Umesh Sharma, Chairman of HCUK, Arun Thakur for the Temples, and Anil Bhanot for Interfaith Relations met with Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon at the Home Office on 3rd March 2016. Lord Ahmed explained the Government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy briefly outlining the threat from extremism, both from radicalised groups in the name of religion and the ultra-right wing groups. The Government sought to build partnerships with all those who were opposed to all types of extremism.
The harm extremism causes to society is untenable and although Islamists carry an agenda of rejecting our democratic system their alternative system promotes hatred and division. This divisive narrative is evidenced not only through online sources but through our institutions, universities, prisons, charities etc.
Umesh Sharma said this evil should be tackled with courage and conviction that when wrong interpretations of religious texts are broadcast to public then it should be challenged by the correct and right interpretation immediately. For instance he said Jihad to us means an internal struggle to fight your own demons.
Anil Bhanot said that online propaganda needs to be countered by online media. Further an engagement with Extremist groups is important through Islamic organisations as Anil himself related to the time when the Tamil Tigers were infiltrating a handful of Tamil temples that he worked, from the inside, without making it public, with those temples to weed out those politicised elements from what was a spiritual place. Moreover once the politics subsided the same people ‘changed’ and are now the model peace-makers, they still wish for a greater autonomy but their mind sets now work through peaceful means. So engagement is important and people can be won over through reason and the right education.
Arun Thakur gave some examples of good inter-religious relations through Temples and Gurdwaras and Mosques.
Lord Ahmed said that although religious hate crime for the moment covers Anti-Semitism it will be extended to cover Islamophobia and also other religions. He said Sikhs have given them examples of hate crimes against them and so the Government has decided to extend it to all faiths.
Government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy Paper link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-extremism-strategy
Director for Interfaith Relations
Hindu Council UK