Background : A Growing Political Divide
The 2019 General Election campaign and results hinted at a growing division between Britain’s Hindu and Muslim communities from the subcontinent. The Tories were accused of pandering to Hindus, who began to be collectively described in the media as rightwing despite their long history of being predominantly Labour voters. In 2010, Labour enjoyed a 13% lead over the Tories in the Hindu and a 48.5% lead in the Sikh communities. By 2015, British Hindus and Sikhs preferred voting for the Tories by 49% to 41%. The Guardian began coverage of alleged Hindu rightwing extremists visiting the UK as early as 2017, which is remarkable as the same newspaper regularly denounces similar coverage of muslim extremism by other newspapers as overblown and islamophobic. The run up to the 2019 GE saw the Guardian running several articles aimed at UK Hindus, urging them to vote Labour and not see it as an act of disloyalty to India.
The most up-to-date survey of British Indian political affiliations in 2021 found this :
The community’s growth has been accompanied by changes in its political leanings. Historically, the British Indian community has strongly supported the left-of-center Labour Party, but anecdotal evidence and limited survey data suggest that it has been slowly gravitating toward Labour’s principal rival, the right-of-center Conservative Party. Where do British Indians’ partisan leanings reside today? How does the diaspora view Britain’s political leadership? And what are the principal policy issues that undergird the community’s political preferences?
The data show that while a plurality of British Indians self-identifies with the liberal end of the political spectrum and demonstrates a preference for the opposition Labour Party over the incumbent Conservative Party, their support for Labour appears to have eroded in recent years. This shift appears to be largely driven by Hindus and Christians, many of whom have drifted away from the Labour Party, even as their Muslim and Sikh counterparts have remained steadfast supporters. If a fresh general election were called, British Indians would likely be an important swing constituency. Their views on the country’s future leadership are in flux. They have relatively dim opinions of the incumbent prime minister and generally disapprove of his performance in office. Contrary to the prevailing understanding, when it comes to matters of foreign policy, British Indians do not view UK-India relations as a pressing electoral concern and relatively few identify it as a key shaper of their party identification. However, the diaspora holds polarized views on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which likely reinforces domestic partisan divisions.
Labour’s long and ardent courtship of the muslim vote is a well-known fact, especially on this blog.
Timeline of the Leicester Conflict: It started with Cricket…?
Leicester is a city of predominantly Gujarati speaking Hindus and Muslims who share a similar history of being expelled from Uganda (unlike Pakistani Muslims who speak Punjabi and Urdu) and have lived in relative peace. There has been recent demographic change with a wave of Indian migration by way of Portugal from two northwestern Indian territories Daman and Diu (D&D) which used to be Portuguese-held enclaves, similar to Goa. However unlike the Goanese, the new arrivals are overwhelmingly Gujarati speaking and Hindu. Many of the recent troublemakers from the Hindu side seem to be from this group.
On August 28, there was a trigger incident.
Following an Indian cricket win, an Indian celebratory mob (even the muslim accounts suggest this were more recent immigrants from Daman and Diu) went on the streets with flags of India and some shouted Pakistan Murtabad or Death to Pakistan. Muslims allege that a Pakistani youth was attacked while Hindu accounts point to a misunderstanding with a middle-aged Sikh man (confirmed by details in this Guardian account).
Muslims on social media were quick to play up the incident as was the notorious 5 Pillars site. Prominent muslims on social media insisted that the crowd chanted “Death to Muslims” and quite funnily, accused the Hindus of racism but there is no video evidence of such chants.
Commenters like Sunny Hundal portrayed the August 28 incident as fascist Hindutvadis going on a terror rampage which video incidence does not support. It was a politically convenient narrative but does not ring true for British Hindus.
While only the local newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, reported the news of the August 28 incident, social media was ablaze (which is how I was alerted to the incident) and mainstream newspapers in India carried more far more detailed reports from Sept 30. Not surprisingly, the Indian newspapers seemed to have lots of input from Leicester residents.
Then there were accounts of organised Pakistani muslim pushback, culminating in the video of a 300- strong mob attacking Hindu homes and businesses during a religious celebration on Sept 6. British media did not run this latter video at all but Indian media went to town with it. Indian hindutva types online began portraying this as pure “hinduphobia”. A sporting rivalry skirmish had sparked off something uglier. The Hindu side was enraged by the lopsided reporting in the British media, the open online incitation (which was ably documented by HP’s Habibi and Wasiq Wasiq on twitter) and the Sept 6 attacks which still seem invisible to the British public.
And thus the Hindu side went out on the streets again on Sept 17 to protest. 200-300 young men chanting pro-India slogans (Vande Mataram, Hail the Motherland, India’s second national anthem*). By this time, an equal number of enraged Muslim men were there with the police trying to keep the peace. A common Muslim complaint was that Hindu men were being provocative to march through “Muslim areas” of the city.
The Islamist propaganda machine was in full swing. There were allegations of ripped pages of the quran being found on the streets, of music being played outside mosques, of mosques being attacked and an innocent Hindu man was accused of kidnapping a Muslim teenage girl and his photos, address and vehicle were doxxed online. There were claims of Hindu men being bussed into the city – the picture shown of a BJP labelled bus was later found to be one that been used by some to visit a Modi event several years ago. Known instigators like Mohammed Hijab poured oil on the fire and called for the ummah to pour in from other parts f the country. The police debunked the claims as they were being made while both C4 and the Guardian employed one of the most mischievous of the inciters, Majid Freeman, as their trusted guide to the conflict! The embarrassment that is the NYT just last week used both a MEND spokesman and Majid Freeman as their go-to guides on the conflict which is painted as arising solely from Indian fascism.
There are many unpleasant and deeply creepy opinions the activist Majid Freeman, newly beloved of legacy media holds, but for HP regulars just this one is enough to give the measure of the man:
Jesus Christ! pic.twitter.com/puNerjFYuF
— Wasiq Wasiq (@WasiqUK) October 4, 2022
Was there Hindutva violence?
There are two key incidents put forward for the OMFG-the-hindu-terrorists-are-here camp : the August 28 cricket supporters and the marchers of September 17. There were skirmishes between hindu and muslim men and worst of the Hindus I saw was this video where there were scuffles with muslim men. As far as anyone knows, there is no evidence of Hindus attacking mosques, muslim homes or muslim women. There is nothing on social media of firebrand Hindu extremists rallying other hindus to Leicester or organising hindutva patrols and counter resistance. There were muslim complaints of a radical hindu preacher invited to give a talk at the Smethwick temple in Birmingham. Here’s what the temple of elderly devotees did on hearing the complaint, as Mohammed Uddin recounts:
Message to the Muslim community of Smethwick Birmingham pic.twitter.com/OXmFLVVzrs
— Muhammad Uddin (@uddin118) September 20, 2022
On the other hand, there are muslim patrols in Leicester (the C4 documentary clearly states it), there are videos of two hindu temples being attacked and hindu homes being attacked. There are dozens of incitement videos and twitter posts and such luminaries as Anjam Choudary and the lawyer of Shamima Begam have issued their opinions, was well as a range of Islamist organisations from 5 pillars to Mend.
There is credible reportage that Hindus withdrawn into their homes and scrubbed visible signs of their religion. Hindu organisations are working with the CST to improve security around their community facilities. British Hindu organisations and leaders have been surprisingly silent. Would a rising ideology of hindu supremacy and aggression be this mute? One community seems to have suffered more visible damage and yet the left oriented media, rather frighteningly, continues to court the worst of the Islamist troublemakers.
There have been articles and interviews in right-leaning media like Spiked and Unherd and interviews on GB news and Rebel news which seem to have noticed the blatant bias but it is clear that British hindus can be easily maligned by the progressive left because they are desperate to look away from Islamist extremism.
* Vande Mataram, is from a Bengali poem written in 1870’s and first sung by Rabindranath Tagore in the 1876 session of the Indian National Congress. Mahatma Gandhi supported the adoption and singing of the song and my favourite version is by an Indian Muslim (and Tamil) musician, AR Rahman. It is not a sinister call to arms even if the NYT and Guardian start telling you otherwise.