As British Citizens, we feel that state security agencies have done a good job over the years. Generally, terrorism threats have been countered without unduly suppressing citizens’ freedoms. Also, the Parliament has been vigilant in ensuring a balance between our freedoms and the need for laws which restrict them. On the whole, in the UK, we feel more free to participate in lawful socio-political activism than in many other countries, including countries of our origin.
Yet, once in a while we come across press items which cause concern. Recently, targeting a British citizen, a journalist referred to ‘intelligence’ of a certain country as his direct or indirect source of information. A UK expert on counter-terrorism law is also quoted suggesting an offence under section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
The headline also implies some sort of imminent threat to the relations between the UK and another country posed by a single individual! By reading this report one begins to wonder with apprehension if it is that simple for journalists to get their information from official intelligence sources and name individuals under sensational headlines. Let us hope that this is no more than sensational journalism claiming ‘intelligence’ of another country as the source of information and an expert on anti-terrorism law as the UK advisor.
There are reasons why Sikh activists would be apprehensive. Social activism and community service are an essential part of early Sikhi training. It is rooted in the ‘miri-piri’ (twin track temporal-spiritual) path of Sikhi. There are an increasing number of well-educated, working and retired Sikhs who serve the community in many diverse fields to do with education, heritage, better interfaith understanding, community cohesion, health, welfare and community advancement. Otherwise, British Sikhs provide an outstanding example as a community of successful integration with the British way of life while maintaining their distinctive identity.
When they have just concerns regarding their own rights and the rights of Sikhs in other countries including their country of origin, they raise them lawfully by lobbying MPs and senior politicians. Presentation of Sikh issues to the government, departments and agencies has improved over the years. Overall, due to responsible community mentors and moderators, British Sikhs are one of the most law abiding communities in the UK.
State intelligence agencies are there to protect law abiding citizens. They are an early warning system against threats to our security and way of life and take preventive steps accordingly. Most importantly, as loyal citizens we trust security agencies to remain above the machinations of politicians in power. That is because politicians in power are sometimes tempted to do trade-offs (pun not intended!) with other countries by turning a blind eye to their human rights record.
Regrettably, we do not live in an ideal world and knowingly or unwittingly journalists reveal their ‘sources’ as in this recent case. Intelligence agencies should not divert their resources to become pawns in the hands of politicians to harass law-abiding socio-political activists in own or another country. Their voluntary work is necessary for community cohesion and participation in the life of the nation.
Gurmukh Singh OBE