Writer – Balbir Punj

One of the myths in circulation, at home and abroad is: Hindu-Muslim tensions have escalated in India following Modi’s ascend to power in 2014. Really? Were the ties between the two communities honky dory earlier? If that were so, why was India partitioned on communal lines in 1947 and Hindus were forced to flee en masse from Kashmir valley in 1980-90?

Why non-Muslim communities been nearly decimated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh? And why are Hindu students being harassed by their Muslim classmates in the schools of United Kingdom? It’s not that only Hindus are at the receiving end of bullying by Muslims in Great Britain. The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been raising red flags over targeting of vulnerable white girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Braverman told media recently: “What’s clear is that what we’ve seen is a practice whereby vulnerable white English girls, …being pursued and raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse rings or networks. British Pakistani males, who hold cultural values that are totally at odds with British values, who see women in a demeaned and illegitimate way and who pursue a heinous approach in the way they behave.”

Braverman also added: “We do not have blasphemy laws in Great Britain and must not be complicit in the attempts to impose them on this country. There is no right not to be offended. There is no legal obligation to be reverent towards any religion.” Warning that respect for freedom of speech was “going in the wrong direction”, she said Islam should not expect a “special status” to protect the religion from disrespect.

“There is a long, ignoble history of that, which goes back at least as far as the furore over The Satanic Verses …. it’s rooted in a view – actually a bigoted one – that Muslims are uniquely incapable of controlling themselves if they feel provoked. And it has excused agitators using fear to force people to bend to their demands,” she said.

While English girls are being sexually victimised by British Pakistani men, a report by the Henry Jackson Society has brought out shocking details of anti-Hindu hatred in British schools with Hindu children mocked for worshipping multiple deities and the sacrality of the cow, called “kaffir” by Muslim pupils.

The report titled “Anti-Hindu Hate in Schools” is authored by Charlotte Littlewood and based on interviews with almost 1000 Hindu parents. This is the first study of its kind looking into anti-Hindu hate in the UK. According to the report, Hindu children were mocked for being vegetarian and for their religious practices. One girl had beef thrown at her because she was Hindu.

A Muslim told a Hindu child if they converted to Islam “the bullying will stop”, the report said. According to a parent, Muslim students told my children to watch videos of Zakir Naik and convert because Hinduism makes no sense.

One of the reasons propelling Muslim aggression against non- Muslims in England is the fast growth in population of the community in the island nation. The number of Muslims in the country is four times that of Hindus. According to the latest census, Muslim population grew from 4.9 percent to 6.5 percent of the population (27 lakhs to 39 lakhs), even as 1.7 percent identified as Hindu, up from 1.5 percent (8.18 lakhs to 10 lakhs).

Hindus in the UK are “smart, rich and very well behaved” with just 0.4 per cent found in the country’s prisons in 2021, the lowest of any religious group. There are just 347 Hindus in prisons in the UK, said a report in October 2022. The proportion of Muslim prisoners has increased from eight percent in 2002 to 17 percent (14,037) in 2022.

Meanwhile, a group of 25 Christian inmates are planning legal action against the Prison Service for failing to protect them from violent Islamist gangs. Lawyers for the prisoners say wardens have allowed the groups to take control because they fear being accused of racism.

In November 2018, a report by S.M.A.R.T. (Sikh Mediation and Rehabilitation Team) alleged systematic sexual exploitation of British Sikh girls by Muslim gangs of predominantly Pakistani men. The report says the girls would be trapped by “fashionably-dressed adult Pakistani men travelling in flamboyant vehicles to predominantly Sikh dominated areas and schools”.

Young Sikh women across the United Kingdom, the report said, would reportedly be groomed by one man and then passed round to other members of the family alleges the report. The study, entitled “The Religiously Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of Young Sikh Women Across the UK”, was backed by the Labour Party. Ms. Sarah Champion, the then Party MP.

In a statement, Sarah said: “I was shocked when I first heard about the organised abuse of Sikh girls by mostly Pakistani men. When I started speaking to Sikh women, I could not believe how widespread the grooming and abuse was – and that this has been going on for decades”.

Between 2008 and 2010, a child abuse ring that came to be known as part of the “grooming gang” phenomenon operated in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Girls aged between 13 and 15 were trafficked, prostituted, raped and assaulted by the gang. One victim was forced to have sex with at least 20 men in one night; another was forced to drink vodka, and was vomiting over the side of the bed while being raped by “countless men”. The perpetrators would pass the girls to their friends, often to settle a debt.

In this scandal, nine men were convicted of sex trafficking and other offences including rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child, on 8 May 2012 and ten more were convicted in another investigation in 2015. The men were all British Pakistanis. Most of the convicted men were married and well-respected within their community.

Forty-seven girls were identified as victims of child sexual exploitation during the police investigation. The girls were mainly white British. There was a discussion on whether the failure to investigate them was linked to the authorities fear of being accused of racial prejudice. One gang member convicted of sex trafficking was a religious studies teacher at a mosque and a married father of five.

Are the men guilty of these crimes just misguided individuals gone astray? Isn’t clear that there is a community underpinning to these sordid episodes? What sort of a dogma or a belief system can motivate a sizeable section of a community to pursue such vile and horrid actions?

Can one find a possible answer to the vexed question in what Dr B R Ambedkar had said in his seminal work ‘Pakistan or the partition of India’. He said “The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity.”

Gandhiji studied Indian communal riots in depth and analysed the conduct of both, Hindus and Muslims. Writing in Young India (May 29, 1924), he said “There is no doubt in my mind that in the majority of quarrels the Hindus come out second best. My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. …. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies.”

Can one hold Modi or RSS responsible for strained ties between Muslims and Hindus in within India, in the neighbourhood and worsening of inter community relations in distant England? What Gandhiji said about Indian situation, nearly a century back, probably holds good for England, and elsewhere as well, even today. Nothing seem to have changed.

Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist.

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