Offensive Diwali message sent to Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust employees causes the body to launch an internal review
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An offensive message sent to the employees of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) on the day of the Hindu festival of Diwali has been revealed, leading to the trust launching an internal review.
The controversial email was sent out by EmbRACE Manchester, which mentioned the “insidious growth of Hindu right wing nationalist ideology”. However, despite the content of the message being very offensive to many, EmbRACE Manchester claimed that it was written by a Hindu staff member.
Titled ‘Happy Diwali’, the email read, “We would like to wish a very Happy Diwali to all who are celebrating today.” It then added, “It’s particularly important to pause and reflect on recent events and how we bring back peace and harmony to our communities.
“Worsening political and religious polarisation in India has unfortunately seeped into diaspora communities across the world. Muslims and Hindus have lived together harmoniously in East Leicester and Birmingham for decades, however unease among residents has been growing in recent months culminating in violent clashes in September fuelled by social media misinformation.
“The history behind the tensions is long and complex, however the emergence and insidious growth of Hindu right wing nationalist ideology in India (spreading to UK/USA) should not be ignored. The vast majority of Hindus do not share these xenophobic views and we must not hesitate to stand up and unite with our Muslim neighbours and colleagues at this worrying time.
“Both Muslim and Hindu communities face the harms of overt and structural racism. Violent divisions between these communities feed racist narratives, and divided communities are less able to effectively advocate for anti-racism.
“Let’s find a way of stamping out these dangerous voices, healing the rift and bringing back harmony to our communities.”
In the conclusion, the email said, “May this Diwali bring universal compassion, the inner joy of peace and love, and the awareness of oneness to all”.
An anonymous Hindi staff member found the message to be derogatory and contacted the Manchester Evening News about it, calling the email “hurtful”. Many others also came forward to voice their anger on Twitter.
One user wrote, “I am absolutely outraged and disgusted by the message sent by the Embrace team.
“As a very senior colleague I am saddened by the failure of a service under your leadership to meet the level of standards expected. This matter will be escalated to the appropriate channels.”
EmbRACE eventually apolgised for sending out the email after the backlash. 15 hours after the first email was sent out, an EmbRACE spokesperson wrote, “It has come to our attention that this email has caused offence amongst several of our colleagues.
“Although that was absolutely not our intention, we acknowledge and accept the impact this email has had. We are devastated that we may have upset our colleagues on an auspicious day of celebration. Please accept our sincere apologies.”
MFT also apologised for the incident and admitted that the initial email was ‘inappropriate’. It apologised on Twitter, distancing itself from the EmbRACE communications team and added that an internal review had been launched.
MFT wrote on Twitter, “We have been made aware of an email distributed to some members of our staff, by EmbRACE, titled ‘Happy Diwali’, and understand it has caused upset amongst some staff by inappropriately referencing religious tension in the wider environment. We would like to make clear that EmbRACE is a grass roots collaboration of staff which operates entirely separately from official MFT communication channels.
“The Trust certainly does not approve of the inappropriate contents of this week’s Diwali message and has launched an internal review. In this context we wish to stress that this particular EmbRACE email was in no way issued with the endorsement of MFT.
“Finally we wish to stress that MFT continuously strives to be an inclusive employer and celebrates all faiths and religions in a positive way. We work closely with our staff to recognise key festivals and encourage staff to highlight and promote any such celebrations that may be important to them.
“Please be assured that the Trust has taken this matter very seriously and been swift to act. Once again we apologise for the upset this incident has caused some colleagues.”