British Sikhs have been “invisible to the government since 9/11” despite increased levels of discrimination and hate crimes, the Sikh Federation has said as a comprehensive survey of the UK’s fourth largest faith group was published.
According to the UK Sikh Survey 2016, almost one in five Sikhs has encountered discrimination in a public place over the past year and one in seven has directly experienced workplace discrimination.
The report found that Sikhs who wear religious iconography or clothing are most likely to experience abuse, with men more vulnerable than women. The most common places where discrimination is experiences are airports and public transport.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation, said the survey contained critical messages for the government and policy makers “on how the political elite is failing to properly represent British Sikhs and the issues that concern them”.
British Sikhs, he said, “have remained ‘invisible’ to the government since 9/11 despite increased levels of discrimination and hate crimes targeting Sikhs”.
The report says the government and public bodies have “systematically failed the minority Sikh community by not adequately responding to the disproportionate impact of racism and hate crime targeting Sikhs since 9/11”.
Hate crimes against Sikhs are wrongly recorded as Islamophobic incidents by police suggesting religious illiteracy and throwing doubt on the accuracy of recorded data, it adds.
The survey also records 17% of Sikh women between the ages of 16 and 30 saying they or a relative or friend had been targeted by grooming gangs. Among all Sikhs, 90% feel not enough is being done to tackle sexual grooming.
The poll of 4,500 Sikhs in the UK, conducted online, in written questionnaires and in face-to-face interviews, provides a comprehensive picture of the community, say the authors.
According to the 2011 census, there were 432,000 Sikhs in the UK, or 0.7% of the population. The biggest faith group was Christians (59.5%), followed by Muslims (4.4%) and Hindus (1.3%). Jews and Buddhists each form 0.4% of the population.
The survey found that more than two-thirds of Sikhs were born in Britain and nine out of 10 describe their nationality as British. The overwhelming majority reject being described as Indian or Asian.
A majority (58%) do not wear a turban, yet almost all (94%) would welcome a statutory code of practice for those who do and those who adhere to the 5Ks – kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kachha (special underclothing) and kirpan (ceremonial sword).
Sikhs form one of the most highly educated groups, with 27% having a degree or equivalent. Unemployment among Sikhs is almost half the general UK jobless rate, with more than one in five self-employed. They have the highest rate of owner-occupation for any group in the UK, at 92%.
In the last general election, 82% of Sikhs voted compared with the national average of 66%. They are five times more likely to be members of a political party than the general population. Yet there are no Sikhs sitting as MPs in the current parliament, although there are three Sikhs in the House of Lords. Only one in nine feels parliament effectively represents them.