Does Britain’s Labour Party have a Hindu Problem?
The Labour Party’s long history of Hinduphobia, anti-Hindu demagoguery and stone-faced reluctance to even discuss its obvious prejudice have made anti-Hindu thinking an essential element in that left-wing movement with its working-class roots. This has only been enhanced under Jeremy Corbyn who has had a long history of fraternity with anyone who hates Hindus.It is a sentiment he shares with Naz Shah, the MP who follows the standard party line of ignoring the indigenous Hindu people of Kashmir as if they never existed; even while she talks of self-determination for the very people who stole their land and forced them into refugee camps.This easily morphs into more general Hinduphobia as Hindus in Britain are finding all too readily. While the Left prides itself on defending the rights of indigenous people, when it comes to Hindus, the most ancient surviving native tribe par excellence, this anti-imperialist orthodoxy completely founders.
This week saw the suspension of Bradford MP Naz Shah and former London mayor and MP Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party, for making brazen anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) comments. Jeremy Corbyn has denied that there is a crisis in the Labour Party, and who himself reeled off his CV of accomplishments in the sphere of human rights.
But unfortunately long before all this broke, the Labour Party has had a long tradition of toxic Hinduphobia. Hindus are spoken of and perceived in a manner which if it was to be any other community, it would be beyond the pale. If Hindus protest at this, they are themselves labelled right-wing extremists and fascists by the Labour Party, and especially those now in its leadership.
Jeremy Corbyn’s biography reads like classic champion of the hard Left. He has been a committed anti-fascist, having spoken at the major Unite Against Fascism and Trades Union Congress joint anti-British National Party rally in December 2001, and was the keynote speaker at Unite Against Fascism’s annual conference in 2007.
Indeed the Left in Britain have a proud history of opposing racism and fascism: from street battles with Oswald Mosely’s Blackshirts that culminated in the 1936 Battle of Cable Street in London’s East End, to the Anti-Nazi League defence of Asian families being regularly attacked by murderous gangs of Nazi skinheads in the 1970s and 80s.
Corbyn entered the British parliament in 1983 and was a staunch opponent of the Iraq War. He was also one of 12 MPs in 2006 to back an inquiry into the invasion by the allied forces. He was arrested in 1984 outside the South African embassy for breaking a protest ban during the apartheid era.
It was Corbyn’s opposition to fascism and his support for basic human rights that have led him into other areas. He became honorary chairman of the Dalit Solidarity Movement which looked at caste discrimination in both Britain and India, supporting legislation in the UK which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste.
In 2013, as the Foreign Office began making overtures to Modi after having snubbed him for more than a decade, Corbyn signed a parliamentary motion calling on the British government to reinstate its diplomatic boycott of Modi, “given his role in the communal violence in 2002 [in Gujarat] that claimed the lives of hundreds if not thousands of Muslims”.
Mr Corbyn also accused the Government of “ignoring the role Mr Modi and his administration played in the violence” in deciding to lift the ban, and said he should be banned from Parliament as well. After attending a meeting of the World Social Forum, a progressive non-government-leaning platform, in Mumbai in 2004, Corbyn wrote:
Strangely Corbyn takes a softer line with people who show utter contempt not just for democracy, but other communities, especially those who hate Hindus. Following jihad attacks in Paris, the Labour leader said that the only way to deal with the threat from Isil was through a political settlement to Syria’s long-running civil war. He has referred to terrorist group Hamas as his “friends”. He supported the jihad and genocide against Hindus in Kashmir as “self-determination”.
While condemning nuclear tests in India, he has supported them for Iran. In 2012 the Labour leader praised Sheikh Raed Salah as an ‘honoured citizen’ and even inviting him to tea in the House of Commons. Salah is linked to Hamas and Iran, and has blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks.
The same year, Mr Corbyn also agreed to speak alongside two of Britain’s leading domestic bigots, Abdurraheem Green and Wasim Kempson, at a conference held at Arsenal FC’s Emirates stadium. At the same time Corbyn ignores the Hindu victims in the 2002 carnage in Gujarat. He ignores the indigenous Hindus ethnically cleansed at gunpoint from their homeland in Kashmir. Perhaps he is alone in this, despite being the leader of Labour. Sadly not.
The anti-caste issue attracts many advocating social justice. Among them is now Labour Shadow Treasury Minister Rob Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South. As well as being involved with DSN and Castewatch, Marris has also supported this so-called ‘self-determination’ for Kashmir: now cleansed of its original Hindu component.
In November 2015, Marris was addressing the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, and said that the two communities which had been worst affected by the actions of the successive Indian governments as members of these communities traced their roots back to the ‘occupied’ state of Kashmir and Punjab.
This meeting in the Parliament House was convened by the Sikh Federation, Awaaz Network, Amnesty International and members of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and representatives of Indian Muslims also attended:
In his enthusiasm was Mr Marris even aware that the massacre of Sikhs was carried out by a ‘secular’ Left government of Congress Party, with strong Marxist leanings? It is actually Modi who has set up an enquiry to prosecute Congress MPs who led mobs to massacre Sikhs.
In fact on 1 November 2014 Prime Minister Modi called the massacre of Sikhs after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s 1984 assassination a “dagger” blow to national unity, and his government snubbed a ceremony marking the anniversary of her death. But Marris does seem rather trapped by his own anti-Hindu left-wing orthodoxy.
In 2006 he and Mr Corbyn met with India’s leading Dalit activist Udit Raj to discuss caste reservation quotas to be legally enforced in Britain. A decade on and we find Mr Raj as in elected MP in the very same ruling BJP which Marris and Corbyn regard as a threat to India’s Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs.
It is in the caste issue that Labour’s anti-Hindu animus is most keenly felt. On the face of it moves to make discrimination based on caste would be welcomed. After all, this has happened in India, a country where Narendra Modi was able to overcome poverty and backward caste origins to become national leader.
But the whole discourse takes a decidedly Hinduphobic tone. Hindus in general, and Brahmins in particular, are accused of fomenting hate and prejudice against communities once deemed ‘untouchable’ in India.
This is bad enough in that it is fomenting hate against a particular set of people. At no point have the cases of caste discrimination in Britain been proven to be the fault of Hindu preachers, school text books and sacred texts. Yet the myth persists, along with the myth of an Aryan race that caused all this.
Rob Marris has no qualms in openly supporting Castewatch, which at its meetings invites speaker after speaker to accuse Hindus of not just caste discrimination but wanting to bring legalise burning of widows.
On the hate video by Christian Solidarity Worldwide called India’s Hidden Slavery, the secular atheist Marris appears in a film featuring some of the most hardcore right-wing Christian extremists ever produced.
This includes Joseph D’Souza of the extremist hate group, the All India Christian Council. In 2006 D’Souza was CSW’s guest of honour as he thundered from the podium in a speech reminiscent of a Nazi rally at Nuremberg, how Hinduism was the worst religion on the planet and had to be destroyed.
I use the term ‘right-wing’, but such terminology has become problematic. These labels are often set by the Left which bifurcates politics into mutually opposing areas such as progressive and reactionary.
These often fail in accuracy. While the Left has rendered yeoman service in tackling racism, apartheid and much else, there is a much murkier and sinister flotsam element that slithers in its midst.
Karl Marx himself wrote that India was uncivilised as Hindu beliefs had led to that place needing foreign rule. It was a revamp of the theme known as White Man’s Burden.
The secular and atheist Left took the message of the stalwart Christian missionary to civilise the black, brown and yellow heathen savages and repackaged it in the name of revolution. This is how much of the Left continues to view not just India but Hinduism in general. It is a just a mass of backward irrational ideas that cause the caste system.
This is why when discussions take place on caste legislation, these are invitation only events from which Hindus are thereby actively excluded. This is why from the page of Left mouthpieces such as the Guardian and Independent, all views are welcomed; with the exception of the Hindu viewpoint.
Instead some Gunga Din type is wheeled out to rework the prejudices of the organ grinder playing the music to which the circus dancing bear duly gyrates in rhythm.
The Guardian in particular resorts to crude racial and colonialist stereotypes of Hindus that belong in a previous century. For Hindus this hate sheet is hard to beat, and ironically is stocked by the very corner shop Hindus which it finds such a menacing threat. Normally a fluffy liberal paper like this would defend the rights of ancient indigenous peoples. But when it comes to Hindus, heirs to the oldest surviving culture and civilisation on the planet, it reads like a step by step manual and venom and abuse.
The Guardian echoes a time when the Labour Party was firmly in the imperialist camp. In February 1946, Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service under a postwar Labour government, announced this to the House of Commons:
Within two days of the Jamaican immigrants arriving in June 1948, eleven Labour MPs wrote to Prime Minister Attlee calling for controls on the coloured influx. In his reply Attlee defended the right of non-whites naturalised under the 1948 British Nationality Act to enter the mother country.
But in private he censored the Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech-Jones for not “having kept a lid on things” in the colonies, and asked if it would be possible to redirect the black immigrants to East Africa.
In November 1946, under Attlee’s Labour government, the British Manpower Working Party sought to alleviate the labour shortage by recruiting whites, mainly Irish and Poles. Secret cabinet and government papers from the 1950s expressed a distinct racial preference for white migrant labour over darker Commonwealth immigrants.
When Conservative MP Sir Cyril Osborne spearheaded fears that this coloured influx endangered Britain being a “white man’s country”, he was supported not just by fellow party MPs, but also echoed by some in Labour. For example, George Rogers virtually mirrored Osborne’s views following race riots against blacks in 1958 in Notting Hill, which was within his own constituency. A global racial hazard warning came from fellow party MP Frank Tomney:
On 5 November 1954 Labour backbencher John Hynd secured a thirty minute Commons debate on the demographic balance being upset by the influx of Jamaicans, Poles and Irish. He was also defensive of the colour bar being enforced at a dance hall in his Sheffield constituency. Despite the Trades Union Congress passing resolutions against racism in 1955, at the grassroots level unions were heavily racist.
Local officials rarely enrolled coloured members and even when they did, non-whites found that they were offered much less support than white members. There was not only lack of interest in tackling racism, but a positively menacing effort in supporting prejudice. Trade unions had an understanding with management that white jobs would be more secure than those of coloured people.
British socialism was once saturated with racist eugenic thinkers: Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Harold Laski, HG Wells. Communism and fascism are closely related historical competitors for the same constituents and social space. The differences between these failed utopian visions is in fact minimal. One only needs to examine the political background and history of fascist leaders like Oswald Moseley and his comrades who were from Labour.
Over two decades after the failed revolution, one-time Red Army Faction terrorist Horst Mahler also sent shockwaves through his former comrades on the revolutionary German Left by echoing the racist and xenophobic views of the extreme right-wing Republikaner. But this political shift was the logical outcome of the 1960s student movement in which ‘the revolution’ had always been contradictory and incoherent, not least in its ambivalent attitude towards the Nazi past.
Ambivalent because Nazism itself in the original German means National Socialism. Hitler began his political career on the revolutionary Left of politics. Just like that disciple of Lenin, Italy’s Mussolini. Ken Livingstone’s defence of his comments about Hitler, that he was only explaining historical reality are classic revisionism; the same time which led French communist and socialist activist Paul Rassinier to deny the death camps and become the godfather of the Holocaust denial school of hate.
If Livingstone was so concerned about the ‘reality’ he would not be so keen to omit the notorious alliance between Hitler and Stalin from 1939 to 1941 in which the USSR was complicit in helping the Third Reich build up its war machine.
The constant Hindu-baiting by Labour has serious fallout long before Naz Shah was exposed as a bigoted racist rabble rouser. As with many minority communities, Hindus had traditionally voted Labour. But Labour’s support for the caste issue and the outdated Nazi style conspiracy theories and racism that went with it were not going to be ignored forever.
In May 2015 the National Council of Hindu Temples came under scrutiny by the Charity Commission for urging Hindus to stop being a vote bank for the Labour Party, and instead vote Conservative. This was due to Labour’s support for anti-caste legislation, which as mentioned was pushed by organisations with an essential Hinduphobic flavour.
In the election of Harrow East, the Labour candidate Uma Kumaran claimed that she was the victim of “gutter politics” as leaflets were distributed condemning her party for supporting legislation that would label Hindus by their caste.
She lost to the incumbent, Conservative’s Bob Blackman who opposed the caste legislation. Yet the manner in which Labour was pushing the whole caste agenda was barely examined by the media. Instead it tried to put the blame on Hindu organisations and Blackman.
In March 2013 Lord Ahmed was forced to resign from his position as a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation in March 2013 as a result of the allegations of antisemitism. But before this he had been using his position as Labour peer to push for a decidedly anti-Hindu agenda, defending or brushing aside terrorist attacks in India which had been designed to wipe out indigenous Hindus in the name of jihad, and talking of the Kashmir issue as if the original Hindu inhabitants had never existed there. Indeed he was later to deny that there had even been a forced exodus of native Hindus from their homeland in Kashmir. It was all a myth. By now however he had been expelled from the Labour Party, but for his anti-Semitism. Why then do anti-Hindu views not count as a reason to be suspended from Labour? Well as George Orwell famously wrote in Animal Farm:
All Animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.
So for the Labour Party, attacking Jews, Muslims and blacks is a step too far. However Hindus are not just easy targets, but in the name of anti-caste discrimination, ‘freedom’ in Kashmir and human rights in India their use as an easy punchbag is virtually obligatory.
Now both Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn came out as frugal and saintly when the Parliamentary expenses scandal broke. This only makes their down to earth idealism and concern for those who have lost out in the lottery of life more poignant and painful, because that sympathy does not extend to certain groups deemed beyond the pale.
The Left follows a classic colonialist discourse in having suspicion and contempt towards the unfathomable polytheism of Hindus as an ancient native people. It does not fit into the monotheistic paradigm that can describe the secular ideologies such as liberalism and socialism which came out of an essentially Christian framework. Even if they have no belief in a supernatural being, they have The Theory in which the faith must not be questioned.
While Naz Shah MP has been hauled up for anti-Semitic diatribes the underlying anti-Hindu animus in her activities has gone unnoticed. Yet in February of this year she was present at a meeting in the House of Commons, along with Labour’s Gerald Kaufman MP, Dave Anderson MP and Chair APPG on Third World Solidarity, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Lord Qurban Hussain, renowned journalist and writer Victoria Schofield and Kashmiri leader Raja Najabat Hussain to discuss this Kashmiri ‘freedom’, at a gathering organised jointly by Third World Solidarity for All Party Parliamentary Groups [APPGs] and the Pakistan High Commission London in connection with the Kashmir Solidarity Day, February 5.
In her speech, British Labour MP Naz Shah committed herself to denying the native Kashmiri Hindus a right to their ancestral land, by sugar coating her Hinduphobia under the guise of human rights advocacy in Parliament:
What this has meant in reality has been the rape, massacre, forcible conversion and expulsion of the entire Hindu community from Kashmir.Why was Naz Shah never disciplined for that? Is it because the Labour Party sees Hindus as lesser people? Does Labour have a Hindu problem? Hinduphobia certainly is part of its present discourse. As Hitler notoriously said:
In like manner who in the Labour Party speaks of the indigenous people of Kashmir (Hindus) exterminated from their ancestral homeland each time its ‘self-determination’ is brought up? Or the Hindu pilgrims burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express train at the very beginning of the Godhra carnage? Certainly not the present anti-Hindu demagogues in the Labour Party.
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