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Author Archives: Hardeep Singh

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

Sri Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara Southall

Sri Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara Southall

The Home Secretary’s recent visit to Southall gurdwara to discuss hate crime is a welcomed gesture of goodwill, but has the government’s biased approach to non-Abrahamic faiths changed? The visit on 21 December 2016 came subsequent to a letter we addressed to the Home Secretary on 30 Nov 2016. Despite chasing, we’ve yet to receive a response. During the intervening period however, the Home Secretary has managed to accommodate a visit to Southall gurdwara to discuss ‘the importance of tackling hate crime against Sikhs.’ Regrettably comments from Sikhs who met the Home Secretary during the visit have been unhelpful.

The NSO has long been highlighting the government’s inadequate approach in tackling hate crime against non-Abrahamic religions. During this time, concerns have been raised with both the Home Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Remarkably, the government’s hate crime action plan ‘Action Against Hate’ failed to acknowledge the suffering of Sikhs, Hindus and other non-Abrahamic faiths. Furthermore we understand that non-Muslims are still being recorded incorrectly under the ‘Islamophobic hate crime’ category, despite revealing this through FOI last year. This is simply not good enough.

We are not aware of a single government funded project to tackle the suffering of Sikhs or Hindus, nor is there a separate government funded hate crime monitor for either community. News that a gurdwara has made a successful bid for improving security through a Home Office scheme is welcome. We were also heartened when Greg Clarke, (former Secretary of State for DCLG) wrote to Lord Singh last year, confirming religious hate crime would be dissagregated come April 2017. However it’s clear much more needs to be done in order to create a level playing field.

For the sake of transparency we’ve decided to publish last year’s letter to the Home Secretary, which was supported by other leading Sikh and Hindu organisations.

nso_hate_crime_301116

Our Sikh World – Lady Singh & Mrs Maker interview Hardeep Singh

January 1st, 2017 | Posted by Hardeep Singh in Videos - (0 Comments)

Graphic symbols of different religions on white
Earlier this week the government’s strategy against Islamic terrorism was debated further to a question tabled by Lord Pearson of Rannoch. The UKIP Peer asked the government: “whether, as part of their strategy against Islamic terrorism, they will encourage United Kingdom Muslim leaders to re-examine the Muslim tenet of abrogation.”

Contributing to the debate Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations said:

“My Lords, whenever the question of religion is raised in this House, there seems to be an air of embarrassment, as if it were something private that should not be discussed. The reality is that it is very much the concern of us all. The suffering in Syria and the weekend outrages in Cairo and Istanbul show that a force, religion, which has a potential for good, is being used these days as a force for evil.”

He went on: “Does the Minister agree with the findings of the Louise Casey report that the interfaith industry has done very little to combat this, and we need an actual discussion of the concerns that people feel, rather than being superficially nice to each other?”

Agreeing religion should be a force for good, Minister of State, Baroness Williams of Trafford confirmed the government would be considering Dame Casey’s review in the new year. Published earlier this month, the Casey review highlighted the government’s reliance on interfaith groups and faith leaders to promote British values. The report stated objectionable cultural or religious views had not been challenged due to the fear of being labelled ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobe.’

(Above: Lord Singh)

(Above: Lord Singh)

Leading a debate last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury put forward a motion in the Lords exploring, “shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities.”

Celebrating British values of generosity, fairness, justice and the rule of law, the Archbishop reflected on post-Brexit Britain. He said: “unless we ground ourselves in a clear course and widely accepted practices, loyalties and values—what I will call values in this speech—we will just go with the wind.”

Contributing from a Sikh perspective, NSO Director Lord Singh’s speech is reproduced in full below:

“My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and to build on some of the things he has just said. In the last few years of the 20th century, I was part of the Lambeth group, representatives of different religions who met at Lambeth Palace to plan celebrations for the new millennium and the layout of the Faith Zone in the Millennium Dome. We were conscious of the fact that in the 20th century more people had died in war and conflict than in the rest of recorded history, and we reflected on hopes for a better future.

I was asked to head a small group to draw up a list of values for peace and justice in the 21st century. As a start, I put forward a list based on the teachings of the Sikh gurus, and the commonalities between different faiths became evident as the list was virtually agreed as it was. It was prominently displayed in the Faith Zone of the Millennium Dome and talked about in various conferences; then it was filed away in the archives of Lambeth Palace and the repositories of other faiths. Let us fast-forward a few years to another meeting at Lambeth Palace—in the very same room where we used to meet—and a charismatic preacher from America saying that what we needed were values.

There are plenty of values about and plenty of guidance in our different religious books. For most of our faiths, it can be put on one sheet of A4. The problem is that although stating those teachings and values is relatively easy, it is extremely difficult to live by them. So we humans find surrogates and alternatives for true and difficult commitments, such as rituals, penances and pilgrimages; such actions give a sense of satisfaction and spirituality. But as Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, observed, in themselves they are,

“not worth a grain of sesame seed”.

The guru taught that living true to such values is what really counts. The task then given to the nine succeeding gurus was to live true to those teachings in very challenging social and political times—and it was not easy.

One value that we call a British value is tolerance and respect for others. Guru Arjan, the fifth guru, showed that respect by inviting a Muslim saint, Mian Mir, to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, which was constructed with a door at each of its four sides to denote a welcome to all coming from any geographic or spiritual direction. Inside the temple or gurdwara and in all gurdwaras, a vegetarian meal called langar is served to all, without any distinction of caste or creed. When the Mughal emperor Akbar visited the guru, he, too, was asked to sit and eat with people of different social backgrounds.

The guru also added verses of Hindu and Muslim saints to our holy scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, to show that no one faith had the monopoly of truth. However, living true to such basic values is not easy: the guru was arrested and tortured to death in the searing heat of an Indian June, for daring to suggest that there was more than one way to God. Sikhs commemorate that martyrdom not by showing any sign of bitterness but by serving cool, refreshing drinks to all near their homes or gurdwaras.

Some years back, I decided to organise the serving of free cooling drinks in Hyde Park, and the initial reaction of the Hyde Park authorities was not very encouraging. They said, “You can’t do that sort of thing in a royal park—everyone will start doing it”.

Guru Arjan’s successor, Hargobind, was imprisoned in Gwalior Fort for his belief, along with 52 other princes. On the festival of Diwali, the Mughal emperor said, as a gesture of good will, that Guru Hargobind was free to leave, but he stunned the emperor by saying, “I’m not going unless all the other 52 are also released”. He emphasised the importance of individual liberty for all—another British value.

In living true to exacting values, the ninth guru gave his life defending the right of another religion to worship in the manner of its choice. Voltaire said, “I may not believe in what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It was Guru Tegh Bahadur who years earlier gave that noble sentiment practical utterance. The 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, emphasised the importance of democracy, another British value.

The Sikh turban that we wear is supposed—and perhaps I should emphasise “supposed”—to remind us of the ideals by which we should live. The values that I have spoken of and those taught in Britain today are in fact universal values, taught by different faiths, and should be referred to as universal values. We urgently need to go beyond simply making lists or paying lip service to universal human values; we need to incorporate them, as the founders of our different faiths intended, into how we live, move and have our being.

It is hypocritical to talk of the commitment to democracy and pally up to tyrants such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, or to say, as our Trade Secretary said a couple of years ago, that we should not mention human rights when we talk trade with China. It is wrong that the weak and vulnerable in society should depend on charitable appeals for basic necessities when their needs should be a first charge on all of us. It is wrong to talk of respect for all, and then use families settled here for generations as bargaining chips for Brexit.

Britain has led the world in many ways. My hope is that we will now lead in closing the gap in our long-suffering world between values that we all accept and the lure of self-interest in both personal dealings and the way we view the world.”

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