Posted on June 22, 2010

Hideously Diverse Britain: What Makes a Sikh Join the Far Right?

Hugh Muir, Guardian (London), June 15, 2010

Because there is one born every minute, and remembering even numbskulls are free to do what they like, it is as well not to be too easily shocked. But still one looks at Rajinder Singh, the useful idiot who implores non-whites to join the BNP, and more recently Guramit Singh, who does the same mucky job for the English Defence League, and it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow. Both minorities. Both Sikh. How to explain?

I take tea and cake with Bhupinder Singh, who tells me he launched the first Sikh information website in 1994, and gently mocks my incredulity. The first thing to understand, he says, is that those two are two sausages short of a fry-up. “Most people I know are embarrassed by them. We know the BNP is against all immigrant communities of colour. And we know about the EDL. For either to be part of that, it’s laughable really.”

So what’s the draw in both cases? Both say they want to fight Muslim “extremism”. Risible, says Bhupinder. But that’s not to say, he adds, that there isn’t stuff there to be exploited. We are all different. But we are all the same. So who gets what? Tricky.

“There is a lot of history in there, going all the way back to the partition of India in 1947. But even here and now, there is an impression many have that Muslims benefit from favouritism. Look at the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. Who else has a place of worship in a royal park?”

There’s harmony day to day, he says; the odd flare up is inevitable, but also a general unease that the playing field isn’t always level. “Look at all these places serving up halal,” he says. “Sikhs can’t eat halal. Every time a KFC or a Subway goes halal, that’s one more place that we can’t eat.”

It’s uncomfortable to hear some of this, but he doesn’t strike me as a bigot. Rather, he seems a small “c” conservative. “We have issues sometimes; with turbans and with bangles. But at the end of the day, I just don’t think any community should be allowed to change Britain,” he says, dismantling his muffin. “It’s fine as it is.” Whoever says that these days?