A Sikh charity based in Wimbledon is calling for hate crimes against people of all religions, not just Islam and Judaism, to be closely monitored.
The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is not a political organisation but campaigns on key issues such as education and health.
The NSO is headed by Indarjit Singh, the Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, a British journalist and broadcaster, interfaith activist and peer in the House of Lords.
Lord Singh said: “We are extremely concerned about the skewed monitoring of hate crime.
“There is a focus on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism but all communities should be equally monitored and protected.
“There should be one law for everyone.”
In the wake of the terrorist atrocities in Paris in November, Lord Singh gave examples of where right wing extremists in Britain have been unable to distinguish turban-wearing Sikhs from Muslim extremists to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
He explained: “It’s a particular problem for Sikhs.”
“There have been many instances of mistaken identity in this country and in the United States.
“Crimes against Sikhs are often recorded as Islamophobia.”
As a result of his appeals to the DCLG, a new cross-government hate crime plan has been introduced that promises to record accurate data on crimes committed against people because of their faith and race, including crimes committed against Sikhs.
He said: “Persistence in constantly raising this issue with ministers in the Lords and in discussion with the DCLG finally appears to be paying off.
“The government now seem to realise the seriousness of race and mistaken identity hate crimes.”
But Lord Singh also stressed that there should be greater awareness of different faiths, and suggested that schools could do more to tackle prejudice.
He said: “We should know who our neighbours are. That would remove suspicions and prejudices.
“It’s a sad thing but there isn’t much awareness of the Sikh faith at all.
“There is a lot of awareness about Abrahamic faiths, but even then there is ignorance.
“Sikhs believe that different religious are viable and that all must be respected.
“Sikhism is not a proselytizing religion, but perhaps we should be pushing our religion out there more.
“Religious literacy is important, and schools are doing very little – there should be a basic grounding in the essentials of belief in all religions.”
Lord Singh said that although London as a whole has a ‘bad’ hate crime problem, it isn’t as bad in Merton.
He said: “It’s not particularly bad here, but there is a Gurdwara in Tooting and in Southfields where people have been verbally abused.”
Despite the fact that Merton residents are viewed as tolerant, figures for racist and religious hate crimes, categorised separately from Islamophobic crime, have increased.
There was a 49% increase in Merton, a rise from 151 to 225 incidents in the 12 months up to July 2015, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Visit www.nsouk.co.uk for more information.
Picture courtesy of sarboo, with thanks