In response to Mr. B.S. Mahal’s article, “The Many Faces of Neo Sikhism”, I would like to offer a few of my own thoughts. Mr. Mahal has done a nice job of describing many types of Neo Sikhs as he calls them, but there is no great benefit of criticism without a constructive effort to give a constructive solution. He has also created some misunderstanding by many of his statements. He calls the Sikhs “their own worst enemy’. First, he creates an illusion that Palestinians have won a victory because of the press coverage of the West bank riots, and then he goes to explain that although we have suffered much more, we have not won the sympathy of the world. He attributes that to the “bluster and bluff” image of the Sikhs that has gained us a terrorist image.
The thing that has earned the Palestinians the sympathy of the world is the fact that there has been some free press coverage in Israel, whereas the Indian Government has never allowed that. I agree that Sikhs do not have the full support of the world. That may be in part due to apathy of many Sikhs, but mostly it is due to the huge propaganda machine of the Indian government.
Mr. Mahal says, “Most of the appeals to the Sikhs are of a common nature and are almost always deeply rooted in religious fervor. Such a mixing of religion and politics has had unhappy consequences”. Now examine what Mr. Mahal is saying here. He also claims that the Anandpur Resolutions were “mastermind by a highly politicised clergy”. This leads me to wonder if Mr. Mahal is in knowledge of the circumstances attending the adoption of the Resolution as well as the basics of Sikhcal, and religious force. I learned that Guru Nanak Dey Ji’s teachings immediately brought about not only a religious revival, but a social reformation. Throughout the history of Sikhism, we find that religion was necessarily involved in politics. It is the force of religion only that can shape politics and uphold moral standards. Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s formation of the Kahlsa was a social and political move, as well as religious. In fact, it cemented the philosophy in such a way that in order to be baptised into the religion, one had to take up arms. So unless I am very wrong, religion for the Sikhs is a very important consideration even in the political sphere. The Gurus never advised us to go to the hills of the Himalayas to meditate and be religious. Sikhism is a vibrant way of life, and it is also a religion, not a culture per se.
Mr. Mahal’s criticism of the “zealots”, “who have gone back to the straitface puritanism of bygone times”, is an apparent show of ignorance of the philosophy of Sikhism. I personally do not feel like a zealot because I wear a Kirpan. The 5 Ks was given to us by the Guru so that we could forever respect and cherish his lofty ideals. They are not a relic of the past, but a uniform that was ingeniously conceived by the Guru. With such commitment as the Sikh faith demands, these symbols give us strength, and they have practical functions at the same time.
Perhaps Mr. Mahal is confused. A person may be a fundamentalist without being a fanatic. If someone adheres to the real teachings of the religion then that person may be said to be a fundamentalist. There is nothing wrong in that. However, a zealot, or a fanatic has no true knowledge, but bases actions on an irrational belief.
So Mr. Mahal scoffs at people who wear kirpan and eat langar squatting on the floor on Sundays. Langar at the Gurdwara is a religious and social function which has as its underlying reason to eliminate inequality. When we gather for Langar, it should be done in this traditional manner, because it has great meaning. However, does that mean we are hypocrites if we go home and eat dinner at a conventional table? This appears to be an absurd notion,
As far as orthodox dress code is concerned, the only dress code of a Sikh is the 5 Ks. If you see me at the Gurdwara with 5 Ks, you will also see me at home, or work with the same. The clothing style may be different, but the Guru did not prescribe a clothing style. So then, should we consider every Sikh wearing a Kirpan to be a zealot or a hypocrite? 1 his continual criticism will not bring about a constructive change, unless it is in fact, well thought out and has as its ultimate end to better the condition of the Sikh nation.
Satnam Kaur Khalsa
Mount Horeb, Wi.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 22, 1988