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TV review: Young, Sikh And Proud, Belsen: Our story, Good Omens

07 February 2020


In Young, Sikh And Proud (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) Sunny Hundal (left) sought a posthumous healing of the rift between him and his late brother Jagrak Singh (right)

In Young, Sikh And Proud (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) Sunny Hundal (left) sought a posthumous healing of the rift between him and his late brother Jag...

A DEEP renewal of faith, more in­­tense discipleship, religion now at the very centre of people’s lives: is it not this for which we long, pray, and work? Young, Sikh And Proud (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) spelled out just how toxic the un­­intended consequences of such re­­vival can be; and the relevance to Chris­tianity was, to me, obvious through­­out.

This was no objective documen­tary, but, rather, a personal quest by the liberal journalist Sunny Hundal to seek posthumous healing of the rift between him and his late brother Jagraj Singh, a phenomenally suc­cess­­ful reigniter of faith among young British Sikhs. They parted company over Sunny’s reporting of the rise of extremism: of intimida­tion that forced the abandonment of interfaith weddings; threats of violence that made planned events to encourage mutual hospi­tality be­­tween Sikhs and Muslims impos­sible; and initiatives to develop com­munity building across confessional lines.

The problem with religion newly em­­braced is that enthusiasm so easily leads to extremism — and to reform­ing zeal, eager by what­ever means necessary to re­­store the purity of faith, to cleanse the temple of the com­­promises adopted by the elders. So all as­­simila­tion must end, all en­­gage­­­ment with the godless British state must cease.

I, at least, found bitter irony in our nation’s pulling up our draw­bridge, choosing separation over partner­­ship, in the week marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Ausch­witz: the worst horror of war, the catastrophe that inspired the Euro­pean Project, the institution con­structed to ensure that such obscenity could never happen again.

A clutch of programmes re­­minded us once more of the Final Solution, the logical conclusion of the doctrine of supposed racial purity. Belsen: Our story (BBC2, Tuesday of last week) was, by its very sobriety, par­ticularly effective. A handful of sur­vivors made the journey back to the site of the camp, each with heart­rending memories of parents and siblings murdered. The British lib­­era­­­­tors were confronted with 10,000 un­­buried corpses; even after they were freed, 14,000 inmates died of long-term starvation and disease.

Such real-life perspective makes it harder to relish the comedy of Good Omens, BBC2’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel about Armageddon (Wednesdays). A good angel, Aziriphale, and a fallen angel, Crowley, have developed a cosy friendship con­stantly under­min­­­ing the extremisms of Heaven and Hell, their respective Head Offices. The moment has arrived for the realisation of the End Times — but they would really prefer every­thing to carry on as usual.

Despite superlative acting and pro­­­­duction, it is little more than a succession of inventive and witty gags ignited by a literal reading of the book of Revelation colliding with the banal reality of 21st-century Britain.

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No. 15 | 3 July 2020

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