UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently came out fighting against Opposition Labour Party MPs who accused her of using her Indian heritage to “gaslight” the "very real racism" faced by minority communities in the UK.
The Cabinet minister had referenced her personal experience of racist abuse while growing up as an ethnic minority in the UK during an impassioned statement in the House of Commons in relation to the Black Lives Matter protests in the country. A group Labour Party MPs led by Naz Shah shot off a letter to her days later to say that “being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism”.
A defiant Patel responded by making the letter public and reiterating that she will not be “silenced” by Labour MPs, who dismiss the contributions of those who don't “conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave”.
In the aftermath of the accusation of gaslighting, a reference to a form of extreme psychological manipulation where seeds of doubt are planted against a particular idea, there were widespread concerns of more sinister undertones in the reaction to Patel recounting her own fight against racism.
“Could it be that we're witnessing the birth of another fear Hinduphobia,” questioned Samir Shah, a former BBC head of politics and head of the production company Juniper, in 'The Spectator'.
“I am not convinced that Hinduphobia is a thing yet. But understanding the cause of the ill will towards Patel might strengthen attempts to nip it in the bud.”
Alpesh Patel, an investment expert and Chairman of the City Hindus Network in London, feels there certainly is a worrying trend that needs attention.
He said: “Whilst people may discount any word with 'phobia' attached as a 'me too' bandwagon, it is worrying for us who are Hindu. The rabid hatred against those of our faith by those who are ignorant, racist, misguided, or just full of hate and pick any characteristic of differentiation to express themselves.?
“Now we Hindus are global, we head of the world's largest companies and economies from Pepsi to Google and Microsoft to the Chancellor of the UK - so of course there will be envy, jealousy as our voice rises. We did not survive 5,000 years to be silenced now.”
Quoting 20th century German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who said that conversations about Indian philosophy helped him make sense of Quantum Physics, Alpesh Patel expressed the hope that people don't feel threatened but illuminated by what Vedic Hindu philosophy has to offer the world.
The Hindu Council UK says it prefers to focus on the term “anti-Hindu” rather than Hinduphobia due to its sense of victimhood.
“The reason we do not support Hinduphobia is because it is a victim led term and Hindus do not ride the victimisation card, we take responsibility for our Karma and where we need to change we try to do so; but where people attack us, then we will have to challenge them on their anti-Hindu agenda or propaganda,” said Anil Bhanot, founding-member of Hindu Council UK.
He believes the Naz Shah led letter to Priti Patel is reflective of her “hatred for Hindus” and said Global Indian organisations remain “fully supportive” of the UK Home Secretary against such “divisive forces”.
Priti Patel, born to Gujarati-origin parents who fled Uganda for the UK when dictator Idi Amin expelled Asians from the African country in the early 1970s, had countered Opposition questions about racism in Parliament with the words that when it comes to “racism, sexism, tolerance or social justice, she will not take lectures from those on the other side of the House”.
And, the minister remains defiant about standing firm on that stance.
by Nadia Hatink