UK faith review warns of aggressive Khalistan extremism

A major independent review commissioned by the British government into engagement with faith groups on Wednesday warned against the “subversive, aggressive and sectarian” actions of some pro-Khalistan activists and called for action to ensure such groups are not unwittingly allowed access to the UK’s Parliament.

‘Does Government ‘do God’?: An independent review into how government engages with faith’ by independent faith engagement adviser Colin Bloom is dubbed one of the most comprehensive public consultations of its kind, involving over 21,000 people’s responses.

In a section entitled ‘Sikh Extremism’ the review goes into detail of how members of the British Sikh community expressed their growing concern over a small but extremely vocal group “hijacking” the Sikh faith to push a subversive pro-Khalistan narrative.

“There is a small, extremely vocal and aggressive minority of British Sikhs who can be described as pro-Khalistan extremists, promoting an ethno-nationalist agenda,” notes the review.

“Some of these extremists have been known to support and incite violence and intimidation in their ambition to establish an independent state called Khalistan, the physical borders of which are largely shared with specific parts of the Punjab state in India. Interestingly, this territorial claim does not include the part of the Punjab located in Pakistan. It is not entirely clear if the motivation for these extremists is faith-based or not,” it notes.

The review — which comes weeks after an attack by pro-Khalistan separatists at the Indian high commission in London — pointed to fears that proscribed terrorist groups were able to use aliases to continue their subversive agenda, referencing Babbar Khalsa International banned in 2001 under the UK’s Terrorism Act and also the International Sikh Youth Federation — banned in multiple countries but de-proscribed in the UK in 2006.

The review specifically called on the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, which is chaired by Britain’s first female Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill and has the first turbaned Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi as its vice-chair — both from the Labour Party, to ensure such organisations are not able to exert influence in parliamentary affairs.

The British Sikhs APPG, an informal cross-party group of MPs, has the stated aim to “support and promote the interests of Sikhs in the UK, work with British Sikhs to celebrate Sikh culture in the UK, and ensure full equality for all British Sikhs”.

The Bloom Review warns: “It is difficult to prove given the complex structures and multiple aliases of various groups, but conversations with academics and political figures have given this reviewer grounds to suspect that there is at least overlap of membership between some Sikh groups operating in the UK and proscribed (or previously proscribed) groups.

“In particular, this report recommends that the MPs who are in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs consider the findings of this report. The parliamentary authorities must do what they can to ensure that the parliamentary estate is not unwittingly hosting organisations and individuals who have been linked to bullying and harassment at best, and subversive behaviours at worst, which are antithetic to the parliamentary estate’s own values of truth, justice, peace, tolerance and democracy.”

In its recommendations, it stresses that the government should identify where extremist activity exists within the British Sikh community and ensure that unacceptable and extremist behaviours are not “inadvertently legitimised” by government or parliamentary engagement.

Besides warnings around Sikh extremism, the 159-page report covers other forms of religious extremism including a brief warning that “some British Hindus have expressed frustration with Hindu nationalist involvement in UK politics, which can create division within Indian communities in the UK”.

“While many faith communities are likely to be interested in regional and geopolitical disputes outside of the UK, government should be attentive to the possibility of nationalist movements exploiting religious rhetoric to incite prejudicial views that may destabilise British society,” it recommends.

On Islamist extremism, it calls on the British government for better faith literacy and to “redouble its efforts to reinforce the distinctions between extremist Islamism and Islam and between Islamist extremists and Muslims”.

The report also calls for appropriate registration and regulation of madrassas, which are currently not required to be registered as so-called faith-based “out-of-school settings”.

The government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will now consider the review findings and issue a response.

“Our government’s understanding of the role of faith in society must remain both current and alive to its evolutionary changes. It must also not shy away from some of the challenges that exist in small pockets within faith communities, from forced and coercive marriages to faith-based extremism, financial exploitation, and child safeguarding. These must not be consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box,” said Bloom.

Following his review of government engagement with faith in a broad range of public institutions – from the Civil Service and the Armed Forces, to schools and prisons – he has called for a new programme of faith literacy training for all public sector staff, ensuring public servants understand those they are helping, and to increase partnership opportunities with faith groups who are playing a valuable role in the social fabric of society.

Source: Read Full Article