(Part II of III)
Sikh “power elite” need to work closely with grassroots level organisations and pull together. Sikhs should not be too timid to announce in public the Sikh universal values inherent in Sikh ideology, and expressed through their proud visible Sikh identity. Sikhi promotes both, full acceptance of human diversity of cultures and religions, albeit, in a spirit global human unity.
The Sikh Network report gives some pointers towards next steps to recognition of Sikhs as a distinct community. That is the only solution to the mistaken identity issue. Diverse communities in plural societies should be made accountable for their own actions as per Panjabi saying, “Jo karay so bharay!” The survey is a follow up of the Sikh Manifesto released in January 2015.
The main conclusions also show the main focus areas of the survey. These are: 1 in 7 Sikhs have directly experienced discrimination at the workplace. In the last 12 months, 1 in 5 have faced discrimination in public places, and 1 in 12 have experienced discrimination when dealing with public officials. Nearly one third Sikhs under the age of 40 indicate being targeted to covert to another faith. In addition Sikh women have been targeted by grooming gangs and 90% feel not enough is being done to tackle sexual grooming and forced conversions.
From last week, one question raised was the extent to which high profile Sikhs in positions of influence have been able to promote Sikh identity. Why is there so much ignorance about Sikh identity when ex-Indian PM Manmohan Singh was on world’s TV screens for 10 years from 2004 to 2014? There have been other senior level Sikh appointments since 9/11 but Sikhs are still mistaken for another community and profiled as terrorists!
Most recently, with much expectation, Sikhs rejoiced when President-elect Donald Trump appointed Nicky Haley, a Christian lady of Sikh background, as US Ambassador to the United Nations. While Sikh congratulations are in order, any expectations from Nicky Haley regarding promotion of Sikh identity or ideology are misplaced.
For educated Sikhs with ambition, often, it is easier to win favours with the establishment by abandoning visible Sikh identity or by compromising Sikh ideology and aspirations as a distinct global community. They prefer not to make it clear that Sikhi is an advanced theo-social (spiritual-temporal) system. S Baldev Singh Dhaliwal JP, an Australian Sikh activist, has come up with a pithy expression: “What for the world are universal values as a matter of choice [in areas such as human rights, equality and justice], for the Sikhs these values are their “religion”!” If this is seen as a challenge to all world religions to also show their relevance to universal human values and rights, then so be it.
As individuals, Sikhs, no matter what their level of education, are successful. However, they are less successful in promoting themselves collectively as a community. The next step is for influential Sikhs to work closely with grassroots level organisations. (Final part next week)
Gurmukh Singh OBE