I haven’t really had the opportunity to blog about Sikh attendance at The Unite Against Fascism conference held to show opposition to the British National Party from the weekend but last ago and I’ve lost my notes and the copy of the speech I wrote but here are a few brief details from the day.
The conference was held with a view to bringing together as many campaigners and communities as possible to discuss strategies and share experiences in combatting the threat from the far right in Britain. The main conference hall was packed and had many hundreds of delgates from all parts of the country.
Including Dabinderjit Singh and myself there was one other visible Sikh. A number of delegates approached us and indicated how glad they were to see Sikh representation.
Dabinderjit Singh as always gave a very well presented speech and the chair made a note of pointing out how good it was to see the Sikhs involved in this conference. His speech was roundly applauded by the audience. A Sikh Federation (UK) press release can be read here.
My own contribution was in the afternoon session titled Racism after 9/11. I explained some of the particular problems that Sikhs have experienced and how Sikhs were often the first victims after incidents due to our appearance and provided a number of anecdotes to this affect, including an incident that had happened to me after the 7/7 attacks in London.
I went on to explain the Sikh principles of fighting against injustice and how Sikhs like all right minded people were opposed to the racist and fascist principles of the BNP and would stand firm against their unjust policies.
I also touched on the wider European dimension, with particular reference to the situation in France and the shifting sands in countries such as Belgium and The Netherlands and how Sikhs were being caught up and forgotten about when they were adversely affected.
This was followed by a question and answer session, where I shared a platform with a Muslim representative and a UAF organiser. While many wanted to draw parallels between the war on terror and the Iraq war and the rise of extremism as a direct consequence of this I was fairly clear on sticking on the knock on effects of knee jerk legislation, far right activity and similar were having on Sikhs. [Disclaimer: I am totally opposed to the war in Iraq and have marched in a number of antiwar demonstrations with other British Sikhs. But my presence was to ensure that the wider public was made aware that as a minority in the UK we were more likely to be victims ahead of any other minority and to share our experiences in that respect.]
Afterwards the Sikhs present were contacted by a number of organisations and individuals on delivering speeches at other events. Anyone want to speak at the University of Warwick? Drop me a reply - it’s too far for me to travel
All in all the Sikh presence had a very positive impact and gained a lot of recognition and the many assembled delegates were able to gain a detailed insight into how Sikhs have been affected since 9/11; something that many had been unaware of previously. Hopefully some of them will take this into consideration in their local areas.