Why British Hindus are outraged
Hundreds of British Hindus protested on Sunday outside BBC offices against the broadcaster’s perceived bias. This is no surprise. The hard work of a small number of Muslim activist groups over the years, claiming to represent Muslims as a whole and perpetuating an over-egged victimhood, has persuaded many a hard Leftist and press outlet to support their narrative. Reporters tread with caution for fear that they too may be branded Islamophobic.
Then there is the BBC’s pursuit of balance, which at times seems to supersede pursuit of the facts. Combine an inflexible quest for balance with a hyper aversion to reporting anything that could be viewed by Islamists as anti-Muslim, and a pattern of favouritism toward one South Asian community over another emerges.
Placing balance above facts is simply bad journalism, but in times of community tension it can also be dangerous. When it came to civil unrest between a section of the Muslim community and Hindus in Leicester last summer, it skewed the entire public understanding as to whose homes, cars and temples were being attacked. In fact, all were Hindu. Yet the public were left wondering whether we should be more concerned over the rise of violent Hindu extremism.
A personal example. Several journalists made contact with me during the Leicester unrest, asking for my insight. One reporter asked for evidence of Hindus relocating from Leicester East for their safety in the face of violent Islamists. I shared with her police reports of a stabbing in which victims described how they had had to move from their homes. The reporter, evidence in hand, then called the police and asked if there were reports of people moving home. Of course, there were no such reports because there is no such crime category. The journalist then claimed that fake news was fanning the flames in Leicester.
The mainstream press were mostly silent on the Hindu-hate displayed last year and the threat posed to Hindu communities across the UK. In Leicester Hindu flags were burnt, Hindu homes and cars vandalised, an attempt was made to storm a temple and there were calls to “chop em up” and “chase them out of Leicester like we chased them out of Kashmir”. Why? Because some Muslims were made to believe that Hindu extremists, instructed and funded by Modi, were active and presenting a violent threat to Muslims in the UK.
The BBC endorsed the notion of Hindu extremism by platforming key Islamist activists. One activist, known for his extreme online rhetoric, offering prayers to brothers of an ISIS fighter and more recently to the Taliban, was interviewed by the BBC for his perspective — a perspective that placed blame wholly at the feet of Hindus. Concerned Hindu families installed CCTV and double locks on their doors. Some did even move homes, albeit temporarily.
Last Sunday Hindu protests were held outside BBC offices across the country in response to the airing of the “The Modi Question,” a BBC docu-series that investigates India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujurat riots. The documentary focuses on the slaughter of Muslims, scenes from which are deeply disturbing. It has been criticised for lacking balance: for example interviews with the families of Hindu victims. It accepts Muslim testimony as fact whilst questioning the findings of the Supreme Court of India.
Freedom of speech is a key pillar of Western democracy. The protection of community feelings can never trump that freedom. Yet the timing here and the distinct lack of similar critical coverage of Pakistan leaves the BBC open to the charge of contributing to rising tensions between South Asian communities in the UK. The same Islamists who led the campaign against Hindus last summer are now calling for action against Hindu nationalists in the UK.
Some Hindus have been left feeling voiceless and without redress — a predicament that we who work in counter-extremism consider ripe for radicalisation. Indeed, there was no denying that extremist anti-Muslim sentiment was present at the Hindu protests on Sunday. I heard one protester asserting that to be anti-Modi was to be anti-Hindu. However a Hindu couple jumped in to contest his claim: “No, we can and must be critical of Modi.” Another climbed up onto a large concrete plant box, crying “India for Hindus”. But the crowd shook fingers at him, knowing full well that that kind of chant reflects nothing less than Hindu supremacy and anti-Muslim hate. In Birmingham there was also an aggressive Muslim counter-protest.
This is a sensitive time for Muslim–Hindu relations in the UK. Four months on from civil unrest in Leicester and Birmingham and one year away from the elections in India, now is the time to do all we can to build community cohesion and safeguard British society from divisive narratives, not feed into them. It is time that reporting, especially by the BBC, stopped trading balance for facts and ceased to present one community as having a monopoly on victimhood.
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