The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Queen bridges race rift
- Monarch visits gurdwara as Indians come under attack

London, Oct. 16: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday showed their support for Britain's Sikh community by paying a respectful and dignified visit to a gurdwara in Hounslow, west London.

In Britain, unlike America, there is little danger of Sikhs being mistaken for bearded followers of Osama bin Laden but the Queen clearly thinks there is no harm in the royal family playing its part in helping to keep race relations harmonious in troubled times.

In any case, the royal family always has had good relations with the Sikh community, partly because of the long military connection. Another reason is that the Sikhs are a vibrant part of the immigrant population, if the second and third generations can be included in this category.

Even the children of those who came as factory workers have now been to university and made a great success of their lives in Britain.

In 1997, to mark the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence, the Queen and Prince Philip visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar where she wore British Airways socks to allow her to step onto the burning marble.

Yesterday, on a cold, wet autumn day, she wore white ankle socks and covered her head with a golden shawl, while her husband, who followed respectfully a few paces behind, put on a blue headscarf bearing the symbol of the Khanda. The Prince practised his namaste pretty well. As the 500-strong congregation looked on, the Queen bowed her head.

The Queen opened a '2.5-million phase of development in the gurdwara, said to be the biggest outside India.

Elsewhere in her kingdom, the race relations picture is less happy. In the border Scottish town of Innerleithen, for example, a boy of 11 has been charged with shouting racial abuse at a Pakistani shopowner.

According to Lothian and Borders Police, the child is probably the youngest person ever charged with a race hate crime in Britain. Between April 1 and June 30 this year, 108 racist incidents were recorded in the area, compared with 95 for the same period last year.

The 11-year-old was arrested after an incident at a Chilli Hut takeaway at the weekend. He allegedly smashed the window of the takeaway in High Street before hurling racist insults at the Pakistani owner.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: 'No matter what age you are, you shouldn't be saying anything like that. We take a very firm stand on racist abuse and whatever the age of the person, they will be treated in the same way.'

The picture in Northern Ireland, previously not known for racial problems, is also disturbing. One of the problems between the Catholics and the Protestants is that children learn to hate the other side almost with their mothers' milk.

In the latest upsurge of racial violence, thugs are for some reason targeting Indians and Turks.

Police are trying to hunt down those responsible for damaging cars and daubing racist slogans on their victims' homes in Comber, County Down.

Democratic Unionist Assembly member George Ennis said: 'This sort of activity is reprehensible and it is seemingly happening everywhere in Northern Ireland. Many people from abroad are living in the province and working in vital jobs like medicine. I am confident the Health Service couldn't cope without them.'

Nationalist SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) representative Joe Boyle agreed.

'This is yet another shameful attack on ethnic communities in Northern Ireland,' he declared. 'Those responsible are pathetic bigots who prey on innocent people. They are racist bullies who bring a bad name on Northern Ireland. My thoughts are with the Turkish and Indian communities at this time and I want them to know that the thugs responsible for this intimidation do not represent the wider community here.'

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