Is the Met assisting hate propaganda?
GUJARAT, Five years ago. Thousands killed.
AWAAZ warns that violent extremists are operating behind "respectable" covers and charities here.
What part do state and media play?
WHEN I first heard a few years ago about some anonymous leaflets circulating in the Southall area of west London, accusing young Muslim men of systematically plying Sikh or Hindu girls with alcohol in order not only to have their wicked way with them but to convert them to Islam, I thought this must be a new stunt thought up by someone around the British National Party or similar outfit.
For one thing, the obsession with sinister but apparently irresistable enemies seducing "Our" women is an old favourite of racist propaganda - for the Ku Klux Klan and its imitators it was over-endowed Black men, for der Stuermer it was lascivious Semites pawing fair Aryan maidens. Goebbels found Julius Streicher's paper a bit pornographic for his taste, but it is credited with helping work up ordinary antisemitism into brutality, sadism and murder.
For another, the idea of introducing young women to alcohol (as though most of them need any introduction these days) in order to persuade them of the joys of Islam seems a peculiar combination. It sounds like the sort of allegation some thick white racialist might put in a leaflet without thinking, having originally intended the accusation against someone else.
Southall has a large Sikh population and a growing Muslim population from varied backgrounds. The white racists got their ass kicked in Southall years ago (indeed almost fried when a skinhead pub was burned to the ground), so after licking their wounds why not turn to trying to stir different sections of Asians against one another? Hasn't the BNP been pretending it does not mind some communities so much, it is only going for Muslims? For now.
Well, that was the way my suspicious mind worked the moment I heard about those leaflets. But it turns out I may have been wrong. Some far-Right forces are at work, but they're not just the usual suspects.
AWAAZ -South Asia Watch, a group formed mainly by young educated British Asians opposed to religious extremism and warmongering in south Asia and elsewhere has issued a statement this weekend asking "Why are the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and a government minister giving credence to dubious Hindu fundamentalist claims?"
It condemns what it believes to be an attempt by London's Metropolitan Police to lend authority to dubious claims being made by Hindu fundamentalist groups in Britain. "These claims mainly centre around the allegation that Muslim students on university campuses are engaging in 'aggressive conversions' or 'forcible conversions' of Hindu and Sikh girls".
On 21 February, the Hindu Forum of Britain and National Hindu Students Forum (NHSF) held a 'Hindu Security Conference' at the London School of Economics. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, was a keynote speaker and a number of senior policemen, including officers from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad and Diversity Directorate, were present.
Tony McNulty, the Minister for Policing and Security, was also a keynote speaker. The audience was mainly composed of about 120 students.
"At a conference workshop on the subject of 'campus security', chaired by a police officer from the Met's Diversity Directorate, NHSF students related
accounts of what they described as aggressive conversions. These were the worst examples they presented: one Hindu male student described how a Muslim friend has suggested he come to a lecture on the meaning of Islam. In another case, a group of Muslim students allegedly told a Hindu male student that he should convert to Islam and predicted that, by the end of the university term, he would do so -- a statement which this student felt carried an element of menace. Both these were defined as examples of 'aggressive conversions'.
"Mention was made of leaflets, alleged to have been produced by Islamic organisations and distributed on campuses, in which instructions were given
on how to convert Hindu and Sikh girls by getting them drunk. Such leaflets have long been used by groups on all sides wanting to stir up trouble in British Asian communities. Police officers, in the past, have generally dismissed them as a hoax.
"The poster for the Hindu Security conference advertised 'radicalisation and
violent extremism' as one of the topics under discussion. But, in fact, the
only extremism under discussion was of the Islamist kind".
When one attendee at the workshop pointed out that many evangelical religious organisations, including Christian ones, attempt to convert students, the police officer chairing the workshop said they were only interested in Muslim attempts at converting people.
Somehow the issue of men getting young girls drunk was linked with the war on "terrorism". An officer from Scotland Yard's SO15 Counter Terrorist Command showed an al-Qaida propaganda video, explaining that it
was important for the audience to know what Muslim students were being
exposed to. A representative of the Union of Jewish Students(UJS) spoke about how Jewish and Hindu students had much in common, because India faced the same problem in Kashmir as Israel did in Palestine.
Any Jewish student who naievely joined a UJS-affiliated society thinking it was just a matter of cultural or religious tradition will thus learn that their opinion not only on Israel/Palestine but Kashmir too is taken for granted by those supposed to represent her or him. Palestinians and Jewish peace activists know UJS too well to be much surprised by anything it does, but MPs, the National Union of Students and anti-racist organisations continue to listen to this Zionist lobby outfit with a respect it does not deserve.
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID
The day after the Hindu Security event, a number of articles on 'aggressive
conversions' appeared in the press. The Metro, distributed free on the London Underground, but an offshout of Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail and Evening Standard) wrote of 'Muslim extremists who try to force teenage Hindu girls to convert' and spoke of a 'new police crackdown' (22 February 2007). Ian Blair was quoted as saying 'There is a feeling in the Hindu community that we have not given them as much attention
as other groups.'
In the Daily Mail (22 February 2007), Blair also spoke of the need to clamp down on 'aggressive conversions' by 'extremist Muslims'. Both newspaper articles reported uncritically the Hindu Forum of Britain's allegations that 'hundreds of mostly Sikh and Hindu girls' are being 'terrorised' into converting.
Awaaz says neither at the conference nor in subsequent newspaper reports was there any solid evidence of coercion. Awaaz strongly condemns any attempt to intimidate or threaten students into religious conversion or religious conformity and believes that this must be tackled by university authorities.
"We condemn, for example, some reported incidents of Islamist groups trying to coerce Muslim women into wearing the hijab. But we believe that the National Hindu Students Forum is grossly exaggerating the issue of 'aggressive conversions' as part of its own political agenda. It is indulging in dangerous and divisive scare-mongering. The organisation itself, and the claims it is making, are being given undue credibility by the police and the government".
It seems my suspicions of a fascist connection were not that far off the mark, even if I suspected the wrong bunch of fascists. Awaaz says the National Hindu Student's Forum is an organisation closely allied to Indian Hindu supremacist groups, such as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).
"The RSS, once banned in India because of its fascist and violent history, has a virulent anti-Muslim agenda and pursues this effectively through its sister organisations abroad. Indian groups with links to the RSS are often also anti-Christian (more information on these groups is available on our website: http://www.awaazsaw.org). Neither the British organisations nor the Indian ones represent the majority of Hindus in either country.
"Awaaz believes that the NHSF in Britain is trying to turn any kind of
conversion -- whether coercive or not -- into a matter involving the police
and criminal justice system. This agenda has been imported directly from
Hindu supremacist groups in India, such as the violent Vishwa Hindu
Parishad, an organisation that the Hindu Forum of Britain has defended. A
number of anti-conversion laws have been introduced in some Indian states
after successful lobbying by these groups. These are part of an anti-Muslim
and anti-Christian communal politics which has led to restrictions on
religious freedom in India.
"Hindu supremacist organisations in Britain have long targeted campuses in
order to promote their divisive ideology. What is new is the overt collusion
of the police in a political agenda that is itself a serious threat to
For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org,
FROM PHYSICAL JERKS TO FASCIST THUGS
A short film by Ian McDonald, "Physiological Patriots: The Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh" can be seen on YouTube: