Religious Sectarianism: The Regressive-Left and Far-Right Respond

13/09/2016 16:48 | Updated 14 September 2017

It's the 11th of September, 2016, and some 30 masked men have occupied the entrance to the nearby Sikh temple here in Leamington Spa. These masked men are protesting against a "shocking" and supposedly immoral interfaith marriage between a Sikh and a Muslim. Our local police force, Warwickshire Police, claimed that the men were brandishing "bladed items" - a reference to the passé ceremonial daggers donned by the Sikh men.

The former treasurer of the temple, Jatinder Singh Birdi, claimed that: "There have been tensions that have been going on for a couple of years with some people objecting to mixed marriages taking place in the gurdwara,". The rather catabolic and retrograde Sikh group 'Sikh Youth Birmingham' claimed to have up to 100 people involved in the protest, both inside and outside the gurdwara. Furthermore, a recent video has emerged of the protest and on it a man filming is seen decrying interfaith marriages: "Leamington Gurdwara, allowing interfaith marriages. Sikhs and Muslims, it's messed up"

The day's event has left many in Leamington Spa - and indeed the UK as a whole - rather dysphoric over the fact that we are still seeing instances of religious sectarianism and thus overt flouting of fundamental human rights in the UK. As most of us who defend universal fundamental rights will readily admit, consenting adults should be allowed to marry the person that they choose irrespective of limitations that pertain to race, creed, nationality or sexuality.

The day's event has left many people asking: how did this happen? How is it that there are still individuals (indeed mobilised groups) in a country such as the UK with such precarious and antiquated (and loathsome) views such as those who orchestrated the infraction within Leamington Spa's Sikh temple? Not only that, many are rightly asking how we, as expounders of equality with its universal human-right underpinnings, stand in solidarity with the couple who had planned to marry and tell all regressive strands of religions that "no, we believe in article 16 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which veritably affirms that all consenting adults, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family"?

Before we answer this, though, let's think about what we do not do, let us think about what may well be politically in vogue to do but is nevertheless morally untenable. What am I talking about here? What I am talking about is the clamorous prescriptives wielded by dominant strands within the far-right sphere of the political-scale, and those occupying dominant strands within the far-left sphere.

In light of the event's fracas and the flouting of universal human-rights within it, many on the far-right (one need only probe the slew of twitter profiles from prominent and self-professed nationalistic 'right-wingers') have claimed that what the tiff represents is the inherent pitfalls that a Non-Christian (and thus 'non-British') domination will disseminate within our country. Sikh, Muslims (especially Muslims) - they're all perpetrators of a non-British and thus slipshod consecration of outmoded and un-implementable sets of values that will never have dominion over our country.

How, though, should we respond to these types of arguments? It's quite simple - what we must say to such mouthpieces of menace is: No! As a society we will not react with hackneyed and short-sighted generalisations. The majority of those non-Christian religious adherents here in the UK not only adhere to British law but, in addition, are exponents of fundamental and thus universal human rights. No, no, no, they remonstrate, polls (they're increasingly able to read poll result numbers) - show that they are reprobates! Whilst it may well be true that polls have shown that certain religious minority groups have a disproportionately large number of adherents who are out-of-touch with the views of the majority of British - e.g. polls have shown that a quarter of British Muslims have sympathy for the Charlie Hebdo terrorism attacks - it is nevertheless false, patently false, that this warrants any hasty generalisation that non-christian religious minorities are somehow not only essentially unsuited to British life but are also essentially warring against it. Whilst certain questions on certain issues may well yield disproportionate numbers of people from minority groups who hold views out of touch with the "typical" (whatever that means) British national, evidence does not support the view that non-Christian minorities are somehow, when considering the relationship that they have with the British cultural backdrop with all of its multifaceted values, disproportionately delinquent-like because they are essentially intransigent in their resistance to assimilation . The temptation of generalisation here is a big problem, and it's a problem that not only necessitates that the far-right mentality be deemed as illegitimate but also that it receives emphatic mockery.

There is an obfuscation in far-right circles, one that in academic circles is called the fallacy of hasty generalisation. This fallacy is achieved when one reaches an inductive generalisation based on insufficient evidence - basically making a hasty conclusion without considering all of the variables. The group as a whole is thus wholly coloured with the hues of the minority. Broad conclusions are reached from the practice of a small group - a group that of course fails to sufficiently represent an entire population. We can see this kind of mentality being employed all over the place on social media, articles on far-right website and discourse within far-right circles by self-professed 'right-wingers' who reach the hasty conclusion that minority religious adherents by and large carry superannuated, unadoptable and antithetical values in virtue of the fact that a minority of adherents ("wrong, it's all of them...they're all the same!") happen to personify the characteristics that they so unerringly berate. Because the perpetrators who committed the infraction at the temple happen to identify as 'SIkh', Sikhs as a whole​ are thus deemed to be carrying superannuated, unadoptable and antithetical values. This is obviously wrong for there's no empirical evidence to legitimise such a hasty generalisation.

What the far-right 'philosophy' is symptomatic of is a very inattentive, trifling and malignant mind, a mind that I think sanctions an emphatic amount of reproof by those audacious enough to champion both universal human rights and the virtues of veracity. This is sanctioned for many a different reason - including a lack of evidence to substantiate their convictions. The biggest reason, though, is that despite what their intellectual endowments - or lack thereof - may adjudge, both striking gradations and subtle nuances manifest in these matters. These matters should thereby warrant the recognition of both gradations and subtle nuances in the discourse that pertains to it - something that upholders of key tenants of the 'far-right philosophy' fail to exemplify. This only perpetuates a very misguided and half-witted picture of what is going on.

It is also important to not forget that such generalisations engender increasing degrees of scepticism that there are defenders of fundamental human rights within such minority groups: "A liberal muslim? Ha!". I say this because they are all disgustingly smeared as carrying "superannuated, unadoptable and antithetical values"

The view of the far-right, whilst easy to dismantle by anyone with a smidgen of intellectual stasis, is nevertheless a view that is far less knotty and arguably even less popular than their counterparts - the far-left, or, to be precise, those regressive strands within the far-left. I say that the regressive far-left is perhaps more popular in today's 21st century because not only do they arguably outnumber or at least match the vociferous voices of the far-right on social media but, in addition, myriads of disproportionate numbers of university students are spieling such views - those who will provide the pillars of society's future discursive mural - views that are touted as upstanding social-norms (indeed prescriptions) to achieve the fruitful gorge in their social Eden.

Unlike the far-right, their mentality is not inductive - at least not so overtly. Unlike their counterparts, they take the colours of the power-relations that a minority group has, as a whole, and paint all members who identify within that group with such colours - smearing them with inexorable facticity. Refusing to acknowledge that even powerful minorities of groups putatively persecuted can be privileged (e.g. rich and powerful Saudis of the persecuted group 'Muslims') they claim that because of the inimitable power of the white, western cis-hetero, any members of a group (sikhs, muslims, hindus, LGBT members, etc.) that don't personify such a collection of privileged characteristics must, because of the all-embracing presence of power structures, be "persecuted" and thus, in order to rebalance the power-relation, certain concessions have to be employed. In this sense, whilst the cis hetero white archetype of privilege is free to reflect over such contraventions, he *SHOULD NOT* criticise such contraventions of fundamental human rights within and by a persecuted group - such as criticising the flouting of fundamental human rights of someone to marry another who happens to be of a different creed - for the sake of all the ostensibly felicitous virtues of *pluralist* multiculturalism (as opposed to liberal multiculturalism) and the important power structure rebalancing (for criticising amounts to further incongruity within an already lopsided power-balance).

The left not only ends up obfuscating groups by painting them with a single colour like their far-right counterparts, they go as far to legitimise the flouting of universal human-rights by any member within a group they deem "persecuted". Due to both the structuralist interplay underpinning this tragedy and the moral relativism that it fructifies, they argue that we people who defend universal human-rights, people who largely make-up the privileged west (even though increasing numbers of people the world-over are becoming rightful defenders of fundamental human rights), we, the voice of the taskmaster, the monstrous minions of institutionalised meliority, must necessarily resort to unequivocal quietude and insouciance for the sake of offsetting the lopsided power relations that exists between all self-identifying groups, a lopsided relation that may well be occult but is nevertheless and obviously​ incontestable..

The far-right and the far-left reactions I've delineated must be mused over and such reactions must be stripped of their authority and their strength thus eschewed, hastily. I fundamentally believe that an indispensable tactic to minimise such infractions repeating themselves here in the UK is for balanced critique to take place, a critique that is freely able to unfurl unabated towards and within minority groups, critique that is death to the calls of considerations concerning power relations, a critique that happily dances in various degrees of gradations and nuance. This requires a discourse far more sophisticated than what the far-right are willing to carry through and a discourse accepting a far more universal degree of morality than the far-left are willing to effectuate. We must resist the foolhardy go-to solution employed by the far-right that such infractions are the "essence" of all those who do not represent the pseudo-Christian British apollonian figure - a figure routinely touted by increasingly awry members of the far-right base. We must also resist the dangers posed by dominant strands of the far-left ideology - providing bulwark against the moral relativism increasingly characterising their arguments, as well as supplanting what Maajid Nawaz calls their unchartered "racism of low expectation" with steadfast and stalwart degrees of consistent human-rights defence.

In light of all of this, the principal task that necessitates address for those brave enough and decent enough to believe in fundamental human rights is thus: we must fight those regressive strands which I fear are becoming calcified within both far-right and far-left spheres. We must not go astray in our commitment to the implementation of universal and inveterate human rights, rights not only for those persecuted minorities who are increasingly taking recourse in arguments which ground them, but for the tragic story of a couple who went so far as to honour their love for one another despite their disparate creeds and despite the dangers that regressive people in their isolated communities are viciously willing to pose