BNP accused of stirring tensions between faiths

The British National Party has been accused of attempting to exploit tensions between Muslims and Sikhs in a Government-funded report.

Academics have warned of a "real danger" of "serious communal disorder" in some towns and cities as the BNP attempts to build on differences between the two groups.

The study, carried out for the inter-faith group Faith Matters, said tensions included "serious acts of violence" between Muslim and Sikh youths and allegations of "forced conversions" of Sikh girls by Muslim boys.

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The BNP was attempting to "fish" in these "troubled waters", the report said, by forming anti-Muslim alliances with Sikhs and Hindus.

Although the far-right party had "singularly failed" to attract significant support from either groups, the report added, fostering anti-Muslim feeling amongst religious minorities had the potential to breed "political extremism" whether or not this led to votes for the party.

The document highlighted the case of Rajinder Singh, a Sikh who revealed he was set to become the first non-white member of the BNP. His "hatred" of Islam was said to stem from the fact his father died in violence during the partition of the Punjab in 1947.

The report said while Muslims and Sikhs traditionally lived in different areas, since 2001 some Sikh districts had experienced an increase in Muslim settlement and it called for the two communities to "rediscover" their shared Punjabi heritage.

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Faith Matters founder and director Fiyaz Mughal, said: "Although the report illustrates how the BNP have exploited existing tensions, it also highlights that – by realising both groups have a shared common heritage, culture and political experience – these tensions may be overcome."

He named Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Derby, Slough and Coventry as areas where there could be potential for a "flashpoint".

But he added: "I would also say there is a lot of work that people are trying to do to bring that tension down."

A British National Party spokesman said: "I do not think I want to comment. You only need to look at history to see that there is animosity between Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims and nothing a small political party can do will change or capitalise on that."

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A spokesman for the Hindu Forum of Britain said that contrary to BNP claims, Hindus would not support them and emphatically rejected its policies.

He added: "Their attempts to exploit tensions between faith groups only goes to demonstrate how low they will go to con people into voting for them."

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