LONDON: The fires which have raged in London's worst rioting for decades have forged a sense of community rarely seen in the British capital, with Sikhs in the western borough of Southall leading the way.
Hundreds of turbaned men gathered outside their gurdwara, or temple, to defend the west London borough on Tuesday after rumours circulated on social networking website Twitter that it was next on the looters' hitlist.
Men sporting traditional garb including the kirpan, a ceremonial Sikh dagger, led chants as others patrolled the area by car and motorcycle looking out for the looters who have terrorised the city since Saturday.
The Sikh religion obliges every devotee to carry a small stylized dagger sewn in a closed scabbard under their clothes but most were steadfast in their rejection of violence.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in 15th century Punjab, India, on the teachings of Guru Nanak and 10 successive Sikh gurus. Its principal beliefs are faith and justice.
Amarjit Singh Dhillon, an adviser to the hastily-convened committee, explained to AFP that the operation was "not about vigilantes, just self-defence".
"Being a Sikh means that you can never attack anyone, but if somebody attacks you... enough is enough!" he added.
"My house can be rebuilt...but this is a place of worship, it is for everybody," he said, adding that he would be ashamed of himself if he didn't protect it.
Committee President Himat Singh Sohi, sporting a lustrous white beard and black turban, stressed that "the message of our guru is peace, live in harmony and work hard".
Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, the biggest Sikh temple in Europe, serves as the focal point for local worshipers, who make up 23 percent of the area's population, according to the 2001 census.
Sunny Bangea, 23, said he was prepared "to fight fire with fire" to protect the temple and surrounding community.
"A lot of stupid things happened here," he said. "On Monday night, gangs tried to set the temple on fire, but there was no damage. Since then, we look after the temple 24 hours a day."
"It's just a bunch of idiots creating trouble."
The community mobilised after a tweet from rioters was intercepted Monday reading: "All my...niggas that linked up today Roll thru tomoro at 6pm sharp in Southall broadway hit up the jewellers!"
Although centred around the temple, the operation extended to all members of the community, one of Bangea's friends explained.
"It's the local area, we have to help, even if it's the pub across the street," he told AFP.
Community defence groups have sprung up across the capital since unprecedented rioting and looting began late Saturday after a protest against the death of a man in a police shooting turned violent.
Sympathy for the rioters was in short supply among the men of Southall.
Investment bank worker Davinder Singh, who called on his fellow Sikhs to uphold their reputation as "saints and soldiers", bemoaned the descent into anarchy.
"From a spiritual and religious view, it's the dark ages we're living right now," he said. "There was a little bit of a disturbance and then people just go to gain whatever they can. It's just pure selfishness."
A warden at the grand marbled temple said the lack of police presence had forced them to act.
"Two days ago, black Muslims came here to fight," he said. "We called members of the community to defend the temple and we pushed them back.
"Then the police came and told us that we should unite to defend ourselves," he added.
Increased police numbers appeared to have quelled the disorder, but the Southall Sikh community continued to maintain their vigil as night fell Wednesday.
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@Ali Zaidi: You forgot to add one thing: "We implore upon the British Government to take into consideration the fundamental human rights of the protestors and excercise restraint in dealing with them. We also request the British Government to address the underlying causes of the disturbances and we want to convey the International Community's concern for the expression of all points of view in a democratic manner with due regard to process of law and civil rights of those who are raising their voices highlighting their deprivation against the system." So, there, I have done it for you.
I agree. A very fine piece of prose.....
We are seriously concerned about the safety of Nuclear Devices in Great Britain and are concerned about the extremist behavior and elements of the British society. The terrorists have shown how they can destroy a city like London in a few hours. If the nukes get into their hands they could wreck havoc. UK needs to DO MORE for the safety of its nukes, destroying safe havens of these terrorists and assure Muslims in general and Pakistan in Particular that its nukes are in safe hands and it has a proper command & control system in place for the safety and well being of the environment. We are now closely monitoring the efforts made by the British army and government which might require intervention for the safety, security and well being of the British people and Europe.
Personally I think had they shot a couple of rioters this would have ended much sooner.
Noticed one thing - The London police did not carry firearms but still tried to control the mob. Wish the police force in the subcontinent learn a thing or two from them.
Kirpan ...?....oh we Pakistanis are so familiar with the thing .....
Incidentally the Sikhs also protected a mosque while Muslims were praying and breaking their ramadan fast, which has prompted a facebook group that already has over 50,000 'likes'. It has also prompted the asian community of Southall, Muslims, Hindu and Sikh, to come closer together and work to protect each other. Sad that this has been left out of this article.
SIKH POWER, well done, best wishes.
@sarmad khan,as far as i know no religion begets violence,and if some religion begets violence,then its not worthy to call that a religion.coming to this article,community patroling is a good pratice.and sikh community is showing the way in london.good work.keep it up.
What day has come when other country/ race nationals save a foreign country from its own people. This is called being human.
British heritage is going to be doomed in near future .The country which once ruled the world, now should take moral lesson from asia .At least in South asia ,people fight against corruption, terrorism ,but there people are outraged because of slight change in society. some say unemployment ,unjustice is the reason .If this had been the reason ,then south asia would have been buring till now. Now tell which society is tolerant ?
all religions only beget violence and hate.this assembling by people of different religions only means we are going to have religious warfare on the streets of london.Do we really want jihad on the streets of london? if this trend continues then london will become waziristan.