image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Sikh Activism Is Not Radicalism

       The expression radicalisation was first used for Islamic youth converting to an extreme form of Islam associated with terrorism and the so called Islamic State. That is also one of the main reasons for a general political swing to the right in the West. Yet, today, the media and government agencies tend to use the term rather loosely. Sometimes, social activism, which includes assertion of democratic rights, public protest against some perceived injustice or doctrinal disputes etc, is associated with radicalism.


    When Indian Prime Minister, Narindra Modi visited the UK in November 2015, Indian media mentioned a dossier about radicalised Sikhs in the UK to be handed over to PM David Cameron. Yet, a recent report by Dr Jasjit Singh of Leeds University found little evidence of the country's Sikhs being radicalised to join international terrorist groups.


      The six-month research funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), looks into the reality of Sikh activism in the UK, amid other, more recent media attention focusing on Sikh protests at gurdwaras and other venues, and growing concerns about Sikh/Muslim tensions and links with the far right.

    The UK government currently defines extremism as vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. On the other hand, radicalisation is defined as the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups. Very simply, radicalisation is a change in a person&rsquos thinking so that he or she is prepared to engage in illegal and violent political action. That change may be over a period of time due to gradual indoctrination by some ideology justifying violence as a means of achieving some political or religious objective or, it can take place following some traumatic event experienced by self, own family or community. Radicalism is a readiness to engage in illegal and violent political action, while peaceful activism relies on enthusiasm to engage in some lawful social or political activity. Most Sikh activism falls into this latter category.

      In fact, Jasjit Singh&rsquos view is that Sikh activism in Britain continues to contribute positively to the integration agenda, particularly in the form of humanitarian relief provided during natural disasters. Any evidence of violence mostly involves Sikhs against other Sikhs regarding political, doctrinal, personal, factional and/or governance related Sikh vigilantism. For example, it would relate to personal clashes and disputes about how gurdwaras should be run.


      According to Jasjit Singh, 1984 events continue to drive many Sikhs to political activism. There was shock and violence after those events. The Sikh on Sikh issues are caused by disputes about religious authority and tradition and local jathebandi politics. Another cause has been Muslim gangs targeting Sikh girls for grooming or conversion and delay in dealing with the problem by the authorities. That also possibly pushed some Sikhs closer to far right organisations.


The clear conclusion of the report is that Sikhs have no conflict with Britain or the West. It is also informative and educational for Sikh organisations.


Gurmukh Singh OBE