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Why we should seriously consider the temporary closing of normal gatherings in gurdwaras to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19)

We have been followed the evolving government guidance on the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic closely and are aware of guidelines being disseminated by other Sikh organisations in response to it.[i] Many gurdwaras have already taken steps to curtail or completely stop services.

Although it’s not an easy decision to make, following discussion with medical professionals some of whom are at the frontline of tackling the disease, we have concluded UK gurdwaras should seriously consider temporary closure of normal gatherings to prevent transmission of Covid-19.

The reason we have come to this conclusion are as follows:

  • Public Health England have advised that those who are at increased risk of severe illness include those over 70 (without underlying disease) or those over 70 with comorbidities.[ii] Many of those who regularly frequent gurdwaras are over 70, and many of them are likely to have comorbidities like diabetes or heart disease.
  • During services in the gurdwara the congregation normally sit near each other. Public Health England have issued guidelines around social distancing and advise to, ‘avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as cinemas, restaurants and theatres.’[iii] Gurdwaras carry similar risks, especially large gatherings like the Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony).
  • Although recommendations on hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and respiratory hygiene[iv] have been issued, there remains a risk of transmission during the preparation and serving of langar (free kitchen).
  • As many Sikhs live in extended families, if someone were to pick up the virus from a gurdwara setting, there is a risk they could become a ‘super-spreader’ and Covid-19 could be transmitted to different generations in the same family, including the most vulnerable.

IMPORTANT

We have a wonderful religion and it would be useful if we devote some of the time that we and our children would normally spend in visiting the gurdwara, on reflecting on the Gurus’ teachings through studying Gurbani at home with our children, and through listening to, or watching Sikh religious programmes on radio, TV and the internet. Focusing on the teachings of Gurbani will help to carry us through these difficult times.

[ENDS]

Contact us: info@nsouk.co.uk

 [i] http://www.citysikhs.org.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-update-for-gurdwaras-united-kingdom/

[ii] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 23 July 2018 the APPG for British Sikhs, which is run by the Sikh Federation UK, announced they had written to 250 gurdwaras asking them if they supported their campaign for a separate Sikh ethnic tick box for the 2021 census. They say they received just over one hundred responses, confirming: ‘in a remarkable show of unity all 112 Gurdwaras, that include the largest Gurdwaras in the UK, have indicated they are in favour of a separate Sikh ethnic tick box.’

The figure of 112 was reported in the Times and has been something referred to in a number of articles in the mainstream media. We now have concerns about whether or not this number is accurate. A tweet by @SikhFedUK on 23 August 2018 (above) suggested Hounslow gurdwara (Alice Way) were one of the 112 that wrote to the APPG for British Sikhs in support of the ethnic tick box.

We asked Hounslow gurdwara if this was the case or not. The Joint General Secretary told us: ‘I was surprised to hear that allegedly, Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Hounslow had changed its position on Sikhi not being an ethnic group. Having checked with the President and the General Secretary today (both copied on this email), I confirm that we stand with the NSO and have not changed our position. We are of the view Sikhi is a religion made up of diverse ethnicity which cannot be classed as a single ethnic group.’

We have asked the Sikh Federation UK for comment, but they haven’t yet responded.

Interestingly, when Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal from the University of Birmingham raised legitimate questions in an article titled ‘Sikh ethnic tick box in the 2021 Census and a question about research and methodology’, she was bombarded with vitriolic tweets, some deliberately tagged into her employers. Given what we now know about Hounslow, should the secretariat to the APPG for British Sikhs not urgently release the list of 112 gurdwaras, briefing supplied and responses received?

Giani Amrik Singh Chandigarh

The NSO has spoken at length to Amrik Singh Chandigarh who shared a full and detailed account of the background to the violent attack against him, which we understand is currently under investigation by police authorities.

It is simply appalling that the victim of an unprovoked assault, is being blamed by some for shameful violence at Singh Sabha Gurdwara Southall earlier this week.

Last weekend Amrik Singh [pictured], a well-respected preacher from India was invited to speak at Gurdwara Singh Sabha Slough and his exposition of Gurbani was well received there. He was then invited to Singh Sabha Southall. His preaching urges us to respect the teachings of the Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib and not to follow false gurus and sects.

His uncompromising stance on the primacy of Guru Granth Sahib upset a gang of known hooligans from Tividale gurdwara in the Midlands. The gang owe allegiance to the so-called Dasam Granth in its entirety; despite the fact that it was compiled by non-Sikhs and much of its contents extol the exploits of Hindu gods and goddesses.

This is not the first time that this sect has resorted to physical violence against those that reject their distortion of our Gurus’ teachings. Another Sikh, beaten up by them a few years back, still walks with a limp. Unfortunately, some members of the Managing Committee in Southall belong to this sect. When they got to know of the invitation, they alerted the thugs who turned up at the gurdwara determined to stop Amrik Singh speaking.

In an attempt to diffuse the situation, the President, Gurmel Singh Mahli, invited the sect members and Amrik Singh to join him in a committee room to sort out their differences. The assault on Amrik Singh took place as they were on their way to the meeting room. Unfortunately, the President then decided to take the side of the sect and asked Amrik Singh (who had not spoken a word) to apologise or he would be barred from speaking in any UK gurdwara. Knocking off Amrik Singh’s turban undoubtedly hurt his sense of dignity and self-esteem and his physical injuries will last longer. In offering this visitor to the UK our sympathy and support, we should also look at and take action on the following underlying issues.

  1. Members of a gurdwara managing committee must commit themselves to following our Guru’s hukam to be true to the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and not those of any other cult or sect.
  2. Violence of any sort in a gurdwara should be reported to the police and perpetrators and their supporters should be barred until they give the sangat a public apology for their behaviour.
  3. Gurdwaras should only be places for the preaching of Sikhism. Those that want to preach distortions, however sincerely held, should do so in separate places of worship.

Action Required by Sikh Organisations in the UK

The NSO requests the Sikh Council, the Sikh Federation, City Sikhs and other Sikh groupings to join with us in condemning both the actions of the hooligans from Midlands, and the dereliction of duty of the management of Singh Sabha Southall for allowing its premises to be used as venue for anti-Sikh behaviour.

A prompt condemnation of the Takhsali bully boys will speak volumes. So also will silence.

Indarjit

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director Network of Sikh Organisations UK

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