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& Confused Government Policy
& Confused Government Policy
Radicalization is a loaded expression which lumps together Islamic
radicalization at one extreme and social activism at the other.
According to one definition, radicalization is a process by which an
individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political,
social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine
the status quo.
So, if any individual or group of people who wish to bring about a
change or support a cause, but adopt extreme methods e.g. through
violence or terrorism, then one can argue that they have been
However, some would argue that any form of progress or change would
“undermine status quo”. Those wishing to return to their roots and
stable societal values would be regarded as the “radicals”.
It would seem that radicalization of young people from well
established minority communities in Western countries is a complex
issue and can be misunderstood or exploited.
As for “extreme methods”, the other condition for “radicalization”,
that too becomes rather subjective. Young Sikhs disagreed with
Gurdwara managment at Leamington in the UK and started a protest. It
is not clear at what stage that protest – hopefully an invitation to
talk - became “extreme methods” in the management’s view so that
armed police were called in when responsible community leaders could
have settled any disagreement about the Sikh Reht Maryada (The Code
of Sikh Conduct & Conventions).
On 14 September, a Shashank Joshi wrote about the Leamington
Gurdwara incident in The Telegraph and linked Sikhs to Muslim
extremism. His headline reads, "We cannot let religious
conservatives poison our society - whether Muslim or Sikh." From his
angle and that of some on Sikh forums, conservatives are the
Therefore, these conservative Sikhs have been radicalized and are
“poisoning our society”! But surely, if they have been radicalised
then they cannot be conservatives. If they are truly conservatives
then they are the ones trying to preserve religio-cultural values
which give us stability.
It is becoming popular to say that young people are being
radicalized by extremist ideologies. Yet many of these young people
are simply trying to re-discover their roots and return to
established religio-social values. Therefore, for the purpose of
Government policy “extremist ideology” needs to be defined more
carefully and on the basis of better education about communities.
I quote a senior colleague with appreciation, “The term
radicalization is rather loaded and implies some sort of deliberate
brain washing and then utilisation by some forces for ulterior
motives. People often associate this term to what is happening
within the Islamic community when it conjures up certain images. The
protestors in this
[Leamington Gurdwara] case have widespread community support as they
are quite simply raising the issue of violation of the Rehat Maryada
and at other times protesting at injustices towards Sikhs in India.”
He goes on to clarify, “I am not in support of activities that bring
adverse media coverage towards Sikhs , covering of faces during
protests etc but do think it is dangerous to start using terms like
radicalisation of the Sikh youth as it has many unintended
consequences .” I agree.
Individuals and groups questioning the current state of affairs, are
sometimes regarded as a threat by the establishment. They are seen
to be “undermining status quo”. Too readily, they are then branded
as radicalized when they protest.
Instead of understanding the reasons for activism in many fields,
and appreciating it and giving it a positive direction and support
by passing just laws when needed, generally, the establishment – the
politicians, the media and vested interests e.g. international trade
- tends to oppose it. The activists resort to protests and, at some
point, there is even breakdown of law and order.
Depending on the wrong perceived or suffered, some resort to
violence and start earning the qualification, radicalized .
Political and religious issues can be easily exploited by preachers
of hatred to radicalize young minds. This is referred to as the
“slippery slope” to radicalization even in fields not normally
associated with violence to begin with. For example, even
environmental issues and charity work in the field in war-torn zones
can lead to radicalization.
The media plays a prominent role too by either resorting to hype in
the headlines or totally ignoring issues and concerns e.g. those of
minority communities. Investigative journalism can help but it is
time consuming. Shoddy journalism is cheap and looks for sensational
headlines. To quote a colleague, “We all need to be wary of
unscrupulous and sloppy journalism that seeks to play on stereotypes
and to sensationalise; this is what improves ratings and sells
newspapers and perhaps we get the journalism we deserve.”
In case of Sikh youth, the careless approach of the mainstream media
continues to be a matter of grave concern. Western media has done
hardly anything to educate itself and the public about the Sikhs
even after the Sikh killings in the US due to mistaken identity. To
quote a report, “Since 9/11, the Sikh American community has had to
face repeated harassment over basic tenets of their faith, such as
wearing a turban and keeping a beard. “ Identity Sikhs are profiled
as terrorists. Youth resentment and protests against such treatment
is to be expected.
The impression gained is that radicalization of youth in the plural
British society is a term used too conveniently to lump together all
types of activism and just grievances. Radicalization of youth does
not happen overnight. There is a reason or a provocation and extreme
positions are adopted incrementally. Matters are made worse when the
establishment turns a blind eye to the real issues and concerns.
Yet, a desire to bring about change towards a just society is a
legitimate human goal. It is central to Sikh teaching. Social
activism is not a threat but a welcome sign of a vibrant and healthy
society. Activists in social, religious and political fields should
understand that change for the better in society takes time.
It is possible that, rather too hastily, youth movements are branded
as radicalized without a careful study of the underlying causes and
possible remedies at national and international levels.
Gurmukh Singh OBE
Copyright Gurmukh Singh
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