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Author Archives: Hardeep Singh

[Image above: Lady Singh addresses the audience at Billion Women Parliamentary event]

The NSO hosted an event in the House of Lords last week in aid of charity Billion Women to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The event focused both on the successes and challenges faced by women in modern society, from both a cultural and religious perspective.

Speakers included Lord and Lady Singh, Lord Sheikh, Lord Loomba, Criminologist Prof Aisha Gill from the University of Roehampton, Spoken Word Artist Jaspreet Kaur, the founder of Billion Women Mani Bajwa and business woman Mrs Amar Kaur Maker.

Event organiser Lady Singh told the audience the Suffragettes had fought tirelessly for women’s equality in Britain over a century ago. She told audience members they had thrown themselves under horses, chained themselves to railings outside Parliament and had suffered huge indignities. Referring to Emily Pankhurst Lady Singh said, “We owe her a lot.” But she warned Sikh women who had been given equality from day one by Guru Nanak – over five hundred years ago, that they should not be complacent.

She said, “Women have been fighting for equality with men right up to the twentieth century and in some ways even today. The Gurus gave Sikh women equality. It was handed on a plate. They did not have to hold rallies, protest marches, hunger strikes, getting under the hooves of horses or chaining themselves to the railings. They did not have to struggle to get rid of the obnoxious social customs such as sati, purdah, dowry and female infanticide”

She went on: “We Sikh women having got equality need to discharge our responsibilities to ensure we do not loose it. If we do not practice equality in our own homes and gurdwaras, our women in the future will loose it. Guard it by practicing it.”

Entrepreneur Mrs Amar Kaur Maker told the audience that she took inspiration from Sikh teachings when her husband passed away. She was left with the daunting prospect of supporting her family and running a business. Despite her challenges, in 2009 she was given a national ‘entrepreneurial excellence award’. Mrs Maker said, “I felt abandoned but somehow carried on with strength from my faith and inspiration from the life of Guru Gobind Singh.”

Attendee Rani Bhilku from Slough based organisation Jeena said, “It was refreshing to see so many women from across the generations attend, and I particularly resonated with Jaspreet Kaur’s poetic words on the night.”

Sikh teachings on gender equality are “way ahead not only of society at that time, but of much of society today”, says Lord Singh

Marking International Women’s Day last week, peers debated the role Britain plays in promoting gender equality across the globe following a question tabled by Tory peer Baroness Shields.

Talking about this year’s theme “Be Bold for Change” The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office said, “In some regards, it is a sad indictment that despite the integral role that women play in every aspect of life, we still struggle to be considered equal. In the opening years of the 20th century, courageous women joined hands and stood beside each other in solidarity.” She went on, “Outside this very House, suffragettes fought for women’s rights in our democracy, yet more than 100 years on, we are still striving to become a society that is truly equal.”

Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) told peers true equality is reflected in a society where opportunity and respect is given parity for both sexes. Lord Singh stressed greater equality in society had moved on from the traditional view of men being ‘bread-winners’ and women the ‘main carer’. This he told peers, had resulted from an acceptance that there is nothing demeaning in men playing a greater role in the home.

Reflecting on his own faith Lord Singh said, “Sikh teachings place a strong emphasis on the equality of all human beings. Right from the start, Guru Nanak—the founder of the faith, born in 1469—made clear that this teaching of full equality and dignity included women. In a memorable line, the guru criticised prevailing negative attitudes to women, saying, “How can we call those who give birth to kings and rulers, lesser beings?”In 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh gave Sikh men the common name Singh—meaning “lion”, to remind us of the need for courage—he gave the name or title “Kaur”, meaning “princess”, to women, to remind them and others of their elevated status in Sikh society. On reflection, that seems to be a bit more than equality. I would rather be a princess than a four-legged beast.”

He went on, “The Sikh gurus were aware then—as is sadly still true today— that war is often used to justify brutal treatment of enemy women. Sikh teachings remind us that in times of conflict, women and girls should, as appropriate, be regarded as mother, sister or daughter and be treated as such. Sikh teachings on the equality and dignity of women were way ahead not only of society at that time, but of much of society today.”

Lord Singh warned of being complacent, adding, “In some Sikh families, the still-negative culture of the sub-continent sometimes overrides religious teachings, with girls being treated less favourably than boys, promoting a false sense of male superiority. Today, Sikhs and non-Sikhs need to do much more to make the dignity and complete equality of women the norm, within our different faiths and in wider society.”

 

NSO International Women’s Day event

March 8th, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Videos - (0 Comments)

Graphic symbols of different religions on white

[Graphic symbols of different religions]

It matters that people learn about religion. The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has long stressed the importance for us all to have a basic understanding of all the major faiths, which in turn, motivate the behavior and attitudes of significant numbers of people in Britain. In understanding the role of religions in society, we provide ourselves with an informed platform to better engage with others.

Last week our Director Lord Singh asked the government, “What steps they are taking to combat religious extremism and to promote a cohesive society by enhancing religious literacy at all levels of government.”

Minister of State, Baroness Williams of Trafford responded by informing peers the government is countering extremism through Prevent. She said, “We are working closely with faith groups to understand the impact of policies and to improve religious literacy in government. The Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary hosted a round table for representatives of all faiths last November.”

Unsatisfied with the Minister’s response, Lord Singh added: “The Government paper on the hate crime action plan contained no mention of non-Abrahamic faiths. That suggests something about the religious literacy there. Does the Minister agree that democracy implies being attentive to the legitimate concerns of all sections of the community, not those of a single religious or other majority?”

He went on: “Does she further agree that teachings and practices that go against human rights must be robustly challenged, but that we need to know something about what we are challenging before we can do that? Programmes like Prevent cannot be effective without such knowledge. One final point is that I have put the basics of Sikh teachings on one side of A4 at the request of the DFE, and that can be done for other faiths as well. Should that not be essential for religious literacy in government departments?”

The Minister responded thus: “He said that the hate crime action plan did not specifically refer to non-Abrahamic faiths, but the tenets of the action plan cover points on hatred on the basis of religious belief, disability, sexuality and so on. It is therefore implicit within it that, for example, Sikh communities are included.”

She added: “As for the understanding of religious literacy within both government and wider society, both the Home Office and DCLG engage widely and often with faith communities. Shortly after the referendum, I myself met people from different faiths, including Sikhs, in Manchester to discuss religious literacy, the outcome of the referendum and the corresponding hate crime attached to it.”

It is encouraging to hear the Minister often engages with faith communities. However her response didn’t acknowledge the government’s failure in including faiths outside the Abrahamic traditions in Action Against Hate – the government’s four-year hate crime plan. The NSO believes that improving religious literacy in government circles can only enhance policy development, and prevent any future exclusion of minority faiths that aren’t as vocal in their approach to lobbying.

CoxLast week saw the second reading of Baroness Cox’s arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which aims to protect the rights of women under Sharia courts operating in Britain.

Baroness Cox who has long fought for human rights said, “we must not condone situations where rulings are applied which are fundamentally incompatible with the laws, values, principles and policies of our country.”

She went on, “Muslim women are today suffering in ways in which would make suffragettes turn in their graves.” The proposals in her Bill have been described as a “lifeline” for vulnerable women, some of whom had provided evidence of their plight to an All Party Parliamentary Group on “Honour” Based violence.

Baroness Cox described Sharia councils as “a rapidly developing alternative quasi-legal system, which undermines the fundamental principle of one law for all.”

Lord Singh the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) thanked Baroness Cox for her tireless work in supporting vulnerable members of society across the globe.

He said, “negative attitudes to women, all too evident in Islam, have become embedded in religious texts, which, as we have heard, give less weightage to the word of a woman, and lesser inheritance rights. There are also particular problems with attitudes to divorce. These negative attitudes prevent Islam from playing its full part in social improvement. I have many Muslim friends and most are happily married and a credit to society. But sharia law and divorce are heavily weighted in favour of men and are at variance with the law of this country.”

He went on, “we cannot have a parallel judicial system, particularly one that discriminates against women. We have today heard many examples of the weightage against women in the proceedings of sharia courts and the resulting suffering. We have heard the concerns of our Prime Minister, Theresa May, when as Home Secretary she referred to wives being left in penury and a supposed right of husbands to chastise their wives.”

Lord Singh said the proposals in the Bill would not only “safeguard the position of women in the Islamic community”, but also “leave Islam stronger and better able to play its full part in the world of today.”

The full debate can be viewed here.

Support for Sikh and Hindu hate crime victims

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Current Issues | Press Releases - (0 Comments)

true vision

[True Vision is the Police hate crime portal]

In a recent communication, ahead of Holocaust Memorial, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced £375k of new funding to support groups who have “historically faced challenges in reporting and preventing hate crime.”

Part of this funding will be given to the Police hate crime portal True Vision, which will be building a programme to help support Sikhs and Hindus in the reporting of hate crime. The funding also aims to help develop an awareness of hate crime against both groups. The government has acknowledged part of the problem is because of “anti-Muslim hostility.”

This announcement comes following years of campaigning by the NSO in highlighting the government’s biased ‘Abrahamic-centric’ approach. During that time, we have highlighted the issue in the press, had communications with both DCLG and the Home Office, whilst our Director Lord Singh has raised concerns in the House of Lords.

Following the government’s publication of Action Against Hate last July; we made our concerns clear to the Home Secretary. These were supported by leading Hindu and Sikh organisations. We raised the issue at a Faith Communities Forum meeting last September, organised by the Interfaith Network UK.

Pt Satish K Sharma General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK said, “we have been in extensive discussions with the Sikh community regarding the manner in which the Dharmic traditions have been quite effectively abandoned in terms of protection and fully support the statements made by Lord Singh in this regard.”

He went on, “recent official statements and gestures indicate that the severity of the situation may be noted but action, funding and genuine engagement will establish whether this is mere lip service or just the latest in a series of sound bites.”

Mr Sharma added: “Unlike other groups, Hindu and Sikh communities have never played the politics of victimhood, focusing more on their contribution to the societies they live in. When they do become victims of hate crimes, requesting recognition and support, requires the development of a whole new social vocabulary.”

Lord Singh said, “the news is certainly a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go in order to achieve a level playing field for all faiths. Improving religious literacy levels is also important when tackling prejudice fueled by ignorance. It’s good to see the government is willing to listen and learn.”

Prior to the recent announcement, the NSO gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee into its inquiry into hate crime and its violent consequences. At the time, we specifically requested support in raising awareness of hate crime portal’s like True Vision. A link to our evidence can be found here.

The Sikh Messenger – Autumn/Winter 2016

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Sikh Messenger - (0 Comments)

We have decided to make the latest edition of the Sikh Messenger available to download for free.

If you would like to subscribe to a hard copy of the magazine please contact the editorial team: info@nsouk.co.uk

Sikh Messenger Autumn Winter 2016 Final(1)

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 09.46.13

 

Third post on Guru Manyo Granth

January 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Current Issues - (0 Comments)

Evil triumphs when good men stand aside and do nothing – Edmund Burke.

We have taken the liberty to reproduce a post from online Sikh discussion groups regarding the Dasam Granth issue, and the troubling silence of some groups representing the interests of British Sikhs.

Guru Manyo Granth

Guru Manyo Granth

No one is disputing that some compositions thought to be those of Guru Gobind Singh were placed into the Dasam Granth (DG). These have been identified by Sikh scholars and are incorporated in our Nit Nem and in the Sikh Reyat Mayada, which could possibly do with some revision.

Reopening discussion on these, at this particular time however, is an unnecessary diversion. THE MORE SERIOUS QUESTION NOW FACING THE PANTH IS, SHOULD WE ALLOW THE REST OF THE DASAM GRANTH, WHICH IS WHOLLY CONTRARY TO SIKH TEACHINGS, BE CONSIDERED AUTHENTIC SIKH SCRIPTURES?

Common sense will say that the very idea is outrageous. Sikhs believe in one God who is beyond birth, while a third of the DG is devoted to the exploits of various incarnations of Hindu deities. The Sikh Gurus taught the dignity and equality of women. Guru Gobind Singh gave women the name or title Kaur, literally ‘princess’ to emphasise their elevated status. Against this, the DG has a voluminous section denigrating women.

Despite the above, there are still many who find it difficult to accept the blindingly obvious, and want scholarly evidence. It doesn’t take a learned scholar or so-called Think Tanks, to open the Dasam Granth, and simply look at the contents. I reproduce below some of the more printable lines of Chritar 202 on the ‘Wiles of Women.’ The Tale of Chapal Kala.

           ‘Chapal Kala was the name of a Raja’s daughter

             Her beauty made her look like the goddess of love

             One day she came across Ainti Singh, the handsome one

            And blissfully made love to him.  

            Chaupaee

            The person who can satisfy a woman and takes a long time in love making,

            He gets happiness and provides exhilaration in women.

             Otherwise, however strong he may be, the woman is not satisfied.

             He who takes excessive time in love making, wins the heart of women’

The above is a small part of 404 lengthy compositions, many in more starkly pornographic language, on the supposed wiles of women found in the DG. What CAN BE MORE INSULTING TO SIKHS THAN HAVING SUCH WRITINGS READ ALONGSIDE THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB in our gurdwaras? This is actually happening in gurdwaras in Smethwick and Tiverton in the UK, as well as in Patna Sahib and gurdwaras in Punjab-with the blessings of the RSS beholden SGPC. Sikhs should ask why has the Indian government spent hundreds of crores of rupees printing copies of the DG other than to dilute and distort Sikh teachings? What does it take to wake our sleeping Sikh community?

Scholars such as S. Gurmukh Singh who suggests that this is a matter for the Panth to sort out, do the community a disservice. What is the Panth, other than a collective noun to describe committed Sikhs who follow the Gurus’ path? ALL members of the Panth should stand up and be counted in a collective effort to stop this insidious attack on our religion. Those in a position of influence or authority have a particular responsibility.

S Gurmukh Singh is an adviser to the Sikh Federation, the Sikh Council and the Sikh Missionary Society. It is not enough to play the detached observer. He and others with scholarship and authority should tell organisations with which they have influence, to end their support for this deliberate debasing of the Gurus’ teachings. If their advice on such a critical issue is not heeded, they should publicly dissociate themselves from those, who for their own motives, pursue such anti-Sikh policies.

S Harjinder Singh, another detached observer and adviser to the Sikh Federation, rightly says he is unhappy with what his brothers in the Sikh Federation are doing. When someone is setting fire to your house, you should do more than say you are unhappy with what they are doing. It is increasingly becoming evident that the Sikh Federation is the active wing of the Sikh Council and the rest of the organisation is either indifferent, or too cowed to condemn the stance of its more aggressive partner.

Sometimes I feel that the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is acting alone in the UK highlighting Sikh concerns on this issue, although some smaller organisations like the British Sikh Federation and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and many individual Sikhs have indicated their support for our stance.

We appeal to other Sikh organisations in the UK and abroad to publicly declare where they stand on one of the most important issues facing Sikhs for many years.

Indarjit (Lord Singh of Wimbledon) Director Network of Sikh Organisations UK

Second post on the importance of the Guru Granth Sahib

January 13th, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Current Issues - (0 Comments)
Guru Manyo Granth

Guru Manyo Granth

While more than 75% of the Dasam Granth is wholly contrary to the teachings of the Gurus, there are some compositions which could well be those of Guru Gobind Singh. In the 1930s and 1940s a committee of prominent scholars looked at these and included them in the Sikh Reyat Maryada in 1945. They are in consonance with the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and form part of our daily Nit Nem. The authors of the Dasam Granth have borrowed these teachings and placed them in their Dasam Granth. This does not mean that the Dasam Granth as a whole should be considered to be on a par with the Guru Granth Sahib.

In the opening composition of the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak emphasies that there is only one Creator who is above all notions of human birth. In contrast, a large part of the Dasam Granth is devoted to the exploits of 24 so-called INCARNATIONS of the Hindu God Vishnu. The Guru Granth Sahib stresses the dignity and complete equality of women, while much of the Dasam Granth is devoted to the denigration of women, often in the crudest of language, which brings us back to my initial posting.

Should Sikhs and Sikh organisations stand idly by when crude attempts are made to give equal credence to the teachings of Dasam Granth and the Guru Granth Sahib, thus distorting Sikh teachings and diluting them with Hindu mythology? The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has already stated its opposition to this attack on our teachings. Encouragingly Sikhs in Canada, Malaysia, the USA and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha have also voiced their concerns.

I again appeal to other UK Sikh organisations so far silent, such as the Sikh Council, the Sikh Federation (and its offshoot the Sikh Network), City Sikhs, Ramgharia Council, Sikh Education and Welfare Association (SEWA), the Sikh Missionary Society, Nishkaam Sevak Jatha and others in the UK and abroad to stand alongside us and use their clout to condemn this attack on our religion.

Indarjit (Lord Singh of Wimbledon) Director, Network of Sikh Organisations UK

The importance of the Guru Granth Sahib to Sikhs

January 9th, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Current Issues - (0 Comments)
Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Granth Sahib

The metaphor ‘living Guru’ emphasises the importance of the Guru Granth Sahib to Sikhs. Unfortunately, as we see in some gurdwaras, some Sikhs take this too literally. I think it is better to describe it as the embodiment of the Gurus’ teachings and the SOLE perpetual guidance for all Sikhs. We emphasise the importance of the Guru Granth Sahib every time we conclude the Ardas with: ‘Saab Sikhan ku hukum ha Guru Manio Granth.’

With this clear injunction in mind, why the deafening silence from Sikh leaders and Sikh organisations about the antics of those in Patna Sahib who have placed the cleverly named Dasam Granth alongside the Guru Granth Sahib? Why the silence over the action of the Jathedhar there asking us, on the 350th anniversary of the birth of Guru Gobind Singh, to ignore the Guru’s clear injunction on the primacy of the Guru Granth Sahib and say, ’Guru manio Granth and Dasam Granth’.

Those who have studied the Dasam Granth will know that for the most part it consists of praises of Hindu avtars, denigration of women and frankly pornographic tales. Could there be a greater insult to our Gurus and the world Sikh community than placing such writings, wholly contrary to the Gurus’ teaching, alongside the Guru Granth Sahib?

Sikhs should wake up and ask, why has the government of India spent hundreds of crores of rupees printing and distributing the Dasam Granth, other than to dilute and Hinduise Sikh teachings?  Something the Punjab government did a few years earlier for similar motives.

The Network of Sikh Organisations UK (NSO), has consistently emphasised that the Guru Granth Sahib is the sole religious guidance for Sikhs and we should shun all sants, babas and now politicians and self-seeking Jathedhars who would have us believe otherwise. This is the position of the NSO.

What though is the position of the Sikh Council, The Sikh Federation, the Sikh Network, Ramgarhia Council, City Sikhs, British Sikh Federation, Nishkam Seva Jatha (whose leader Mohinder Singh is in Patna) and similar organisations in the USA, Canada and other parts of the world. The world Sikh community is entitled to clear unequivocal answers and action from those who claim to represent them. Silence also speaks volumes.

Indarjit (Lord Singh of Wimbledon) Director, Network of Sikh Organisations UK


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