Singh doesn’t mean “lion” for nothingPosted on August 8, 2011
For 312 years, Singh has been the surname almost universally adopted by baptised male Sikhs. It means “lion” and judging by last night’s events it’s no exaggeration.
Like many others following the riots last night I discovered Sangat TV, a Birmingham-based, rather obscure Sky channel which apparently normally broadcasts recitals of religious texts. When rioting began in Birmingham, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, though, they changed their content.
A presenter and several of his friends and colleagues piled into a car with a microphone and a camera to travel around the West Midlands reporting on the riots and the actions of many Sikh communities to defend temples, shops and houses from the rampaging thugs.
If it sounds a bit haphazard, it was – jumpy footage, live interviews out of the car window and the driver intermittently wandering across the shot during set-piece broadcasts – but it was quite remarkable for two reasons.
First, that it is now technologically and financially feasible for a couple of guys with a car and a camera to become frontline TV reporters apparently funded by advertising from a sofa shop and a ghee (butter) company. Thanks to the low costs of entry into the media market and the viral nature of Twitter, the channel, its presenter and his message were soon becoming famous in a way that would previously have become impossible.
Secondly it was remarkable for the scenes and messages Sangat TV was broadcasting. Time and again the car would pull up to hear from Sikhs who had left the safety of their homes to protect the religious sites, property and homes whole community, regardless of religion. These were people who felt a strong and deep responsibility to the communities they live in and a strong revulsion for crime, looting and carnage and were willing to risk their own safety to put those principles into action. They weren’t vigilantes – they message was overwhelmingly that their religion forbids striking the first blow, and the channel repeatedly broadcast safety messages and warnings not to carry weapons or provoke trouble. They were just brave, decent people.
Of course sadly we’ve seen the deaths of three men reportedly killed while trying to protect a mosque last night.The full facts will come out in due time but before anyone rushes to condemn them putting themselves in harm’s way, consider whether you would prefer people stood aside and did nothing to stop attacks on their community.
Where the police weren’t able to step in, I for one am glad and proud that others were willing to do so. The alternative of shrugging and doing nothing to help is the philosophy of the rioters, not the British public who are under attack.
In between these interview stops the presenter’s commentary was utterly opinionated and utterly inspiring, the highlight of the night for me being:
Whether you support Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, there is only one team to support-the Three Lions, Great Britain.
He also made the point that this crisis is the latest in a series of occasions when Sikhs have shown their self-sacrificing nature for the national good – not least during their long and loyal service in our Armed Forces.
Having set out to commentate on the night’s events, the Sangat team even put their money where their mouth was, helping police officers catch up with and arrest some looters:
You couldn’t imagine a better way to refute the racist bile that’s been flowing from Nick Griffin and chums over the last few days. It’s inspiring to see true British heroes do the right thing in a just cause for their country. Lions indeed.