We have recently celebrated two milestone
achievements with the election of Preet Kaur Gill and turban wearing Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to the House of Commons. In addition, it is a matter of much satisfaction to know that, “Preet Kaur Gill, the first Sikh woman MP and newly elected Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston has not only been elected the Chair of the APPG for British Sikhs, but she has also been confirmed as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.”
Sikh identity is like a national flag. An identity Sikh in high professional or public service position with good reputation is already doing a service for the community by opening up opportunities for the next generations. Yet, there are times when we are not so proud of some “identity” Sikhs who have held responsible positions in the past.
A respected Sikh colleague writes, “One of the arguments being made is that we should have more ‘turban wearing’ Sikhs. Whilst, I recognise and sympathise with the general desire for diversity, I am afraid, simply focussing on outward identity itself could be a mistake……Yes, bring on the turbaned Sikhs, but make sure they have something to offer beneath the turban that can not only protect but extend the honour of our crown that was bestowed upon us by our Gurus to serve humanity and fight all kinds of inequalities, discrimination and oppression. Any candidate, turban wearing or not, who can demonstrate a commitment to such high ideas will certainly get my vote.”
Few would argue with the above comment. In the professions, some identity (sabat-surat) Sikhs can justifiably feel good by doing well in their work and rising to senior positions. However, community expectations from a Sikh MP are high. Firstly, he (or she) has t
o meet the expectations of all constituents as an MP representing them in the Parliament. Secondly, he has to get the attention of his political Party seniors by demonstrating knowledge of regional, national and international issues. Thirdly, he has to be able to take part in Parliamentary discussions, serve on specialist committees, become nationally known and rise through the Parliamentary ranks to achieve some ministerial position. However, a Sikh MP has also to show a good grasp of Sikh issues as set out in the Sikh Manifesto. High amongst these is the need for accurate Sikh count and monitoring to secure identity recognition (see link below regarding Australian Sikhs**)
Yet, it is important to retain the trust of all communities. In this respect, there have been good non-Sikh MP role models like Rob Marris, ex-MP and ex-Chair of APPG for British Sikhs, and late Sydney Bidwell MP (Southall) of the “The Turban Victory” fame.
There is sometimes a mistaken belief amongst some Sikhs that the only way they can retain their positions is to distance themselves from own community and issues. The Canadian Sikhs have shown that this belief is misplaced. A Sikh in a senior public position can be both, a “Sikh” working to the Panthic ideals while serving the wider community.
(**Article by Dya Singh of Australia: https://www.sikhnet.com/news/sava-lakh-aussie-sikhs-come-age )
Gurmukh Singh OBE