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‘Sikhs should be wary of Hinduism’s capacity to act like ‘the boa constrictor of the Indian forests’ in absorbing other faiths and beliefs.’

Max Arthur Macauliffe

India’s boast of being a secular democracy exposed as hollow

On 10th November 2019 India’s Supreme court issued a seriously flawed and politically motivated judgment granting ownership of the disputed Ayodhya Babri Masjid site to the Hindu community.

In a lengthy, judgement, the court accepted that the demolition of the mosque in 1992 had been illegal, as was the surreptitious placing of Hindu idols in the mosque in 1949 claiming that they had ‘just miraculously appeared’ and were a proof that the mosque had been built on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. Instead, the Supreme Court anxious to implicate Sikhs in their narrative, relied heavily on fake history of the Sikh Gurus, asserting that they were Hindus and pejoratively referring to Sikhism, the 5th largest world religion as a ‘cult’, it went on to conclude that the site should go to the Hindu community.

The timing

  • The Supreme Court judgment was given on eve of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor from India to the Guru’s birthplace in Pakistan. The gurdwara at Katarpur Sahib and the surrounding area had been generously renovated by the Pakistan government.
  • The growing friendship between Sikhs and Muslims was seen as a threat to the BJP’s avowed aim of turning India into a Hindu State, by absorption of Sikhs into Hinduism and subduing of other minorities. Mr Modi decided to use a compliant Supreme Court to try to create suspicion and distrust between Sikhs and Muslims while at the same time relegating members of Sikhs to the status of a Hindu ‘cult’.

Absurd and biased arguments used by the Supreme Court

Fake history

  • False assertion that Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus made pilgrimages to Ayodhya because they were Hindus and it was an important Hindu holy site.
  • God appeared to Guru Nanak and ordered him to go to Ayodhya.

Facts

  • No historical evidence was produced to show the site was of historical importance to Hindus.
  • Guru Nanak argued against the practice of going on pilgrimages.
  • Guru Nanak rejected the Hindu faith and refused to wear the Hindu sacred thread. He also criticised central aspects of Hindu belief such as the caste system, idol worship, multiplicity of gods and goddesses. Guru Arjan wrote, ‘I am neither a Hindu, nor a Mussalman.’
  • The idea of God appearing to people is contrary to Sikh teachings which state God has no physical form.

Concluding Note

In 1990 Advani, the then president of the BJP rode through India on a truck designed like a chariot to whip up support for the Babri masjid to be converted to a mandir (Hindu temple).

The latest shenanigans of the BJP and their use of the Supreme Court to further their determination to make India a Hindu state are being watched and condemned by a wider world.

We call upon all Sikhs and people of other faiths to condemn the BJP’s attack on religious freedom. In the spirit of Guru Nanak’s teachings, we pledge to oppose all forms of religious bigotry and work for tolerance and respect for people of all faiths and beliefs.

                                                                                 ‘Look beyond divisive factions to loyalty to all                           in our one human family’                 

Guru Nanak, Japji Sahib, Sri Guru Granth Sahib

On Tuesday the 12th November Sikhs worldwide will be marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism. Sikhism is a world religion dedicated to the promotion of compassion, equality and tolerance between different faiths and beliefs.

Sadly, on this very day of celebration where Sikhs and non-Sikhs will be marking a significant day in human history, the fringe Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) have a judicial review listed in the High Court challenging the ONS’s decision not to include a Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box in the next Census.

Religion is already an option for Sikhs in the Census, and we maintain the ONS made the right decision – it is an absurdity to suggest Sikhs are an ethnicity. SFUK and their ally Preet Gill wrongly suggest Sikhs are an ‘ethnic’ group, rather than the religion founded by Guru Nanak, and one which is open to all regardless of ethnicity, colour or background.

Worst still, the SFUK are asking others to demonstrate ‘against continued discrimination’ outside the High Court on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. What a way to commemorate the birth anniversary of someone opposing artificial factional divisions.

 

cause célèbre – Asia Bibi

Earlier this week Lord Alton of Liverpool tabled a question in relation to aid programmes and human rights pertaining in particular to the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

Our Director, Lord Singh contributed to the debate. His full speech can be read below:

‘My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton on securing this important debate, and pay tribute to the wonderful work that he does in the field of human rights. When India was partitioned in 1947, as we have heard, the founding father of the new state of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, then terminally ill, said that it would be a country that respected all its minorities. He did not live to see his hope tragically ignored. A rigid and intolerant form of Islam, Wahhabism, funded by Saudi dollars, now pervades the country.

Strict blasphemy laws are used to prevent open discussion of religion, and the death penalty can apply to Muslims who try to convert to a different faith. As we have heard, a convert to Christianity, Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, spent nine years on death row before eventually being allowed to flee to Canada. Others have not been so fortunate. In one case, children were made to watch as their parents were burnt alive in a brick kiln. Minorities are frequently allocated menial tasks such as the cleaning of public latrines. Homes of minorities are frequently attacked and women and girls kidnapped and converted or sold into slavery.

I have at times questioned the appropriateness of Pakistan, with its ill treatment of minorities, still being a member of the Commonwealth, a club of countries with historic ties to Britain. Members are required to abide by the Commonwealth charter, with core values of opposition to, “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”.​

By any measure, there is a clear case for expelling Pakistan from the Commonwealth, but this will not help its suffering minorities and could make their plight worse. The way forward is to look beyond charters and lofty declarations to clear targets and measures of performance for all erring members—Pakistan is by no means the only one—to nudge them to respect human rights. We must also target aid to specific projects geared to fight religious bigotry and prejudice. Pakistan is a country revered by every Sikh as the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith. He taught reconciliation and respect between different faiths. In this, the 550th year of the Guru’s birth, the Prime Minister Imran Khan, in welcoming Sikhs to visit the birthplace of their founder, stated his desire to move in this direction, and we owe it to Pakistan’s minorities to redouble our efforts to help him and nudge him to do so.’

The full debate can be read here: https://bit.ly/2S08ec8

This weekend, Sikhs will be celebrating the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith. He lived at a time of conflict between the two main religions of the subcontinent, Hinduism and Islam, with each claiming superiority of belief. An important thrust of his teaching was to show that despite superficial differences, both faiths recognised common ethical values of truth, justice and responsibility. He also emphasised the oneness of our human family and the dignity and full equality of women.

Guru Nanak, born in Punjab, taught that the one God of all people is not in the least bit interested in our different religious labels, but in what we do for wider society.  Yet five and a half centuries on, in the same Punjab, the 9-year incarceration on death row of a Christian, Asia Bibi, and in Myanmar the appalling persecution of the Rohingya remind us that religious bigotry is still very much with us.

We claim to live in more enlightened times and yet in many parts of the world, religious bigotry continues to grow at an alarming rate, often leading to horrendous conflicts and the death of innocent people a situation made worse by the ready availability of guns and the trade in arms.

Religious bigotry will not go away by itself. It has to be challenged by the adherents of all faiths and by wider society. Faiths that seek to teach us how to live must be open to question and criticism. This was the approach adopted by Guru Nanak when religious rituals and superstitious practices had virtually obscured ethical teachings that are the essence of true religion. Importantly, he did not rubbish cultural practices that attach themselves to, or distort religious teaching, but in a manner reminiscent of the sermons of Jesus Christ, questioned their relevance.

When I speak to young people in a gurdwara, I say that if something said by a priest in a gurdwara defies common-sense, question it. Religious texts referring to challenges faced by a community thousands of years ago, need to be placed in the context of today’s times if they are not to be misused. Only then can religion become a true force for good in our troubled world.

 

 

Outsourcing is clearly a growth industry. If we make a call to any service provider it might well be answered by someone in Mumbai or Bangalore. It’ something we all face every day. As we juggle our complex personal lives, we can find ourselves entrusting the care of our children to childminders we sometimes scarcely know.

This outsourcing of responsibility goes much wider. Questions to ministers in Parliament, are often couched in terms of: ‘what is the government going to do about the care of the elderly, the grooming of vulnerable children, hate crime, knife crime, obesity, alcoholism, the dangers of the social media and much else. Over the weekend we had dentists calling for the government to act over an alarming rise in tooth decay in young children often caused by too many sugary drinks. These are complex social issues which can never have a single answer. With the best will in the world, government policy cannot simply make up for the neglect of personal responsibility.

Escaping personal responsibility is nothing new. In the India of Guru Nanak’s day, people would sometimes leave their families to wander in the wilderness in a search for God. The Guru criticised this abandonment of social responsibility and suggested that they go back home and look to the care of their families and wider society.

I was reminded of this while attending the official opening of a new, Sikh ethos school in Leeds recently. Running through the school’s DNA is an underlying ethos, common to many faiths and beliefs, of commitment to personal responsibility and service to those around us.

I was given a tour of the school with the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jane Dowson. Brightly coloured posters on the walls, and writing in exercise books, emphasised what I think of as the often missing other 3 Rs: Right, Wrong and Responsibility. The Lord Mayor looked at the list of British Values prominently displayed on one wall, and then at the summary of the essential ethos of Sikh teachings on another, and said they are one and the same! She continued, ‘if only we could get adults to live by such values’. Not easy. But a little less outsourcing of personal responsibility, can have huge benefits for us all.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – 13/11/16

November 14th, 2016 | Posted by Singh in Thought for the day - (0 Comments)

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Yesterday’s service at the Cenotaph was a touching reminder of the tragic loss of millions of young lives in the first and second world wars and in numerous subsequent conflicts. Today we are all too aware that lasting peace, based on universal respect for human rights, still remains a distant and elusive goal.

Guru Nanak whose birth anniversary Sikhs celebrate today, was himself a witness to the savagery of conflict, with forced conversions and atrocities. He was a man far ahead of his time. Instead of restricting himself to praying to God for peace, he also attacked the underlying causes of conflict, including supposed religious superiority and exclusive relationships with God; then used, and still used today to justify cruel and intolerant behaviour. The Guru in his very first sermon taught that the one God of us all was not in the least bit impressed by our different religious labels, but by what we do to ensure peace and social justice for our fellow human beings.

The Guru also criticised the belief that any one nation or group of people were inherently superior to those around them. He taught a belief in the equality and interdependence of all members of our one human family. Following the huge loss of life in the second world war, similar thoughts led to the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The reality of the world today is that while instant communications and interdependence in trade and commerce, push us to the realisation of a shared and common destiny, long engrained attitudes and prejudices, make it difficult for many to accept the new reality. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot be true to those, who, in the words of the Kohima Epitaph, ‘gave their today for our tomorrow’ unless we look towards a world that recognises an equal respect for all. It’s not easy to change deep rooted attitudes, but as Guru Nanak reminds us, it’s the only way to true and lasting peace.

 

 

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