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Sikh to head UK's new panel for multiculturalism

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    by Sajeda Momin

    Darra Singh
    Darra Singh: "There is no more important issue than how we get on with our neighbours and the contribution we are able to make to our communities." Photograph: Martin Godwin

    LONDON: In response to 7/7 and the more recent foiled terror plot the British government on Thursday launched a Commission on Integration and Cohesion calling for a ‘new and honest’ national debate on diversity and multiculturalism.

    “Tensions between people of different ethnic groups and faiths in British society must be tackled” said Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary at the launch. The body will be chaired by 45-year-old Darra Singh, a Sikh who grew up in Bradford in North England. Singh’s parents arrived in the UK from Punjab 50 years ago, and his mother still speaks very little English as is common in many first generation migrants. Singh along with another 10, yet to be appointed, commissioners will start work in September and will tour the UK before giving their report next June.

    The Commission will look at how towns, cities and communities tackle challenges such as segregation and social or economic division between different ethnic groups.

    The Commission is designed to carry on some of the work that followed riots in towns in North England including Bradford in 2001, and the 7/7 phenomenon of British youths who become ‘home grown’ suicide bombers and feel alienated from UK society.

    Kelly suggested that Britain had moved away from an era of “uniform consensus” about multi-culturalism. People were now questioning whether multi-culturalism encouraged separateness, she said. But the new debate had to be based on “fact, not myth added Kelly.

    “Multiculturalism and the fact that Britain is open to people of all faiths and none, has been a huge strength of this country. But what we have to got to do is recognise that while there have been huge benefits, there are also tensions created,” said Kelly.

    The commission would look at ways to tackle these tensions said Kelly who also promised it would not be just a “talking shop”, and would not focus on tackling the ideology of a “perverted form of Islam” — something the government was examining in other ways. Instead, it would look at building ways for people to get to know their neighbours and to stop people feeling a sense of “separateness”, said Kelly.

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