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Peers discussed Anglo-Egyptian relations following a recent question about the ‘appropriateness’ of President al-Sisi’s visit to Britain.  

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) tabled a question asking Her Majesty’s Government whether President al-Sisi’s visit is appropriate in view of the state of the rule of law and human rights violations in Egypt.  
 
In response, The Earl of Courtown (Cons) said Egypt is important for Britain’s national interests adding, “We must work together on the immediate issues facing us, such as bringing stability to Libya, combating ISIL and countering extremism.”

Appalled by the Minister’s reluctance to speak on human rights abuse, Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB), the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations said,
 
“My Lords, we have recently lavished hospitality on the President of China, where, as we heard in the answers to an earlier Question, there are gross abuses of human rights and the ruling clique presumes to tell people how many children they can have.”
 
He went on, “We will shortly be lavishing similar hospitality on Narendra Modi, who until recently was excluded from this country and the United States for possible genocide against the Muslim community in India. We are rushing around trying to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most barbarous regimes in the Middle East.
 
To much laughter and applause he cuttingly concluded that it would be discriminatory to even think of excluding President al-Sisi from these others with questionable human rights records.
 
One Peer commented that he could not say what Lord Singh had said because he had neither the wit nor courage to put government complacency on human rights in such clear perspective.

Parliament of the World’s Religions | Salt lake City | 15 -10-15 | Plenary Speech | Lord Singh

sf-thumbs-main-Dr.-Indarjit-Singh

Friends, its a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to address you at the opening of this historic Parliament. I would like to begin with a verse from the Sikh Guru Granth Sahib:

The Lord first created Light:

From the Lord’s play all living creatures came,

And from the same Divine Light all creation sprang.

Why then should we divide human creatures

Into the high and the low?

 

Brother, be not in error:

All Creation emanates from the one Creator

The Lord’s Spirit is all-pervading Spirit

Evident in all creation,

 

The Lord, the Maker, hath molded one mass of clay

Into vessels of diverse shapes.

Free from taint are all the vessels of clay

Since free from taint is the Divine Potter.

 

The allusion to the different vessels of clay and the one Divine Potter, reminds us that despite apparent differences, we are all equal members of our one human race.

This verse or shabad taken from the Sikh Holy Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, in many ways encapsulates both the thrust of Sikh teachings and the central theme of this historic Parliament, in its emphasis on the absurdity of all man made distinctions of birth, class or creed. Other verses in the Guru Granth Sahib make clear that this equality also extends to full gender equality.

Sikhism is one of our different paths towards a summit of understanding of our common responsibility to the Creator, to work for the benefit of our fellow human beings. Sikhs believe our different paths are not mutually exclusive, but frequently merge to give us both a heightened understanding of our own faith and our common responsibilities.

Our Gurus emphasized respect for other ways of life in many different ways, Guru Arjan ,the fifth of our 10 founding Gurus   incorporated some uplifting verses of Hindu and Muslim poets into the Guru Granth Sahib Sahib, including the one I’ve just read, to show that no one religion has a monopoly of truth and all faiths should be respected.

To promote this reaching out to others, the Guru asked a Muslim saint to lay the foundation stone of the historic Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, commonly known as the Golden Temple. In furthering the world’s first major move to interfaith understanding, the Guru placed a door at each of its four sides to signify a welcome to all from any spiritual or geographic direction. The 9th Guru, Guru, Guru Teg Bahadhur, took this further by giving his life defending the Hindu community’s right to freedom of worship against a policy of forced conversion by the then Mughal rulers. In doing so he gave practical utterance to Voltaire’s famous words: ‘I may not believe in what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

I am delighted that this Parliament has set its goal as the reclaiming of our common humanity. It is a recognition that religion has largely failed to move minds to what Sikhs call a gurmukh or Godly direction, by making concern for others central to all we do. Instead of recognizing the common thrust of our different faiths, we have set barriers of belief between them smugly, and sometimes violently, proclaiming our superiority and exclusive path to God.

Our failure to give a clear ethical lead centered on compassion and concern for others, has led to a society obsessed in searching for contentment through material possessions, creating a selfish society in which the vulnerable suffer. Our common task is then to reclaim the heart of society by working together to create a more responsible society.

To be successful, we must boldly challenge what are becoming warped norms of putting self before others, and political agendas, both domestic and international before ethical concern for what Sikhs in our daily prayer, refer to as the well-being of all humanity. If we do this, we are bound to be successful in reclaiming the heart of humanity.

Thank you.

Gurmeet Ram Raheem preparing flavored milk drink, labeled it as the 'Jam-e-Insa' (drink of humanity), administered it to the Dera Sacha Sauda followers

Gurmeet Ram Raheem preparing a flavored milk drink, ‘Jam-e-Insa’ (drink of humanity), for Dera Sacha Sauda followers

The Global Sikh Council (GSC) condemns the decision of politically appointed jathedhars to exonerate Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda for causing gross offence to Sikhs. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is guilty of causing offence to Sikhs by impersonating Guru Gobind Singh ji. Politically appointed jathedhars have no authority to dictate to, or act on behalf of, the wider Sikh community.

All Sikhs should be aware that the SGPC, who appoint jathedhars, was created by the British government to manage the financial affairs of the historic Sikh gurdwaras and nothing more. The composition of the SGPC is based on political allegiances and not on a commitment to follow the Gurus; teachings.

Over the years, especially after 1947, the SGPC has been dominated by political groups and is being used to further the personal interests of local politicians. During this time it has arbitrarily created figures of supposed authority over Sikhs worldwide, like Jathedhar of the Akal Takht, and the absurdity of ‘Sikh High Priests’. Arrogantly, one Jathedhar of the Akal Takht on a visit to the UK, demanded to be introduced as ‘the Pope of the Sikhs’.

The GSC urges all Sikhs to condemn the arbitrary decision of Jathedhars to exonerate Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and further urges Sikhs worldwide, to support the GSC in its aim of ensuring panthic decisions are predicated on the teachings of the Gurus and not on questionable political allegiances.

The Network of Sikh Organisations is a member of the GSC, the statement was originally issued on the 29 September.

Mera Safar: Lord Singh Indarjit Singh CBE

August 7th, 2015 | Posted by Singh in Radio - (0 Comments)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02z0v0g

The Assisted Dying Bill (No.2)

July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Singh in Current Issues | Press Releases - (0 Comments)

A Grotesque Challenge to Sikh Teachings on Compassionate Care:

The British Medical Association (BMA), allied healthcare professionals and religious leaders are united in pressing for better palliative care for all. Sikh teachings emphasize the responsibility of society to care for the elderly and vulnerable, whilst making them feel loved and valued members of the community. As Sikhs we should remember the example of Guru Har Krishan, who put the care of victims of a smallpox epidemic in Delhi at greater importance than his own life. The importance of ‘assisted living’ and caring for those around us is central to Sikh teachings.

It is therefore a matter of real concern that Rob Marris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sikhs, will be introducing legislation in Parliament in early September, that cuts across Sikh teachings on our collective responsibility to care for all members of society (sarbat ka bhalla), and instead assist vulnerable people to take their own lives. Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South West tabled a Private Members Bill ‘Assisted Dying (No.2)’ in June 2015. This follows on from a similar Bill introduced by Lord Falconer last year, which didn’t get past the third reading in the Lords. Some Peers expressed concerns about the ‘financial incentives’ involved in ending the lives of the terminally ill. The Bill was further described as a ‘breeding ground for vultures.’

Many see the dangers of depressed individuals at a low ebb surrounded by uncaring relatives, feeling morally pressurised to stop being a burden on others by seeking help to end their lives. Hundreds of letters received by Lord Singh from disabled people underline their fear and concern over the proposed legislation. In a debate on ‘assisted dying’ last year, Lord Singh said:

“In attempting to show compassion to a few, it neglects due compassion to many thousands of others. It has created immense fear in vulnerable people that they are being seen as a problem by society, with consequent damage to their sense of self-worth.”

Action Required

  1. All Sikhs should lobby the Chair of the APPG for Sikhs, Rob Marris (whose majority is only a few hundred) to withdraw his ill-considered and demeaning bill. The undeniable strength of the Sikh Federation on the APPG could be particularly helpful.
  2. All Sikhs should lobby other members of parliament not to support a Bill that cuts across our responsibility as human beings and the whole thrust of Sikh teachings to assist vulnerable people to live with dignity and good palliative care.

 

Human rights debate in the House of Lords

July 19th, 2015 | Posted by Singh in Current Issues - (0 Comments)

sf-thumbs-main-Dr.-Indarjit-Singh

My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord Alton for securing this important debate, and for his sterling work in putting concern for human rights high on the agenda of this House.

Article 18 of the 1948 UN Declaration is unambiguous in its guarantees of freedom of religion and belief. Yet we live in a world where all too often those rights are all too frequently ignored.

We have been recently remembering the horror of Srebrenica where 20 years ago 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up by Serb forces and ruthlessly murdered, simply for being Muslims. Last year Sikhs commemorated the 30th anniversary of the brutal murder of thousands of Sikhs in India, simply for being Sikhs. The Middle East has become a cauldron of religious intolerance and unbelievable barbarity. The number of Christians has dwindled alarmingly, and we hear daily of thousands fleeing religious persecution in leaky, overcrowded boats with little food or water

Where have we gone wrong? In commerce or industry if a clearly desirable idea or initiative fails again and again, it’s back to the drawing board. Today we need to ask ourselves, why the widespread abuse of the right to freedom of belief? This important right, like others embedded in the UN Declaration, needs the total commitment of countries with political clout to make it a reality. Unfortunately, even permanent members of the Security Council, frequently put trade and political alliances with countries with appalling human rights records, above a commitment to rights. There are many examples, but time permits me to mention only a couple relating to our own country.

During the visit of a Chinese trade delegation in June of last year, a government minister said ‘we should not allow human rights get in the way of trade’. His statement undermining the UN Declaration, went virtually unchallenged.

At about the same time, we had a statement in your Lordships House that the government was pressing for a UN led inquiry into human rights abuse in Sri Lanka. Fine. But when I asked if the government would support a similar inquiry into the mass killing of Sikhs in India (a bigger trading partner), I received a brusque reply: ‘that is a matter for the Indian government’ I have asked the same question on five occasions: why does the UK government regard the systematic killing of Sikhs in India to be of no concern, only to receive the same dismissive non-response. My Lords, I ask it again today, and hope your Lordships and Britain’s half million Sikhs will get the courtesy of a properly considered reply. The great human rights activist rightly said that we must be even- handed in looking at human rights abuse.

My Lords, if our country, one of the most enlightened in the world, puts trade above human rights, it is easy to understand why other countries turn a blind eye to rights like freedom of belief; a right so central to Sikh teachings that our 9th Guru , Guru Teg Bahadhur gave his life defending the right of Hindus, a different religion to his own, against forced conversion by the then Mughal rulers.

My Lords, we can list human rights abuse forever and a day without it making a jot of difference, if we and other great powers continue to put trade and power block politics above human rights.

We start each day in this House with prayers to remind us to act in accord with Christ’s teaching. He, like Guru Nanak reminded us never to put material gain before concern for our fellow beings. We need to act on such far-sighted advice.

[Lord Singh of Wimbledon’s full speech in House of Lords debate on human rights, 16 July 2015]

1984_sikhs

Lord Singh has questioned the government’s inequitable approach to the issues of genocide and human rights abuses.

During a recent debate centering on the 1915 atrocities by the Ottomans, peers discussed the need for Britain to recognise the genocide against Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.

Lord Singh disappointed at the governments position on the mass killing of Sikhs in India, said:

‘My Lords, is the Government’s response to genocide and human rights abuse predicated by who does it and where it occurs? I ask the question because when I raised the issue of the mass killing of Sikhs in India about a year ago, I was told that that is a matter for the Indian Government.’

The Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) Lord Singh of Wimbledon has asked the government for parity in tackling hate crimes against all communities, not just Muslims.

A Muslim Peer, Baroness Afshar tabled a question leading to a debate last week:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they have put in place to counter the impact of Islamophobia and stigmatisation on young Muslims.”

During the debate Lord Singh asked the government:

“My Lords, is the Minister aware that ever since 9/11 there has been a huge increase in the number of attacks on Sikhs and Sikh places of worship in cases of mistaken identity? The most recent case was a machete attack on a young Sikh dentist in south Wales, which was described on “Newsnight” as Islamophobia. Does the Minister agree that hate crime is hate crime against any community, and that it should be tackled even-handedly, irrespective of the size of the community?”

Baroness Williams of Trafford, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Communities and Local Government responded in agreement:

“The noble Lord is absolutely right—hate crime is hate crime.”

The backlash to Islamic extremism is particularly heightened following terror attacks. The Sikh community is an example where bigots target the ‘Muslim looking other’ in the wake of terrorist atrocities like 9/11 and 7/7. In his book, My Political Race former government Minister Parmjit Dhanda revealed how a pig’s head was thrown in his drive following his 2010 election defeat.

Racial prejudices have also motivated hate crimes against minorities. Last Week Mold Crown Court found Zack Davies a ‘white supremacist’ guilty of trying to behead a Sikh dentist in a machete attack. Davies was reported to have taken inspiration from Jihadi John, and to have chosen his victim because of his race not religion.

The government has pledged it will support the recording of anti-Muslim incidents as well as anti-Semitic, across all UK police forces. There are currently no plans in place for hate crime victims from other minority faiths.

The NSO has written to the government in light of the current strategy, which we believe urgently requires a more inclusive approach

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – 16/06/15

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by Singh in Thought for the day - (0 Comments)

Today is the anniversary of one of the most important events in Sikh history; the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, the 5th Guru if the Sikhs. There are two important aspects of this anniversary: the circumstances that led to the martyrdom, and the traditional way it’s commemorated.

Guru Arjan was a renowned poet and scholar who lived at a time of acute religious bigotry- not very different from that in many parts of the world today. The Guru made it his life’s mission to replace suspicion and hatred between faiths with tolerance and respect.

Guru Arjan was the main compiler of the Sikh scriptures known as the Guru Granth Sahib. In it he included some Hindu and Muslim verses to emphasise a fundamental Sikh teaching that no one religion has a monopoly of truth. The Guru took this respect further by asking a Muslim saint to lay the foundation stone of the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar and also placed a door on each of its four sides as a symbol of welcome to all from any spiritual direction.

Such sentiments proved too much for the rulers of the day who taught there was only one true religion and the Guru was slowly tortured and killed in the heat of an Indian June.

In the traditional Sikh commemoration of the martyrdom, there is no show of anger or bitterness, but a simple remembrance of the Guru’s suffering by serving cool sweetened lime water or other soft drink to all who pass by Sikh homes or gurdwaras.

I thought of the Guru’s teachings, his martyrdom and the lack of bitterness while attended a huge political rally in Paris over the weekend as part of a delegation of parliamentarians from different parts of the world. The rally of more than 100,000 was organised by Iranians who had fled persecution in Iran. In an echo of Guru Arjan’s teachings, the leader of the rally, a woman Maryam Rajavi, spoke of the need for open democracy and freedom of belief for all faiths.

Many of the speakers had themselves suffered torture or imprisonment, or the loss of near ones at the hands of the present rulers, but there was no bitterness in their contributions; only a desire to move on. To me this gives us a glimmer of real hope in the otherwise all-pervading gloom of intolerance in our strife-torn world.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – 09/06/15

June 10th, 2015 | Posted by Singh in Thought for the day - (0 Comments)

A weekend report that the Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College was considering ending homework to help reduce depression in children underlines the seriousness of a problem recognised by many. I’m not sure that the Head’s idea of ending homework will prove a solution but there’s no doubt there is a problem. A recent report found that whereas the peak of depressive illness used to be in the late 20s, it is now in the teens.

With conflicting pressures and distractions of social media, internet chat lines and other peer pressures it’s perhaps harder than ever for young people to distinguish between the trivial and the important in their own attitudes to life. Calls on young people are very real and can at times be overwhelming.

It’s a challenge for all of us; parents too have difficulty juggling with priorities – 2 wage earners in a household can mean less time available – no wage earners brings other stresses. Parents separating, can also have a devastating effect on children.

Similar challenges in deciding underlying priorities for balanced and responsible living existed in the less frenetic times of Guru Nanak some 500 years ago with the need for balance frequently giving way to extremes. Some saw their goal in life as a single-mindedly amassing of wealth, while others would live by begging in a search for spiritual wisdom.

Guru Nanak taught that the key to a balanced life was to live by three golden rules. The first of these is to establish priorities through reflecting on scriptural guidance to help us all distinguish between the meaningful, and trivial obsessions which can dominate our thinking. The second golden rule is earnest effort in all we do. The third and most important rule is the need to look outwards, to the needs of others.

This can take many forms such as the Sikh institution of langar; food for all served at our gurdwaras. Then there’s the importance of giving time to the needs of the vulnerable. Today, coming back to the pressures faced by the young, there is a particular need to give time to our children and, in line with a common teaching of our different religions, provide a stable and supportive family life. It’s now more important than ever to help the young distinguish between false and fleeting priorities, and the genuine challenges and responsibilities that lead to a contented and fulfilling life.

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