Dear Elders, Brothers and Sisters and members of the Southall Hindu community,
Over the last two months, NCHT(UK) have been speaking with many potential speakers and young Hindu leaders and Hindu youngsters about our forthcoming conference and its format and content, and of the many contemporary issues which were suggested, one issue was “Racist attacks on Hindus and Sikhs and Temples, Gurudwara’s and places of Worship,”
All were sensitive issues in one way or another but this one issue, to do with “Racism-driven anti Hindu/Sikh Violence” was becoming increasingly important. We regularly hear reports of our Temples being "graffiti-ed" and windows broken, of our elders being intimidated by racist youths, in and around temples as well as the knee-jerk blind, violence which follows a terrorist attack almost like clockwork. Hindus & SIkhs are targeted and attacked because we are all “Asians”.
To the best of our knowledge no-Hindu group has worked to address this issue with any creativity and we felt that perhaps it was time that we should. It is tragically probable that extremist attacks in Europe are going to increase, it is predictable that the uninformed far right will respond with uncontrolled rage as we are already seeing now in France, and whenever this happens, they do not ask whether that young brown person is Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, they do not ask whether that building is a Gurudwara, Mosque or a Temple. As people of Dharmic traditions we become targets for the racist right, the prosletysing Church and the Extremist bent on establishing an ideology by using force. With the so-called "right wing" again on the rise, with ISIS already here in the UK, the future for all looks challenging.
In this regard, we had been contacted by Tommy Robinson who you will all have heard of and who has a very troubled past. He was the lead for the "right wing" and in recent years, has engaged increasingly in inter religious dialogue. In my dialogue with him (I interviewed him two weeks ago and then researched his current position) he often expressed regret over some of his earlier actions. I found him to be direct, frank, occasionally apologetic and positive, possibly little more than a young man with a very challenging upbringing, with hostile surroundings shaping his world view, but also possibly a young man who has begun to also study Dharmic leaders and holistic eastern philosophies. On the basis of the evidence of the last couple of years we see that he has spoken at Oxford University, is scheduled to speak at Cambridge University and at many other legitimate forums. More importantly our Hindu and Sikh youngsters are already engaging with him, are aware of him and several have expressed a desire to debate with him directly.
To invite an opposing viewpoint to the debating table and to communicate and to befriend on the basis of our Dharma and Vidya, is quintessentially Hindu, to see him as flawed as we all are, as a flawed young person struggling on a life journey like the rest of our youngsters, is essentially Hindu and it was he who first extended a desire to engage. Namaste captures the essence of acknowledging that whenever persons meet with respect, any person, Divinty is present .. quintessentially Hindu.
Being guided by our three Hindu A's ie is it Asat or Sat, is it Avidya or Vidya and is it Adharma or Dharma, we arrived at a conclusion whereby he should be engaged with. We have no Dharmic definitions for such terms as “right wing” or “left wing” etc etc all of which are non Hindu labels and do not fit in with our traditional way of choosing action or indeed of viewing the world and so an opportunity was created for this issue to be advanced, for everyone’s benefit.
Hindu Temples are oases of tranquility where for millennia men annd women of wisdom have gathered to discuss and address the thorniest of subjects and challenges, in an atmosphere of safety and respect, focussing only on seeking solutions and putting aside all prejudices. Hindus have understood that without tranquility there can be no progress and thus every temple has priests chanting Shanti (tranquility) Mantras on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, groups and individuals opposing Tommy Robinson have threatened to directly disturb the tranquillity of the Temple Venue, inside and outside and this we cannot permit. Strangely these groups and individuals who claim to be offended by aggression and hatred, did not ask to be present, they did not ask for details regarding the context, they chose to immediately threaten the tranquillity of a place of worship, of a long established centre of interfaith harmony a centre which is widely respected as an example of grass roots co-operation between faiths.
We advised Tommy Robinson of this unpleasant and hostile aspect and he immediately offered to withdraw so that the remainder of the Conference would be able to continue. The tranquillity of the Temple had however already been disturbed to such a degree that the Temple Committee have felt obliged to ask that the event be cancelled and the NCHT (UK) have indeed decided to postpone the Conference, in its entirety for the time being.
So we have a situation where allegedly Hindu groups and individuals, purporting to be the ”Voice” of British Hindus, trumpeting their desire to defend Hindus from the far right, themselves openly threatened to disturb the sacred tranquility of a Hindu Temple, and in doing so prevented a dialogue, carefully cultivated specifically to challenge attacks on Hindu temples and places of religious worship, attacks perpetrated by the very same "far right". Irony indeed.
The questions which are left are for all to consider. Who is the aggressor in this instant, whose behaviour is consistent with the changing needs of the times, whose actions have caused real harm to intercommunity dialogue and who are the real losers. Perhaps all of us.
Thank you to the courageous and passionate younger Hindu groups who have supported us and wished to engage. We would conclude with a sincere thank you to our speakers all of whom are committed to improving our mutual understanding of each other in the most genuine and deeply Dharmic traditions and to our delegates who also have a great desire to see harmony and dialogue extended whenever possible. Finally, I would pay tribute to our NCHT(UK) executive whose commitment to engagement and dialogue, to friendship and sharing is unwavering.
Once again we would express our regrets to the Executive and Devotees of the Vishva Hindu Kendra in Southall who are without any fault and who have become the unwitting targets of hostile and unpleasant individuals whose purpose seems to have been to prevent dialogue, no matter the harm to tranquility and indeed with little regard for the principles which are destroyed in the process.
Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti, Aum
PM Modiji says it best ....
With warmest regards
Satish K Sharma B Sc(Hons) Econ MBCS FRSA
National Council of Hindu Temples (UK)