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7/7 and Beyond - a South Asian response to the London Bombings 

Riots and Bombings in the United Kingdom
some causes and suggestions as to what should
be done to maintain social stability

By Dr G. L. Bhan
President, World Council of Hindus - UK

Introduction
Acts of civil disorder in the United Kingdom in recent years, some resulting in damage to public and private property and to loss of limb and life, have been a cause for major concern. Quite a few factors have been cited as the underlying cause for these actions. Here I would like to make a generic reference to some that I feel are particularly important, and also suggest action aimed at preventing such events from happening again.

The causes and solutions may be discussed under the headings of Culture, Faith, Society, Citizen, and the State.

1. Culture
Multiculturalism is fine in principle, but in reality for many it has meant a way of life that is vague and is poorly understood. While talking of multiculturalism, most tend to maintain a full focus and emphasis on the superiority of their own cultures. In such a situation, within a multicultural and multifaith society, social stress and potential disorder are likely; indeed, such has been recent experience, in the wake of large-scale population movements, in various countries.

It is time that we replace multiculturalism with Universalism: While we continue to celebrate what is good in our own faith and culture, we would also be committing ourselves to recognise that there is goodness in all other cultures and to change our way of life through adopting good practices from other cultures. It is possible that in time a universal culture would evolve that incorporates all that is good in various cultures.

[ aa nau badraahakr'tvo yantu vishvatah - R'g Veda 1-89-1
let noble thoughts come to us from all sides – ancient Hindu teaching]

2. Faith

2.1 One should accept and acknowledge that no single culture or faith has a monopoly on goodness and on the Divine. God / The Ultimate Reality relates equally to all of us ; the use of terms like Non-believer, Infidel, Heathen, Pagan etc. must no longer be applied to refer to people whose religion is different to one’s own.

2.2 Exclusivist beliefs lead to intolerance. The history of mankind is replete with instances of how intolerant minds and nations have generated evil actions. Religious exclusivism must no longer be acceptable. This should be replaced by multi-religious inclusivism, a mind-set in which there is acceptance of the validity of other beliefs, and where 'tolerance' (of other faiths) is replaced by genuine respect.

3. Faith and Culture

[vasudaiva kutumbukam
the entire world is one family – ancient Hindu teaching]

3.1 We should introspect about our beliefs and traditions, and enter into a genuine dialogue and debate with different faith groups.

  • We should be prepared to discuss issues on which we differ and be prepared to change beliefs and practices that are illogical or irrelevant to the changing times or incompatible with interfaith amity.
  • We must, similarly, be prepared to address any concerns we may have about other faith/culture groups.
  • Constructive questioning should not be interpreted as attack on religious beliefs. When faced with questions about our beliefs and practices, we must enter into a rational and constructive debate, rather than taking offence.

3.2 Faith and culture must not clash with the institution of the State.

Religious belief must be a person’s private affair and expression of that belief - worship and relevant practice - must be such as not to impact negatively on individuals who hold different beliefs.

3.3 The religious educational curriculum and teaching should ensure that all pupils are informed about various faiths and brought up to offer respect to other people, irrespective of their faith, skin colour, gender or ethnicity.

4. Society

4.1 Communities with ethnic, religious, and cultural divides should strive to bridge those divides through action at the grass-roots level. Segregation of communities leads to misunderstandings and alienation. We must strive towards a gradual but ever-increasing integration – a process that allows communities to promote their own good values, but also to shed practices that are inappropriate to amicable relations between people of different faith/culture backgrounds.

4.2 We must denounce violence and terrorism. An individual’s right to life and to freedom should be sacrosanct. Indeed our denunciation of violence and terrorism must be unequivocal and unconditional. We should not give any quarter or sustenance to those who seek to harm others, and/or to subvert the State, particularly it’s democratic and legal institutions.

5. The Citizen

5.1 A citizen’s Rights and Responsibilities must be properly balanced. While Human Rights should be promoted and protected, an individual must not forget that he/she has a responsibility to others, to society, to the country and to the world community.

5.2 There should be no conflict of loyalty. We should inculcate in our youth a sense of patriotism to the country in which they live. This has to be done both at home and at school. Youth must have a proper sense of belonging, their minds free of any conflict between the loyalty to their religious belief/faith-based culture and the loyalty to the State.

6. The State

6.1 The State should ensure that all citizens have equal access to public resources and that no one is denied opportunities.

6.2 Discrimination, whether based on ethnicity, race, faith or gender, must be opposed. We recognise and appreciate that a lot of progress has been made to-date in eliminating discrimination. The government must, however, continue to implement its anti-discrimination policies with an ever-greater zeal.

6.3 The State should also ensure that all sections of the population are fully involved in the democratic and political processes.


   
   
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