A report by an independent think tank hails from London reveals the extent of racial discrimination and bullying faced by Hindu students in schools in United Kingdom. The report has been complied past conducting a survey among the 988 Hindu parents and found that 51 per cent of them reported that their children had faced discrimination at schools in the UK.
The report from the London-based Henry Jackson Society, prepared and complied by research fellow Charlotte Littlewood, education specialist Rishi Handa and Baroness Verma, is one of the first into the discrimination faced by Hindu kids in UK schools.
The survey, which covered 988 Hindu parents and more than 1,000 schools around the country, concluded, “This report highlights the prevalence of discrimination against Hindus in British schools, with 51 per cent of Hindu parents surveyed reporting that their child has suffered anti-Hindu hate at school.”
Teaching Hinduism was reported by some participants of the study as fostering religious discrimination towards Hindu pupils.
It mentioned that incidents such as Hindu pupils being bullied to convert to Islam, beef being thrown at another student, etc are among some examples that have been recorded and were faced by Hindu students.
“We are very concerned… and the aim of this study is to look at how we can use schools to tackle this hate,” Littlewood told CNN-News18. The author is a PhD candidate in Arab and Islamic studies with the University of Exeter and her research focuses on “minority within Muslim minority conflict in the UK, in particular the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and the extent to which the UK is able to support this community”, as per the HJS website.
The study documented the experiences of Hindu students, as told by their parents, around six major themes of prejudices related to politics in India, Abrahamic othering and Hindu religious education: Anti-Hindu slurs, far right/xenophobia, Islamist extremism, linking Hindu pupils to India, poor teaching of Hinduism, lack of school provision with respect to Hindu festivals and practices.
In fact, in the sub-section for Islamist extremism, the study detailed how Muslim pupils told their Indian classmates to convert to Islam, which would make their lives “so much easier”. It detailed references to Islamic supremacy, calls for Hindus to convert as well as threats of hell for disbelievers.
Instances where Muslim pupils have used terms such as “kaffir” for their Hindu classmates have also been documented. Parents have even given examples in the study: “Harassed and told that if they convert to Islam, their life will become so much easier (i.e. bullying will stop)” or “You aren’t going to survive very long… If you want to go to paradise, you’ll have to come to Islam… Hindus are the herbivores at the bottom of the food chain, we will eat you up.”
Apart from this, there are negative references to polytheism and idol worship. For example: “You don’t know about your own religion, you have so many gods. Your religion is idol worship (even though they were corrected to say deity worship, and they continued to insist that it’s the same). When teachers say these things, they undermine the students and make a mockery of them.”
Not only this, the study also documented negative references to “typical xenophobic tropes” such as ‘go back home’ and those related to skin colour. There are also references to Christian supremacy and how Hindu students are often referred to as “Paki” (a derogatory term for someone from Pakistan).
The study also highlights how Hindu students have often faced bullying due to how their faith is taught in these schools, especially when it is linked to societal ills such as the caste system or ancient practices (which have not been practised for decades) like sati pratha.
Many parents told the author that their children are held responsible for politics in India: “Other students tried to bully my daughter that she is Hindu – saying ‘why you people break our mosque, why you people attack us?’ So we changed the school” or “child has faced bullying from other children on many occasions specifically after PM Modi’s rise in India and after article 370 was revoked.”
The unequal approach to Hindu practices and festivals as compared to other religions was also documented with parents saying there is no holiday for major Hindu festivals like Diwali while Muslims pupils get three for Eid.
A key concern raised by Hindu parents was how religious education with regard to teaching of Hinduism in UK schools was flawed. They said Hinduism was being taught through the lens of Abrahamic faith, which led to non-Hindu students misunderstanding some key concepts of polytheism and religious practices.
Littlewood’s report sheds light on how the curriculum for teaching Hinduism failed to achieve the aims of religious education teaching in general and had a poor approach. It also explored how Hindu students were held accountable or responsible for political issues or societal ills, such as the caste system, back in India.