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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Southall rejects BNP claims
Sikhs in temple
Sikhs form the majority of Southall's Asian population
Sikh community leaders have cast doubt on claims by the British National party (BNP) that it is forging links with Sikhs in west London.

BNP leader Nick Griffin said he had had discussions with a Sikh leader in Southall who had complained of problems with Muslims in the area.

Mr Griffin, who has previously been convicted of inciting racial hatred, said his party only wanted to help ease tensions between Sikhs and Muslims in London.

But Dr Parvinder Singh Garcha of Southall's Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple said he believed that, on the whole, the communities co-existed peacefully.

Nick Griffin's philosophy is an open book - he has no love for anybody non-white

Ghayas Syed

"There may be isolated events like those which occur all over the place but I'm not aware of an undercurrent of tension and I don't think many people in Southall are," he said.

Dr Garcha added that he doubted any Sikh leader would join forces with the BNP against Muslims because Sikhs were required to be tolerant of other faiths.

And he called on any Sikh involved in talks with the BNP to come forward.

"If he's a good Sikh and true to his word, he wouldn't hide, he would be out in the open and expressing his views."

'Model of cooperation'

Sikhs make up the largest proportion of non-white residents in Southall where more than 70 per cent of the population originated from the Indian sub-continent.

Nick Griffin
BNP leader Nick Griffin says he is due to meet Southall Sikh leader

But Hindus, Muslims and Christians are also represented in significant numbers.

Ghayas Syed, a trustee at Southall's largest mosque, poured cold water on Mr Griffin's claims of friction between the communities.

He said he believed they were "purely a fabrication" aimed at "fanning divisions".

"I don't accept that Nick Griffin has a preference for one colour of Asians and not for another," he said.

"His philosophy is an open book - he has no love for anybody non-white.

"Southall is a model of cooperation and I think we should be judged on that rather than loose statements."

Southall's ethnic mix
Indian: 50.3%
White: 29.8%
Black: 7.5%
Pakistani/Bangladeshi: 7.2%
Chinese: 0.2%
Others: 4.9%
Source: 1991 Census

Local councillor Mohammed Aslam said the people representing Southall were proof there was no division between Asian communities.

"We have three councillors for this ward: one Muslim, one Sikh and one Hindu," he said.

"People voted for us equally across the Asian communities. There is no rift here."

Diverse suburb

Southall has long been known as one of the most culturally diverse suburbs of London with the first Sikh temple there opening in 1957.

Most of the early immigrants in the 1950s were Sikh men from Punjab. Others came from Pakistan and the Caribbean.

By the 1960s their families were coming to join them and it became a major market place for Asian food and clothes.

The arrival of Kenyan and Ugandan Asians from the late 1960s also helped transform the area into a major centre for Asians in London.

See also:

06 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Sikhs urged to reject BNP approach
24 Aug 01 | UK
BNP: A party on the fringe
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