Media coverage of Islamophobia and hate crime against Muslims appears to be increasing in the UK, especially after the recent terrorists’ attacks and Brexit. Discrimination and hate crime against Sikhs arising from the same current political climate in the UK is still underreported and less well-known.
BY THUSHARI PERERA
Organisations such as Tell MAMA that focus on anti-Muslim attacks help to make the reporting of anti-Muslim incidents and abuse easier.
What is less well known and reported is anti-Sikh hate crime in the UK. Sikhs are likely to be the target of racial violence because of their distinct religious clothing, especially the Sikh dastar or turban.
In the United States, after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security worked with the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF) to issue a poster to raise awareness about Sikh’s head coverings after a rise in hate crime against Sikhs who are mistaken for Muslims.
One in four victims were non-Muslims
In the UK, Freedom of Information requests to the Metropolitan Police by a Network of Sikh Organisations found that “one in four victims of Islamophobia hate crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police in 2015 and 2016 were actually non-Muslims.”
Obviously, any crime on any community is wrong and cannot be justified, but as Gurmel Singh, Secretary General of the Sikh Council UK says, “It’s important for Sikhs that there exist mechanisms for accurately recording anti-Sikh hate crimes in order to effectively challenge them as well as provide support to victims.”
For this reason a new platform called “Sikh Aware UK” has been launched by the Sikh Council UK to report and monitor anti-Sikh hate crime.
Sikh Aware UK will help avoid the invisibility or underreporting of hate crime faced by Sikhs. A recent study by British academics focusing on young people from a Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) background in Scotland found that nearly all of the 33 young Sikhs who participated in their study had been “misrecognised” as Muslim.
Last year a report by the Sikh Federation also found that 20 % of Sikhs had faced public discrimination, even though it was not widely covered by mainstream media outlets.
The Sikh Council UK also hopes that “Sikh Aware UK” will facilitate the publication of research on anti-Sikh hate crimes by Sikh organisations and others.
Thushari Perera is a part-time archives and social research consultant who specialises in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic issues. You can follow her on Twitter @Blackeresources.