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.

harry briggs

19th December 2019 at 9:58 am

How is it that a woman who married her cousin has such standing in society?, her judgement from that alone seems to be poor, of course she wants a Muslim to investigate the issue because she knows a Muslim will find “Islamaphobia” even where it doesn’t exist, it is in their interest for it to be found not only to confirm their “victim” status but to deflect attention from their own Jew hating, so they take to twitter to influence their friends on the left in an effort to have their target sacked from his job, a tactic that can only work if those with power in this situation surrender to their demands, with their recent election results there is no reason for the Cons to appease them.

Mark Houghton

19th December 2019 at 8:53 am

I fear radical Islam. I think my fear is justified and rational

Jane 70

19th December 2019 at 9:32 am

So do I; I’ve admitted as such to various friends-including committed Christians- who think my fears are exaggerated.

Linda Payne

19th December 2019 at 10:41 am

I fear it too and I want to hear muslim voices condemning terrorism forcefully;by the way I will search and read this article, I live in Gravesend and we have a very large sikh population, interested in their history

Jane 70

19th December 2019 at 12:33 pm

It’s very informative Linda. The Sikhs are like the Jewish communities: the canaries in the mine.

Jane 70

19th December 2019 at 12:37 pm

It’s very informative Linda

Ven Oods

19th December 2019 at 8:44 am

Presumably, Warsi wanted the gig herself.
Being out of the limelight must be getting to her.

steve moxon

19th December 2019 at 8:32 am

Baroness Warsi is a prize-winning thick pillock, from start to finish in everything she says and does.
The Tories should ignore and dump her.

Jane 70

19th December 2019 at 5:35 am

On the experiences of Sikh community, the article linked above is worth reading.

Jonnie Henly

19th December 2019 at 2:15 am

“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.”

Your actual articles show a different scenario.

Jerry Owen

19th December 2019 at 8:25 am

Little Jonnie
Why do you recite so much whilst saying so little?

Iain Litenment

19th December 2019 at 9:08 am

Dear Johnnie,
Can you explain where in the article BoN is:
1. making use of cynical and unsubstantiated accusations of racism
2. silencing those who hold certain political and moral views that the great and the good disapprove of.
If not I will finally conclude that all your criticisms to date are ad hominem attacks and lack substance, and that any future comments should be ignored.

Jimi Cazot

19th December 2019 at 12:56 am

I remember reading Professor Singh’s article when it was published and am grateful for being reminded of it. Having just read it again, it is absolutely clear that there is no Islamophobia in it whatsoever. It is a heartfelt, intelligent, at times touching, at times disturbing account of the situation in Kashmir, all written from a very personal point of view.

Yes, it is written predominantly from the Sikh perspective, with the overarching message that that is a perspective which is seldom heard in the West; the narrative being that Muslims – and only Muslims – are capable of being victims of the conflict that goes on there.

Interestingly, I have seen that The Times is covering a story that touches on this, though by no means with the vigour that Brendan O’Neill has, and in no way critical of Warsi’s actions. Expecting that this story will grow, with opponents of the government seizing on it to score political points, I have just left a comment beneath the article that calmly, respectfully, draws attention to what amounts to nothing more than a cynical attempt at character assassination.

As is becoming more and more common on The Times, however, it has been censored, it’s moderators now behaving more like the Stasi than employees of one of Britain’s great institutions.

The fight goes on.

George Orwell

18th December 2019 at 10:39 pm

Islamophobia implies a fear of Islam.
That seems justified.
However. it should not lead to prejudice against individual Muslims unless they show behavioural characteristics that justify fear.
My local GP is a Muslim and a very fine fellow.
There are too many bigots on all sides that seek to divide us.

Ven Oods

19th December 2019 at 8:46 am

My local GP has a beard. Would you take that as an indication that they all are thus?

Marvin Jones

19th December 2019 at 12:18 pm

George, I can safely assume that you are much too liberal and sentimental to realise that no matter how long any and every Moslem has resided in this country, how much they have integrated and lived by our laws, worked their guts out and paid their taxes and appear to be honourable and trust worthy,
their allegiance is ONLY to their god and NO ONE ELSE. AND! if they ever get the call, they will obey no matter what the reason or cause is for.

Jim Lawrie

19th December 2019 at 3:33 pm

It is not about your GP or any individual, Muslim or otherwise. It is about the right to subject Muhammadism to the same objective scrutiny as Nazism, Judaism, Christianity or any other belief system that claims the right to tell us what to do and who we can sleep with.

George Orwell

18th December 2019 at 10:32 pm

Interesting that ‘spiked’ is starting to attract such abuse.
Must be getting something right.

Kathryn Barbara

19th December 2019 at 11:22 am

They say if your getting flak, then you must be over the target!

Jim Lawrie

18th December 2019 at 9:34 pm

If Sayeeda Warsi fancies a job as an editor on Spiked then she need only apply, detailing her long record of unwavering fair mindedness and impartiality.

When I started reading Mr Singh’s article it was with scepticism and cynicism in my mind. The sincerity and openness of his writing quickly dispelled that.

bf bf

18th December 2019 at 9:16 pm

“Islamophobia” is word made up by the Muslim brotherhood in order to silence any criticism of Islam. Do not take my word for it….just Google it. Plus a phobia is defined as a irrational fear. Just read the Koran and then (justifiably if you read it literally as intended and followed by Islamist’s) try criticising Islam and see if your fear is irrational.

Marvin Jones

19th December 2019 at 12:21 pm

Sheep just don’t listen or digest info.


18th December 2019 at 8:17 pm

Yeah but. You can’t shout about this sort of thing from Warsi if you’re prepared to extend the criticism of Israel to be tantamount, even identical, to anti-semitism, as Spiked seems to be

Mark Lambert

18th December 2019 at 7:12 pm

I always wonder if Warsi is incredibly dim or knows what she is doing.

It was perhaps telling that a cohort of Warsi (always retweets her) in all of this, tweeted the other week about Michael Gove and “Islamophobia”. The tweet said, “take his book ‘Celsius 7/7’ ”
Yeah, and?
I’ve read it. It was written the year after the London Tube bombings and rightly investigated Islamic extremism. Does that make you “Islamophobe” now?

Well done, I say to the Conservatives for resisting Warsi’s “Islamophobia” definition. They get a lot of grief for that, but I reckon they can see right through it.

Neil McCaughan

18th December 2019 at 6:30 pm

There would be nothing wrong with it if Professor Singh’s article was ‘islamophobic’

Because the mere notion of islamophobia is nonsense.

Marvin Jones

19th December 2019 at 12:29 pm

Neil, I am afraid it has engulfed this entire world and it exists. My wife went out to do some Christmas shopping, and I was anxious and worried all the time she was out. I wonder if there is one person who would not feel the same way. I do not live by fear, but I do wonder if and when we leave our abodes at anytime. I wonder if we could be the unlucky ones this time. It exists like the air we breathe.

Graham Woodford

19th December 2019 at 9:21 pm

Ridiculous . And to think, so many on Spiked accuse those they disagree with of ‘hysteria’.

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