The British National Party has been accused of attempting to exploit tensions between Muslims and Sikhs in a Government-funded report into relations between the two communities.
Academics have warned of a “real danger” of “serious communal disorder” in the future in some towns and cities as the BNP attempts to build on differences between the two groups.
The study, carried out for the inter-faith group Faith Matters, said tensions included “serious acts of violence” between Muslim and Sikh youths over the past nine years in some areas and allegations of “forced conversions” of Sikh girls by Muslim boys.
The BNP was attempting to “fish” in these “troubled waters”, the report said, by forming anti-Muslim alliances with Sikhs and Hindus.
Although the far-right party had “singularly failed” to attract significant support from either group, the report added that fostering anti-Muslim feeling amongst religious minorities had the potential to breed “political extremism”, whether or not this was reflected in votes for the party.
The document highlighted the case of Rajinder Singh, a Sikh who received widespread publicity after it was revealed he was set to become the first non-white member of the BNP.
His “hatred” of Islam was said to stem from the fact that his father was killed during the violence experienced during the partition of the Punjab in 1947, the report noted.
There are estimated to be between 500,000 and 550,000 Sikhs and around 2.4 million Muslims in the UK. Historically, Muslims and Sikhs have lived in different areas with the Muslim population concentrated in east London, the West Midlands and the North West, the report said.
Faith Matters founder and director Fiyaz Mughal said: “Although the report illustrates how the BNP have exploited existing tensions, it also highlights that – by realising both groups have a shared common heritage, culture and political experience – these tensions may be overcome.”
A British National Party spokesman said: “I do not think I want to comment. You only need to look at history to see that there is animosity between Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims and nothing a small political party can do will change or capitalise on that.”