Concerns of targeted extremist grooming and radicalization of Sikh youth have been raised by the Sikh community since the 1990’s.
The Sikh community recognized back then that the problem of aggressive grooming or radicalization fell into a ‘grey area’ in the law, and some methods of conversion, although aggressive in nature, did not breach any laws.
Methods of conversions that worry the Sikh community:
1. Groomed Aggressive conversions - lawful
2. Aggressive conversions- unlawful
Groomed Aggressive conversion – Lawful Methods
Brainwashing & Grooming: Extremist mind control employs the same tactics and strategies of social influence. They are variants of well-known social psychological principles of compliance, conformity, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, framing, emotional manipulation, and others that are used on all of us daily to entice us to; buy, to try, to donate, to vote, to join, to change, to believe, to love, to hate the enemy.
Extremist mind control is not different in kind from these everyday varieties, but in greater intensity, persistence, duration, and scope. One difference is in its greater efforts to block quitting the group, by imposing high exit costs, replete with induced phobias of harm, failure, and personal isolation.
Many Extremist groups use unethical persuasion tactics in recruiting and retaining converts. These methods can range from Love Bombing* and emotional scare tactics (imposing high exit costs, e.g. convincing a person that leaving the group means losing one's salvation).
*Love Bombing: The practice of some extremist movements to shower new converts or prospects with extra love and attention. Seen by many as an unethical persuasion tactic designed to hinder critical thinking regarding the pros and cons of joining or remaining with the group.
Illicit relationship conversions: The process where young girls are pre-selected on the basis of their religion/beliefs race/ethnicity to initially form seemingly innocent relationships, with the hidden agenda of conversion down the line. This practise is motivated by extremist religious views.
Aggressive conversions – unlawful
As above, but enforced with physical blackmail and/or violence.
Stigma, Victims and the Police
We must understand cultural taboos and the historic significance of these practises, and then one can understand the stigma attached to these acts.
The stigma can be compared to rape victims in the past, where victims were labelled with taboos, such as “she must have asked for it”. After large-scale campaigns in the 1960’s, i.e. “Speak Out on Rape” did victims come forward and peruse prosecution.
Now one looks at victims of extremist preaching and brainwashing in the UK:
Woman in UK 'groomed' as bomber
It took years for the government to recognise that we have a problem with extremism in the UK i.e. “These fanatics are looking to groom and brainwash (British) children” - John Reid, the Home Secretary 2006.
Therefore a “3 week police inquiry” into extremist conversions, as reported by the BBC Asian-network is not sufficiant in uncovering such a sensitive and deep-rooted problem.
Cases of blackmail or violence in the past that had been directly or indirectly associated with religious conversions had been reported as just that, blackmail or violence and not ‘forced conversions’.
There are two broad categories when defining victims of extremist conversions;
A) Those that have converted, and are living in the company of extremists are under enormous pressure to continue in that faith;
“We had bricks though our windows, I was spat at in the street because they thought I was dishonouring Islam.” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article510589.ece
B)Those that did not convert are reluctant to speak out because of cultural stigmas within their community and also they feel nothing will result of it, i.e. lawful aggressive grooming tactics (highlighted above) are not a criminal offence.
Radical preachers who target impressionable Muslim men are encouraging extremism and aggressive conversions.
We want unregulated and unauthorised extremist preaching banned in schools, colleges and universities.
A government funded confidential help line for victims of aggressive religious conversions.
BBC Asian Network
We feel the BBC Asian Network telephone call-in that took place on the morning of 20 June 2007 was culturally insensitive, and again tried to sensationalise the problem. Encouraging victims to speak about traumatic experiences live on-air to an unqualified representative, we feel downgraded the seriousness of the problem.
We feel the BBC should have listed a confidential qualified counsellor to its listeners to whom they could contact regarding this highly sensitive issue.
In terms of highlighting concerns of the Sikh youth, the youth rally that took place in Birmingham on 10 June 2007, was against extremist behaviour and aggressive conversions. The placards and handout clearly stated this, Quote:
“Sikh Youth Stand United Against:
Grooming and Brainwashing
Fundamentalists and Extremists
Racially motivated sexual exploitation of young girls”
Yet the BBC reported this as a rally against ‘forced conversions’, when in fact the Sikh youth were crying out for a clamp down on extremist preaching and extremist behaviour in schools, colleges and university.
Sarabha Panjab News