Hindus in Britain prefer to be called ?British Hindus? or ?British Indians? rather than ?British Asians?, according to government-sponsored research on the identity and public engagement of the community in Britain.
Recently, a report, called ?Connecting British Hindus?, was launched at the House of Commons by Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities. According to census figures, Hindus constitute the third largest religious group in Britain after Christianity and Islam.
It is the first such report on Britain'sHindu community.
The research, commissioned by the Hindu Forum of Britain and carried out by the Runnymede Trust, revealed that some Hindus felt ?excluded? in the race dialogue and urged the government, media and public service providers to ensure that Hindus were included in any work undertaken to tackle racism in communities.
The research revealed that Hindus in Britain preferred to be called ?British Hindus? or ?British Indians? rather than ?British Asians?.
The report highlighted the excellent integration of Hindus into British society and urged the Government to work closely with British Hindus in building its capacity and improving public services catered to the special requirements of the community.
The report further said: ?Hindus in Britain have been seen as synonymous with the Indian community. While there is a great deal of overlap, it is clear that while Hinduism is geographically associated with India, there are also significant number of Hindus from the Caribbean, Fiji, Sri Lanka and East Africa.
?Further there are many Indians who are not Hindus, identifying with other faiths (in particular Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians and Muslims) or no faith.?
A key finding of the report was that Hindu community organisations need to find sensitive ways of responding to fears and misinformation in order to reduce tensions, and to work with other faith communities, especially Muslim communities, to build dialogue and understanding
Kelly said: ?This research raises important issues that exist between Hindu communities and the Government. It helps us and service providers tackle the challenges that impact on the everyday lives of Britain'sHindu communities.
?British Hindus have made a positive contribution to both the social, cultural and economic prosperity of our rich and diverse society. Many sections of those communities, including women, youth and aged people, are often hard to reach.
?Last month I announced the Commission on Integration and Cohesion will consider how local areas deal with increasing diversity and respond to the tensions it can sometimes cause. We hope the Hindu community will make a vital contribution to the commission'swork.
?All of us, including central Government and public services, have a role to play in helping Britain move towards an inclusive society, based on mutual respect, tolerance and understanding between people of all faiths.?
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: ?The Hindu community has now entered its second-generation status and is well integrated into the larger British society.
The community is debating issues of identity and ?Britishness? with a view to playing a more active role in mainstream society. The community'sdiversity and the strength of its voluntary and community sectors continue to play a great role in its successful integration and progressive cohesion.
However, Hindu community groups and organisations face multiple disadvantage and discrimination. ?The report is one of the first sources of authentic and credible information that will seek to understand some of these issues.?
Robert Berkeley, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust and principal researcher of the project, added: ?By creating a better understanding of Hindus we also hope that some light will be shed on the ongoing debate about the role of faith communities in relation to the state.
?Often this debate is coloured by the considerable tensions that Muslim communities are facing in Britain, and the deliberations of the Church of England in developing a modern relationship with the state.
?By considering the needs of Hindus in Britain we hope to be able to offer a view of faith-based communities which gives a different perspective to the debate and encourages deeper thinking about appropriate responses to the needs of members of our community of communities and of citizens.?
(The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected])