Divide and conquer

Don’t let yourself get wound up by the vitriol you discover on social media. If you believe all you find there, you may quickly conclude that the Hindu population of the UK is composed in its entirety of rabid, anti-Muslim, Modi-supporting extremists. But I say pause for thought.

For all I know, the apparent rabble could just be twelve individuals operating with multiple accounts, facilitated by an army of bots. Don’t judge the world by what you find on Twitter, for there exist a lot of trolls, sock puppets and sad lonely people who enjoy stirring up strife.

The British Hindu population itself numbers only marginally more than the Muslim convert population, making up less than 1.5% of the entire UK population. I imagine there’s some social media amplification, but most people just want to live their lives in peace and earn a sound income. There are streets right across this land where Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others live side-by-side in harmony, looking out for their neighbours.

It may be that some communities have come late creating their own versions of the Muslim Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hindutva does not equal the heterodox range of religious beliefs and practises that we describe as Hinduism. Nor does Sikh Youth UK, once made famous by its leaders meeting with the EDL’s Tommy Robinson, represent the UK’s half a million Sikhs. All communities now are forced to deal with very vocal activists who operate on the principle, “he who shouts loudest wins.”

Muslims have their share of activists touring universities and colleges to promote their cause célèbre. Hindu and Sikh groups are no different. Sikh Youth UK are invited to address Sikh student societies, to “raise awareness” about their politicised cause of the moment: in their case the dangers of “Pakistani grooming gangs” targeting Sikh girls. It’s not that these groups are benign: they all seek to radicalise young people into a lifetime of service to the cause. It’s just that we shouldn’t tarnish whole communities by associating the whole with the actions of the few.

My own view is that we should reach out to build bridges with all communities we find to be our neighbours. What we call Hinduism is diverse and heterodox, shaped by five thousand years of history rubbing shoulders with others. Why not appeal to what is held in common with pre-colonial sanatana dharma, to speak of the supreme and majestic One? Why not appeal to the common ground with our neighbours? Educated Sikhs are well aware that the Adi Granth contains lots of nice things about Muslims.

Our role is to show the politicised youth the depth of their traditions away from the soundbites of their politicians. Many are playing the game of divide and conquer. Let the rest of us unite on justice and make peace.

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