Sikh community

Sikhs are the latest victims of cultural ignorance

Many suspect that the man responsible for the shooting in a Wisconsin Sikh Temple in the US had mistaken them for Muslims.

6 people, including both the Temple’s President and Priest, have died after being shot by Wade Michael Page, who launched an attack on the Sikh place of worship on Sunday morning.

Though the gunman’s intention has not been confirmed, the former member of the Armed Services has been related to racist groups.

This tragedy is somewhat reminiscent of the 1984 riots in India. Tens of thousands of Sikhs were killed in retaliation to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, who was murdered by one of her Sikh guards.

Confused attackers

Since 9/11, Sikhs in the US and UK have reported a sharp rise in violent attacks against them.

As many Muslims and Sikhs wear turbans, those who are unfamiliar with the Religions often confuse them with one another.

Of course, whether the gunman had meant to do the same to Muslims in a Mosque, the act would be equally as outrageous.

The Sikh turban was born out of defiance, during a time in which only the ruling Muslim majority were allowed to wear them.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji had ordered all Sikhs to wear turbans as a sign of their moral standards. In the Religion that is strongly based on teachings of equality, the turban also served to dispel the belief that turbans were only for the upper classes.

A pious Sikh man in the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Photo: Nick Leonard / Flickr

Cultural ignorance

If you think about it, on TV, there is hardly ever a mention of different Religions, or Religion at all, unless they are being blamed for something. And in the public arena, it has become so sensitive, that people are scared of talking about it.

As President Obama reminded the US, though it may have been a little late, the Sikhs have done a lot for the nation.

Broadcasters and publishers need to make religious people more visible in positive contexts. And religious leaders need to be more active in sharing the true meanings of their Faiths.

Ultimately we need to strive towards building an atmosphere in which all people, religious or not, can share and learn from each other.

Gun Legality

Just over 2 weeks ago, similar images flashed across our screens as 12 lives were claimed by the “Batman shooting” in Colorado.

But US Politicians, who currently seem to be overlooking the issue of gun control in the fore-run to the elections, may no longer be able to ignore it after Sunday’s violence.


First ‘turban-wearing’ peer in House of Lords

As the House of Lords is joined by Indarjit Singh, their first ‘turban-wearing’ peer, we are reminded of the importance of the turban.

Baron Singh of Wimbledonbecame a member of the House of Lords in September this year. He has presented in various shows for BBC Radio stations. Among many other publications he has written for the Guardian and the Independent, and is the editor of the Sikh Messenger.Darsem King, a Sikh peer appointed back in 1999, had decided against wearing a turban in the chamber, along with all the Sikh MPs in the House of Commons.

His peership shows the changing nature of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, as it attempts to appoint more non-party affiliated peers. Reforms this year also look to rid the chamber of all hereditary peers.

As the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK, Mr.Singh is also a representative of the UK’s 340,000-strong Sikh community. He also sets an example for religious cooperation in a Multicultural Britain as an executive committee member of the Interfaith Network UK.

Indarjit Singh says, “”It gives me a new opportunity to do what I have always tried to do: to work with people of all beliefs to increase tolerance and understanding, and work for greater social and political justice in our society,” according to an article in The National.

Symbol of Sikh identity

It’s much more than the comical ‘man-pag, pag-man’ sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, in which a Father explains to his troubled son that “You got pag. You got man. You put pag on man…Sikh!”

The turban, known as pag or dastar in Punjabi, is symbolic of being a Sikh. One of the five objects which Sikhs should be adorned with is kesh, uncut hair. This goes hand in hand with the turban, which is meant to

cover, honour and protect the hair.

One of the 12 Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, had taught that Sikhs should stand out from the crowd by wearing a turban because they were following the unique path of the Gurus. This means that a turbaned Sikh is usually considered to be more devout than a non-turbaned Sikh.

It is also a symbol of respectability, and of one who upholds and practices Sikh morals.

Anoop Singh, a student at the University of Kent, says that wearing a pag has practical, spiritual and personal significance. He goes on, ” personally, its a solid reminder of the path i follow, it is like a flag for all those around to know i follow this path.”

Baron Singh of Wimbledon is someone for young Sikhs to look up to, at a time when many are disregarding their turbans in the name of

Photo: Paul Gooddy