the fight to deal with it must become bigger.

I have found current theories and explanations fairly limited because they are constructed to fit into prior struggles. Thus we are presented with facile choices that do not reflect the complexity of the issues involved. This is what I hope to address starting with my next chapter.

I’m reposting some interesting comments from the discussion which follows in the extended entry, below.

Oh – and good luck Guru Sunny.

Jagdeep — on 6th September, 2006 at 11:42 am

To be honest, if it was only a matter of problems in the Muslim community being confined to Muslim communities, I wouldnt discuss it either. But when it impacts on me, as a British-Indian, from a family of practising Sikhs, when my life is under threat from Jihadis and the lives of my fellow British citizens too, and my family experience turbulence and hostility in a racist backlash, it is damn well my problem, and I have the right, as everyone does, to talk about attitudes in the Muslim community.

This has really made me re-assess my attitudes. Which has been a good thing. One result of this was that I realised how much the Islamists ‘lite’, the cheerleaders for Islamic politics, have overplayed their hands. Their depiction of Britain as a massively racist society is egregious, and they have much hatred in their hearts for things that I hold dear.

Islamists have set the agenda for multiculturalism for too long. Including people like the MCB, who have demanded that policies and thinking be skewed to their thinking and demands. That means every other minority gets marginalised and our narrative, one of success and failure faced with stoicism and achievment, and proud engagment with British society, and integration and a gradual sense of being British, developing into love for Britain and deep friendships with our white brothers and sisters, means that a more tempered approach to obstacles we face is thrown out of the window to pander to shrieking, whining, moaning, religious ideologues. I hate that, and I hate them.

It is time the narrative of minorities was seized back from those demagogues and ideologues. They are loathsome losers and have succeeded in drowning out the reality of our varied and complex lives.

Jagdeep — on 6th September, 2006 at 11:49 am

One more thing. I wonder about what will happen when and if the next attack occurs. If a suicide bomber blows himself up inside a nightclub, or inside Bluewater or the Trafford shopping centre, or on commuter trains coming into London, or a few planes, an attack that dwarfs 7/7. I get terrified thinking about it all – the loss of life, and the long term effects on us all, to my family and friends and my children. What kind of society will that lead us to?

This is as bad as it was when the NF were roaming the streets. I have a nephew at university and he tells me that the atmosphere on his campus is poisonous because of the presence of intimidating extremist groups, and that Sikh, Hindu and Jewish students feel intimdated by them and their activities. What kind of society are we living in that permits this to flourish? How did we get here?

The cause and effect principle applies here too. Extremism from one direction causes others to copy the tactics of extremists. Everything becomes coarsened.

Sid — on 6th September, 2006 at 11:57 am

I sometimes get asked by irate Muslims to stop poking my nose into ‘Muslim affairs’ or writing about Muslim issues.

Some Muslims will react angrily because they already feel besieged. And calls for increased secularism or for self-reflection are often perceived as more Islamophobia from fellow Southasians. This is a knee-jerk is understandable given that Southasians are steeped in internecine bitching.

Those of us who call ourselves progressive Muslims, who:
* don’t feel we have anything to “prove”
* are not insecure about our identities
* are politicised but not reactionary

recognise your intentions as being constructive and incredibly broad-minded. We salute you.

Jagdeep — on 6th September, 2006 at 12:25 pm

To be honest Sid, if a Sikh or Hindu criticises Muslim leaders or ideologues, a certain percentage of that may be inspired by communalist thinking, but the majority of it isnt. In fact, most have been remarkably quiet on the issue, given that the rise of Islamic politics and the Muslim-first and last identity was partly motivated, surely, by a desire by them to dissasociate Muslims from fellow Southasians, which must be ‘phobic’ of ‘infidels’ in some sense, in the first place.

Most people dont care about what Muslims think or how they get on in life. Nobody sticks their nose into questions of whether Qadianis are true Muslims or not (random fact of the day – my great grandfather was from the city of Qadian) or things like that. Nobody cares.

When they see themselves being marginalised in British society and the terms of the debate being warped to accomodate Muslim grievance all the time, I think more Indians should stand up and counteract their attitudes. Enough is enough. Muslim politicians and Muslim grievances (real or imagined) should not be taken any longer as the benchmark or litmus test for multicultural Britain. It is arrogant for Muslims to make it so, and stupid and blind for the media and wider society to accept that. More non Muslim minority communities should demand that this is made clear.

Sid — on 6th September, 2006 at 12:45 pm


I can assure you that Islamists, or moderate Muslim for that matter. are [not] fighting against the forces of “Multiculturalism”. Muslim grievances should not be the “benchmark or litmus test for multicultural Britain“, I agree.

The endless social debate on the fissures in multiculturalism is a fallout of Islamist extremism. But I think we’re guilty of confusing effect with cause.

Jagdeep — on 6th September, 2006 at 1:14 pm

I disagree. I think that Islamists are fighting against multiculturalism, all the while using at as a cover for their agenda ie: The oppressed Muslims, oppressed by orientalism and British society, must not be criticised or else it’s racism. They simultaneously claim to be representatives of the wonderful multicultural project, whilst distorting it and using it as a shield for their ideas. Whilst the terrorists are on another level, there are a platform of ideologues behind them that have really fucked things up for us, with their bad faith and twisting and constant constant unending selfishness and belligerent attitude and linking the price of fish in Birmingham and Brick Lane to the oppression of the ummah. It has distorted us, and their agenda must be confronted.

(when I say distorted us, I mean distorted the debate on multiculturalism, it has distorted Asian community and our relationships with each other, it has distorted everything)

Jagdeep — on 6th September, 2006 at 1:19 pm

Let me correct something. I will explain what I mean by this:

The oppressed Muslims, oppressed by orientalism and British society, must not be criticised or else it’s racism

Their overwhleming and selfish agenda has been to twist everything so that Islamist politics becomes so tied to the pillars of multicultural truth that their communalist ideology and all that goes with it is screamed at as prejudice. This has been consistent and overwhelming. The threats, the warnings, the propaganda, all of it was employed to suit their agenda, not the agenda of Britain, not the agenda of what is nessecarily good for Muslims to get on in British society, and certainly not what is good for Sikhs or Hindus or black communities.

In doing so, through hectoring, bullying and selfishness, they poisoned multiculturalism.

Oh yes, other communal organisations have shown that they too can play that game, we can think of examples from Sikhs and Hindus. The thing is, it doesnt happen to anywhere near the same extent, and the general consequences of their attitudes are not so dangerous or consequential for society as a whole.

Let’s face it, they have been a disaster on every level. They also distract from real problems, and lessen the urgency with which genuine grievance can be examined. Their depiction of Britain as a nation of default racists is also hateful and wrong.

David T — on 6th September, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Now, here’s a thing.

I understand 100% what Sid means when he suggests:

“Some Muslims will react angrily because they already feel besieged. And calls for increased secularism or for self-reflection are often perceived as more Islamophobia from fellow Southasians. This is a knee-jerk is understandable given that Southasians are steeped in internecine bitching.”

It isn’t just “southasians…steeped in intericine bitching”. If you’re a member of a minority group, and people who are not members of that minority group start to talk in sweeping terms about the actions and attitudes and beliefs of that group, it inevitably makes you VERY edgy. That is so, even if you agree in part with what is being said, or if simplistic but not overtly hostile things are being said about your group.

I bet that one of the major effects of the over-focus on Muslims has been to make an awful lot of people with plural identities highly conscious of the centrality of their religious identity. Its an understandable kind of “fuck you” response. It has also helped to fuel a “laager-mentality”: something which further assists the “ummah consciousness” lot, who have been running the ‘your Muslim brothers are under attack the world over’ line in the UK since Bosnia.

As a result it is very difficult to have any discussion about religion and culture without producing this sort of effect: particularly when Muslims are already feeling jumpy. Sometimes, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in the old rule of etiquette which held that it was impolite to talk about religion at all.

The trouble is: when you’re up against some extremely reactionary religious-political forces, which are spreading paranoia and encouraging communal introversion for their own ends, in any case, it is very difficult to ignore it or fail to engage with it.

When you do, however, you’re at a massive disadvantage. Outfits like Pickled Politics, where people are generally sane, switched on, and savvy are few and far between. The loons are better organised and motivated than us, and they’ve been much better at spreading their message. They’ve been aided and abetted both by racists and other bigots, and by the ‘revolutionary’ left who get a vicarious thrill from holidaying in the anger and fear of Muslims.

I do think we need a new discourse, but I’m not sure how we’re going to get there.

We could start by taking a very deep breath.