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Racialisation, ‘religious violence’ and radicalisation: the persistence of narratives of ‘Sikh extremism’


Journal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesJournal abstract

Recent years have seen concerns raised in media and by policymakers about rising levels of ‘Sikh extremism’ and ‘Sikh radicalisation’ in Western Sikh diasporas. In this article I analyse why these concerns persist, particularly given the general non-violent nature of ‘Sikh militancy’ (Wallace [2011]. “Sikh Militancy and Non-Violence.” In Sikhism In Global Context, edited by Pashaura Singh, 122–144. Oxford University Press) and the relatively few incidents of terrorism beyond those which took place during the height of Sikh militancy in the 1980s. I argue that these concerns are a consequence of an underlying ‘anxiety about anti-assimilationist religious others’ impacted by (a) the racialisation of religious minorities which began in the colonial period, (b) a specific type of ‘Indian secularism’ which frames Indian legislation and media reporting and (c) the post 9/11 securitisation and increased surveillance of Sikh bodies as part of the ‘War on Terror’ with its concerns about ‘religious violence’ and the necessity of the secular nation state to ensure that any such violence is suitably policed. This article will be of interest to those examining the racialisation and representations of religious minorities in Western liberal democracies and the impact of securitisation policies on these communities.

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