Should Sikhism be classed as an ethnicity? Redbridge Sikhs share their thoughts

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:14 26 July 2018

Sikh Women's Alliance Chair Balvinder Saund. Photo: Steve Poston

Sikh Women's Alliance Chair Balvinder Saund. Photo: Steve Poston


Many Sikhs in the borough are backing a move to list Sikhism as a distinct ethnicity - rather than just a religion - in the 2021 census.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) is currently considering including Sikhism as an ethnicity on the 2021 form, but has not yet taken a decision.

They are concerned about whether this move has the backing of Britain’s 430,000-strong Sikh community.

The all-party parliamentary group for British Sikhs offered to write to gurdwaras about five months ago and recieved 112 responses from temples representing more than 100,000 members, according to The Sunday Times.

Figures from the 2011 census, in which Sikhism is classed as a religion, showed that Redbridge is home 17,377 Sikhs - 6.2 per cent of the population.

The Recorder is asking Sikh residents their opinion on the change to the census.

Balvinder Saund, chairwoman of the Sikh Women’s Alliance, said that she has been fighting for recognition of a Sikh ethnicity for 16 years.

She said: “After 16 years, I cannot believe that our dream is coming true.

“I am not invisible any more in statistics and services provided by UK government.

“I can be counted too.

“Good news for Sikh community.”

Mankamal Singh, co-founder of the Atam Academy, in Barley Lane, Little Heath, highlighted the importance of ethnic tick boxes to enable pubilc bodies to ensure fair provision of public services.

“Statistically, the Sikh’s in the UK are an invisible community,” he said.

“If we are not counted then the real needs of our community are never recognised as they cannot be evidenced and always remain anecdotal”.

He added that, in spite of many “glossy success stories of Sikhs in the UK”, there are many Sikh families in difficult circumstances and among the working poor.

Balbir Singh, treasurer of the Singh Sabha Sikh Gurdwara, in High Road, Seven Kings, said: “It’s a good thing - most Sikhs here actually petitioned for it.

“Everytime they ticked that box, they didn’t feel as if they ticked the right box.”

But concerns have also been raised as to whether classing Sikhism as an ethnicity may exclude those who do not come from a Punjabi background.

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