The role of religious minorities in combating Islamophobia: The Sikh case

A channel to counter Islamophobia

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are supposed to have discussed the idea of setting up of a television channel to counter ‘Islamophobia’. In a tweet, the Pakistan PM said that it was decided that the three countries would set up a BBC type channel which will raise Muslim issues and also counter Islamophobia.

The role of Sikh public figures, in the UK and Canada, in countering Islamophobia

It would be pertinent to point out that prominent Sikh public figures in Canada and the UK have played a pivotal role in countering hate towards Muslims. This includes the first turbaned Sikh Member of Parliament (MP) in British Parliament, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour MP from Slough), who criticised British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for highly offensive remarks Johnson had made, in an opinion piece written for The Telegraph in 2018, against Muslim women wearing burqas.

Johnson had stated that Muslim women wearing burqas look like ‘letter boxes and bank robbers’. Dhesi sought an unequivocal apology from the British PM for his remarks.

The Labour MP from Slough stated that if anyone decides to wear religious symbols, it gives no one the right to make ‘derogatory and derisive’ remarks. Dhesi also invoked the experiences of immigrants like himself, and those hailing from other countries, and the racist slurs which they had to contend with.

The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada, Jagmeet Singh, has also repeatedly spoken against ‘Islamophobia’. In 2017, when Singh was still a candidate for the NDP leadership, he was accosted by a heckler, who confused Singh’s religious identity and mistook him for a Muslim. The woman accused Jagmeet Singh of being in favor of imposing the Shariah (Islamic law defined by the Quran) and a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a tweet, Singh had then clarified his stance, saying:

Many people have commented that I could have just said I’m not Muslim. In fact many have clarified that I’m actually Sikh. While I’m proud of who I am, I purposely didn’t go down that road because it suggests their hate would be ok if I was Muslim

On September 1, 2019, Jagmeet Singh’s brother, Gurratan Singh, a legislator from Brampton East, was accosted after speaking at a Muslim Fest in Mississauga and accused by Stephen Garvey, leader of the National Citizens Alliance (NCA), of adopting a ‘politically correct approach’ towards issues like ‘Shariah’ and ‘Political Islam’. Gurratan responded calmly, stating that Canada could do without racism. In a tweet later on, Gurratan, like his brother, said that he would never respond to Islamophobia by pointing out that he was not Muslim. Jagmeet Singh also praised his brother for his reaction.

Guru Nanak’s 550th anniversary

That these Sikh politicians in the diaspora are standing up against Islamophobia at a time when Sikhs are preparing to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of the Sikh faith, is important. Guru Nanak Sahib was truly a multi-faceted personality – social crusader, traveler, poet, and even ambassador of peace and harmony in South Asia and outside. The first Guru of the Sikhs always stood up for the oppressed, be it against Mughal oppression or social ills prevalent during the time.

Today, Sikhs in the UK, Canada, and the US who have attained success in various spheres are trying to carry forward the message of tolerance, compassion, and standing up for the weak. While being clear about its distinct identity, the Sikh diaspora also realizes the importance of finding common cause with members of other immigrants and minority communities and standing up for their rights. This emphasis on co-existence and interfaith harmony has helped in creating awareness about the faith.

A good example of the growing respect of the Sikh community is not just the number of tributes (including from senior officials in Texas as well as the Federal Government) which have poured in after the brutal murder of a Sikh police officer, Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, in Houston, Texas (Dhaliwal happened to be the first Sikh in the Harris County Sheriff’s office), but also a recognition of the true values of the Sikh faith, which include compassion, sacrifice, and commitment to duty. While Sikhs still have been victims of numerous hate crimes, in recent years there is an increasing awareness with regard to not just Sikh symbols, but also the philosophical and moral underpinning of this faith.

Conclusion

While countering Islamophobia is important, it can not be done in silos. It is important for minority communities to find common cause and be empathetic to each other’s needs. Setting up a TV channel may be an important symbolic gesture, but it’s overall efficacy is doubtful unless there is a genuine effort towards interfaith globally.

Paris Islamophobia, 2019

Here is a little story that may confuse you for a short while. At least, I hope it does.

The story takes place in the eastern Paris neighborhood where I grew up. It used to be frankly working class. I guess that it may have become a little gentrified but, I guess, not much. It’s at a bus stop next to a large park built over a former 1900 mushroom farm that used the abundant horse manure then available in Paris. (That’s another story told in my book of memoirs, I Used to be French…. Ask me.)

Anyway, two youngish women are waiting for a bus in broad daylight. When one shows up, they signal for it to stop. The bus slows down and then speeds away. It’s stopped shortly at a red light. One of the women runs to it, pounds on the door, and demands to know why the driver did not stop to pick her and her girlfriend up. “You should dress better,” responds the driver motioning at her short skirt.

The next day, a man tried to place a formal complaint with the Paris Transport Authority (“RATP”). His name is Kamel Bencheikh; he is one of the young women’s father. He is a well-known Algerian poet who writes in French. I don’t know if he is a French citizen but he seems to live in France. He demands exemplary punishment for the driver.

The Transport Authority announced publicly that it would investigate the alleged incident as a violation of driver’s rules. It added that its hands were mostly tied in the absence of contact with the two young women – including Bencheikh’s daughter – who were the victims in the reported incident. The daughter is 29.

Bencheikh took the opportunity to announce to the media that he claims forcefully his Islamophobia.

Separation of Church and State (More Islamophobia!)

…Malaysia’s appeal court ruled Monday [10/14/13 – JD] that a Roman Catholic publication can’t use the term ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God, despite its widespread use among Malay-speaking Christians.


The dispute dates back to 2007. After Syed Hamid Albar, then the home minister, prohibited the church’s Herald newspaper from using the word ‘Allah’- arguing it should be solely for Muslims….

From Gangopadhyay and Fernandez in WSJ 10/15/13, p. A13.

Technical note: “Allah” is a foreign word to all Malaysians. It’s an Arabic word. All Malaysians’ native tongues are unrelated to Arabic.

Yes, there may be more there than meets the eye. So? Try imagining a US court – state or federal- or a French court, ruling that Calvinists may not legally use a given foreign word, that the particular word is reserved for the use of Roman Catholics!

Not that the court ruling in Malaysia is that unfamiliar. They used to do stuff like that in Europe. It was some time ago, a long, long time ago, actually.

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

I am flattered, Brandon and I am sure I don’t deserve all this attention. I did not merit these detailed rebuttals and your rebuttals don’t deserve that much either. Sorry if this sounds dismissive b, it’s not my attention but your arguments seem to proceed from some debating class that I have not taken. He are your words:

It is not enough for you to have an adequate defense force that protects the territory and integrity of the Republic.

I think that’s not the Libertarian position. The party’s position instead is to wait until we are attacked, as in Pearl Harbor, to engage in active defense on the basis of a military establishment much smaller than the current one. Please, correct me on these specific points if my perception is wrong. Please, don’t run all around the chicken corral!

You charge me with saying that “we must bomb, maim, and bully other peoples in the name of peace as well.” Of course, it’s a caricature but it hides an important truth. We have different perceptions of recent events. Here it is in a capsule: The Iraqi liberation war did not do as well as it should have; it went much worse, in fact. Yet, knowing what I know now, if I had to make the decision I would do it again. The Libyan operation went as well as one could expect. As I wrote on my blog, it’s an Obama success.

You refer mysteriously to the constitutional limits of military actions. I think both the Iraq war and the Afghanistan wars are constitutional. I think, the help to Libyan is borderline.

I can’t take your otherwise thoughtful critique seriously because of all that you leave out of my clearly expressed position. I want to try one last time to elicit your response one something that is important to my military posture. I assume that you and I could easily agree that the US had no vital interest in Rwanda at the time of the genocide.

Was it fine to let thousands of Rwandan massacre hundreds of thousands of their fellow-citizens with machetes and bricks?

It seems to me that the first answer has to be a “yes” or a “no.”

One more thing, Brandon: I don’t know where in my writing you see anything resembling anti-Muslim statements. What I have done repeatedly is:

  1. denounced the hypocrisy of American Muslim organizations;
  2. deplored the blindness, the confusion of ordinary Muslims;
  3. attacked the mendacity of political correctness in this country, all with respect to the following simple fact: 95% of all terrorist acts in the world in the past twenty years have been committed by people who call themselves Muslims and most often, in the name of Islam.

I mean by “terrorism” violent acts directed deliberately against civilians.

Just to be superfluously declarative: I don’t think Muslims are evil; I think they are in massive denial. There are Muslim commentators who say exactly the same. There are too few and they are not heard much.

Islamophobia (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 of this essay, Islamophobia, I recounted some facts about terrorism that seems linked to Islam and I made some hypotheses about how Muslims in general array themselves with respect to this terrorism. In this second and last part, I divulge some of the bases of my worst suspicions regarding moderate Muslims.

I wish someone with credentials would help me disentangle who is what and in what proportions among Muslims in connection with the varying degrees of rejection of violent jihad described above. In the meantime, I feel intellectually free to speculate within reason and on the basis of other information I have, factual information, that is, not hearsay.

The first helpful element in my speculation is that, of course, I understand violent Muslim fanatics well. Anyone reasonably well versed in European history would, My ancestors used to be just like them. I never tire of repeating on this blog and elsewhere that the First Crusade (1099) massacred everyone there after taking Jerusalem. That massacre followed acts of cannibalism during the siege. And more recently, it’s clear that tens of thousands of witches were burned at the stake in Europe. (Note: The figure of millions advanced by feminists is silly propaganda bullshit.) Violent jihadists and other fanatics hold not mystery to me because I used to be they. Used to be. Continue reading

Islamophobia (Part 1 of 2)

The backlash that did not happen after 9/11 is taking place now because of Muslim stubbornness, arrogance, or simple lack of articulateness. Americans are tolerant and patient to the point of gullibility but there is a limit. When it comes to the establishment of an explicitly Muslim-anything near Ground Zero, many feel they have been deceived, that their good nature has been taken advantage of. To cap it off, the liberal media accompany some American Muslim spokespersons, and some ordinary Muslims in accusing them of the mysterious sin of “Islamophobia.” (Siddiqui: American anti-Muslim prejudice goes mainstream – thestar.com circa 8/26/10)

I am referring to the majority of Americans who have expressed some degree of opposition to the plan to establish a Muslim cultural center including a mosque near the site of the 9/11 jihadist massacre. I am one of those so accused.

I tend to look seriously at any serious accusation thrown at me seriously. Often, it does not tell me anything about me and my behavior but it gives me an insight into the ways of thinking of the insulter. So, I will look at Islamophobia, the dislike and fear of Islam and, by extension, of all things Muslim, from the standpoint of what I know and then, from that of what I don’t know for a fact but that is plausible. I try to keep the factual and the plausible, the speculative, separate.

In the end, I want to know what I am guilty of, if anything, as an Islamophobic American. I don’t discount the possibility that I am guilty as charged. Continue reading