Letter: Asian attitudes towards British racism

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bhiku Parekh rightly criticises ("The race for respect and recognition", 19 June) successive governments' failure to combat racism in this country. However racism, as the American experience has demonstrated, cannot be eliminated from society merely by passing legislation; it needs to be continuously challenged through a well-organised, non-communal and non-sectarian campaign. But unfortunately that is where we, the Asians, have miserably failed, especially after the early Eighties, when the campaign to fight racism began to lose its momentum and a big crack started to appear in the composite Asian identity that had evolved during the Sixties and Seventies.

A number of factors contributed to this retrogressive development. The "invasion" of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the explosion of the Salman Rushdie affair in Britain alienated Asians not only from the indigenous population, but also from each other. Asians began to seek their identities not in ethnicity but in religion. The decision by successive governments to provide generous grants for opening religious institutions such as temples, mosques and gurudwaras (Sikh temples) merely accelerated the process of religious polarisation. Young Asians today see themselves not as a part of one racial group, but merely as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

The splitting up of composite Asian identity along communal lines has had a negative fall-out on the anti-racist movement. Since the late Eighties, no worthwhile attempt has been made by Asian organisations to mobilise public support against racism. In fact there have been more demonstrations against the publication of The Satanic Verses than against the evil of racism.

The Government must do everything possible to stem the tide of fascism in Britain, but it would be futile to expect the Government and the white liberals alone to set the scene for racial equality. Asians also need to transcend their "communal identity" to revive the now almost defunct anti-racist movement.

Yours faithfully,


Gants Hill, Essex

20 June