The racial profiling in Zac Goldsmith's mayoral leaflets left me cold - why not just address me as a Londoner?

The holiest of Sikh shrines may be covered in gold, but our living rooms and hallways most certainly aren't

Jasvir Singh
Monday 21 March 2016 15:17
Zac Goldsmith
Zac Goldsmith

Going through my mail yesterday, I came across a letter from Tory London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who seems to think I'm worth a personalised mailshot even if I am a fervent Labour activist. When I started to read the letter, I found myself wishing I hadn't.

Under the heading 'Standing up for the Sikh and Punjabi community', Zac made several references to campaigning about the Golden Temple (known to Sikhs as the Harmandir Sahib). In case you don't know where the holiest of Sikh shrines is located, it is some 4,000 miles outside of the M25. I don't believe that the London Mayor's remit extends that far, but I could be mistaken.

The letter refers to Sikh households in particular being targeted by burglars for gold and family heirlooms. The data for this is anecdotal as the Met Police doesn't record the religious identities of victims. However, to be on the safe side, I should point out to potential burglars that I have no gold at home and my most valuable heirloom is a smoked glass fruit bowl my parents got as a wedding gift and which would only fetch £20 on eBay.

The holiest of Sikh shrines may be covered in gold, but our living rooms and hallways most certainly aren't.

Taken at face value, this letter is the most patronising piece of electoral literature I have ever had the pleasure to read. However, the problems run much deeper than that.

Firstly, Zac says he campaigned to save the Golden Temple from becoming a UNESCO site so it wasn't removed from Sikh control. Despite the fact that the supposed threat was little more than false rumours, Zac's claim has unpleasant connotations with the British Raj when many communities were considered incapable of looking after their own interests without the help of well-meaning chaps from Blighty.

Secondly, he is disingenuous about limited Government documents disclosed in 2014 under the 30-year rule. They relate to the run-up to Operation Bluestar and the terrible events in Amritsar in June 1984 when hundreds of pilgrims were killed during a military operation by the Indian Army within the precincts of the Harmandir Sahib.

Several papers are yet to be disclosed, and until they are made public, it would not be right to imply that the documents disclosed so far are the most important.

Thirdly, the letter promotes divisions between communities. Hindu voters were sent similar literature this week, focusing on Zac visiting Hindu temples and meeting the Indian PM Narendra Modi. Tamils have also been targeted.

Divide and rule seems to be the name of the game, and Muslims are being maligned in it all by constant references to Sadiq as a 'radical'. By being provocative and creating this 'otherness', Zac is driving a wedge between these communities.

This type of racial or religious profiling is dangerous rubbish. As a Londoner, I'm more worried about house prices and cuts to local services than I am about whether Zac has been to my local gurdwara, which is incidentally in Sadiq's constituency of Tooting.

There are a myriad of diverse communities who call London their home and their members have a plethora of labels to call themselves by. Reducing any one of those labels to a schoolboy stereotype is a massive mistake and something I had thought had been consigned to the history books by the Conservative Party.

People of faith and ethnic minorities are much more than election fodder. We are real people with real issues, and while some concerns may be influenced by our ethnic and religious backgrounds, most are unsurprisingly the same as everyone else. Ultimately we're Londoners, just like the other 8 million who live alongside us.

Now let me get back to my coveted fruit bowl.

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