The shaming of Swaran Singh

Sayeeda Warsi’s campaign against the Tories’ new Islamophobia investigator is a disgrace.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill


Sayeeda Warsi has reached a new low. This former Conservative cabinet minister and self-styled spokesperson for Britain’s Muslim community has instigated a pile-on against Swaran Singh, the professor who has been chosen by the Conservatives to head their inquiry into their internal handling of complaints about discrimination, including Islamophobia. Professor Singh’s crime? He once wrote a nuanced, moving essay for spiked about his own family history in Kashmir which goes against Ms Warsi’s view of the Kashmir conflict. How dare he.

It really is an extraordinary situation. Within hours of him being unveiled as the Tories’ Islamophobia inquiry chief, Singh, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Warwick, was being shamed online for his essay that spiked published in August. His essay is being described as Islamophobic. It is of course nothing of the kind. It is a detailed and touching exploration of Professor Singh’s own Sikh family history in Kashmir. It also challenges the Western media depiction of the Kashmiri conflict as a simplistic case of fundamentalist India oppressing Kashmiri Muslims. This overlooks, he wrote, the role played by Islamic militants in Kashmir and also the suffering of the Sikh and Pandit communities in Kashmir. The piece is a plea for a more nuanced understanding of the Kashmiri crisis that goes beyond one of simple Muslim victimhood.

For Warsi and others to treat a serious, personal essay as an expression of prejudice is a complete and utter disgrace. It smacks of Sikh-shaming, where a man is being demeaned online simply for remembering and writing about his own community’s suffering in Kashmir. Indeed, the Guardian’s summary of the controversy swirling around Mr Singh courtesy of Warsi’s pile-on against him says ‘Swaran Singh’s neutrality [is] in question’ over his comments on spiked that the Kashmir conflict is ‘not [a] Muslim-only tragedy’. Read that again. Let it sink in. Singh is being demonised and insulted online because he said that not only Muslims have suffered in Kashmir. Because he told a truth. Because he wrote about his community’s suffering. Shut up, Sikh – that is the repulsive undertone of this use of the Islamophobe insult against Singh.

Warsi got the ball rolling on this dreadful campaign against a man who merely wrote movingly of his own people’s suffering. She quoted sections from his essay on Twitter with an embarrassed-face emoji and said to her Twitter followers ‘I will let you make up your own mind’. The quotations from his essay included the argument that we should not view the Kashmir tragedy as ‘one only of Kashmiri Muslims’; that Indian Kashmir has been ‘cleansed of its non-Muslim population’, meaning ‘my clan… has been without a home’; and that too often, suffering Hindu groups are ignored too, on the basis that India, like Israel, is always an oppressor. These are perfectly legitimate views. They are criticisms of the role of militant Islam in Kashmir. The idea that they are wicked or prejudiced or a sign that Professor Singh is unfit for his new role actually demonstrates the entire problem with the term Islamophobia – the indisputable fact that it is used to silence discussion and to demonise anyone who criticises aspects of Islam or, in this case, violent Islamic extremism in Kashmir.

The end result of this shameful pile-on against a man who wrote of his Kashmiri family history is that an online Pakistani newspaper has trashed Singh. Under the headline ‘Tories appoint anti-Kashmir Islamophobe to investigate Islamophobia’, The News accuses Singh of ‘expressing Islamophobic and anti-Kashmir Muslim views publicly’. He didn’t, of course. What really happened is that the Islamophobe insult was attached to Singh as a form of punishment for his views on Kashmir and his criticisms of militant Islam and his attempt to speak up for Kashmiri Sikhs. Across the web he has been branded hateful simply for expressing his political views and telling his family’s story. What a disgrace. Is Ms Warsi proud of herself for her role in unleashing this spectacle of Sikh-shaming?

Warsi says spiked adheres to the ideology of a ‘hierarchy of hate’ – that is, we believe some forms of racism are morally worse than others. This is a lie. spiked opposes all forms of bigotry. But we also oppose the cynical and unsubstantiated use of the accusation of racism as a way of silencing those who hold certain political and moral views that the great and the good disapprove of. That is what has happened here: a man has been denounced as an Islamophobe for his political views on Kashmir. If you want to see the problem with the word Islamophobia and with the use of it to silence critical commentary on Islam, extremism and international affairs, look no further than this ugly shaming of Professor Singh.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: YouTube.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Carl Black

10th January 2020 at 7:35 pm

The Baroness has written some serious crap!

Coram Deo

19th December 2019 at 11:41 pm

Perhaps if we used the term ‘Islamofauxbia’ it would add more clarity to the situation.

L Strange

19th December 2019 at 1:42 pm

I’ve seen it said that the proposed official definition of ‘Islamophobia’ could lead to people being considered guilty of it if they stated that Islam was spread by the sword.

This would mean lying about, and rewriting, not only the entire history of Islam but also the history of all the places and peoples that Islam has come up against. Off of the top of my head, it means lying about, and rewriting the history of:

The whole of the Middle East
Central Asia
The Indian subcontinent
Asia Minor
Eastern Europe
The Iberian peninsula
Northern Africa

This case is a taste of it.

Jane 70

19th December 2019 at 2:30 pm

Example: the detonation of the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban.

Marvin Jones

19th December 2019 at 12:06 pm

Will BME migrants ever settle down and truly assimilate with this country’s culture? this country that they have chosen to make their homes in? every time there is any conflict in any part of the world, and it seems that 99.5% of the time it is the Moslem cult, they have a lust to get involved. This problem is for India and Pakistan, Hindu and Moslem. Now, if one integrates like they should, their allegiance should be for Britain, no? if they wish, they should revoke their British citizenships and go and fight their cause where the problem is, and don’t come back. As for Warsi. Another loser in life who had a chance to do so well, but not inept enough to hold down a job, now somehow earns her wages by promoting that same old single cell ranting about racism and Islamophobia, her intellectual limits.

Graham Woodford

19th December 2019 at 9:15 pm

What patronising bilge.

Al Tudy

19th December 2019 at 11:12 am

Muslims, like the progressive liberals of the left, demand unequivocal approval of their views, beliefs and behaviour. This is what distinguishes both the Muslims and the left from other sections of society….they are both incapable of self-reflection and self-criticism. This consequently engenders anger when they are subjected to the mildest criticism or scrutiny. For the Muslims objective scrutiny is interpreted as hatred or Islamophobia and for the left criticism is proof of people’s racism/fascism/jingoism. We know it doesn’t pay to capitulate to the blackmail of the left. We still have to learn that we must reject the blackmail of Islam which is designed to control and silence the rest of society.

Jim Lawrie

19th December 2019 at 11:36 am

Boris Johnson must lead his party on this one, come out fighting and go totally on the offensive. Not least because The Muslims and The Left are not used to it, and will respond only with ad hominems, innuendo and quotes out of context. He has the immediate advantage that those attacking Mr Singh will almost certainly not have read his articles. The Left are lazy – always have been. They are used to the committee room, the controlled debate and the safety of “you can’t say that ” .
It is an opportunity to challenge Muhammadism by comparing its ethos with that of Sikhism.

Jim Lawrie

19th December 2019 at 12:00 pm

A lot of the anger is ersatz and an attempt to hystericise us into silence.

Ven Oods

19th December 2019 at 6:06 pm

It’s all trial-by-Twitter nowadays. (Never been near the thing myself, but it seems like ‘journalists’ use it instead of checking facts.)

Graham Woodford

19th December 2019 at 9:19 pm

Like yours? Sikhs goodies – muslims baddies. Think you watched too many westerns as a bairn.

Gerard Barry

19th December 2019 at 1:35 pm

“This is what distinguishes both the Muslims and the left from other sections of society….they are both incapable of self-reflection and self-criticism.”

This is so true about Muslims. In my last job, I had a Muslim colleague who I sometimes heard criticising Donald Trump (over the “Muslim travel ban”), Dutch politician Geert Wilders (over his apparently “anti-Islam” stance) and the allegedly right-wing German political party the AfD. Not once did I ever hear him say anything negative about Islamic extremists, despite the fact that they have killed thousands of people worldwide in recent years. I found that very telling.

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