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Published on June 2nd, 2014 | by Jasmin Thind
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Without Fear. Without Hate.

“…even now I still get comments saying ‘’Go back to your country ‘’ …. I ‘ve never felt like I should do anything about my turban because at the end of the day for me its…you come back stronger…If I don’t stick up for my religion who else will?”

I had one interview, where I was asked over the phone to come clean shaven… in terms with dress code polished shoes, smart clothes and come clean shaven. I told them I’m a practicing Sikh and they said basically one of the people that are going to be there, assessing in that day is very particular about clean-shaven people. He will not give a job to someone who might have a beard… it was a massive IT company”.

***

Through a Masters’ research study that I had conducted myself on the ‘Significance of Religious Identities on the Construction of Identity for British Sikhs’. I learnt that many young British Sikhs have been denied employment due to the outward display of their religious symbols, such as uncut hair/beard or a turban. Like the above, many interviewees had stated that they had been attacked by racist slurs and on some occasions even violence. They felt degraded through face-to-face abuse and sometimes through structured institutional racism.  Britain is made up of 336,000 Sikhs[1], 559,000 Hindus[2] and 1.6 million Muslims[3] and many more different religions and cultures. Although it is important to stress that the above may not be true for all British-Asians, at the same time it is also important to recognise that this should be unacceptable in a modern multicultural nation, such as the Britain.

The concept of ‘new racism’ suggests that in modern society there is an increased hostility between westerners and non-westerners. This is due to differing cultural traditions, as opposed to biological differences, which were historically causes of oppression and racism against colonised black and Asian people (Freeman, 2002). In recent times, the tragedy of the September 11 terrorist attacks have played a substantial role in  accelerating hostility towards men/women who wear turbans. Sikhs and many Muslims have stated that they have encountered discrimination, being perceived as religious terrorists and are continuously picked on by the airport securities (Peek, 2005). Furthermore, Sikhs from all over Britain protested in Parliament Square in September 2011 to show their outrage against European airports, continuing to disrespect Sikhs by searching their turbans with bare hands (The Times of India, 2011).

Modern society is based upon multiculturalism, where there are various religious and cultural communities. In such surroundings people of minority groups frequently feel the need to inform others about what their views represent. The aim of this is to minimise ignorance and spread more awareness so people know of varying cultural differences around them (Van Der Veer, 2002).

Furthermore, tragic historical events and traumatic experiences in relation to one’s faith also have a vital impact on their religious identities (Kinnvall, 2004). For example, political and religious freedoms of Sikhs have curtailed since the 1980s in India. This has been a cause of distress for many Sikhs living around the globe. Therefore, Sikhs aim to represent their identity with even more pride, in order to avoid similar acts of oppression (Dusembery, 1997).

In a modern digital age where all information is a click away and with countless opportunities to identify with other people through places of work , schools and universities; where there are many differing cultures there is nothing  that limits us from creating a society that celebrates difference, replaces fear with curiosity and replaces ignorance with knowledge.

 

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/history/britishsikhism.shtml

[3] http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-will-britain-have-a-muslim-majority-by-2050/13690

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About the Author

International Politics and Human Rights Graduate. Interested in keeping up-to-date with current affairs at a national and international level, specifically regarding human rights issues and equality. I love reading and I am interested in engaging young people from diverse backgrounds to engage in discussions around societal and cultural norms and develop new ways of tackling social and political issues.



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