If England were like a langar hall thered be no riots

Guest blogged byEren Londonwala

Each day I walk down Ferry Lanein Tottenham to my workplace. On Friday 5 August a police cordon blocked my usual route. I learned later that police had shot dead 29 year-old alleged gang-member Mark Duggan the night before. The precise facts remain unclear but early reports suggesting an exchange of fire between police and the dead man have been undermined Duggans gun wasnt discharged. This was a tragedy I thought and perhaps another instance of excessive force by police in a poor London borough with a large black population. Few anticipated what was to come.

On the next day members of Duggans family who by then had still not been contacted by police and other locals went to Tottenham Police Station for answers and to stage a peaceful vigil. Senior police ignored the group and around this time a young female, remonstrating, was apparently set upon by police with their batons. Unlike a previous contributor to this blog, who described this incident as relatively minor, given the understandably heightened passions live then in Tottenham, I feel the police action was heavy-handed and incendiary. I invite readers to view the evidence and make up their own minds. It was after these events that Tottenham, and in subsequent days other areas in London and England, erupted into the worst civil unrest for a generation.

Then, the causes were unmistakeable racist policing of ethnic minority communities and social deprivation. So, like some others, I viewed the outbreak of recent violence as a reaction to the continuation of unresolved problems, sparked by the suspicious killing of Duggan an understandable, and even legitimate, rebellion in other words. The fact that police cars were among the first targets of the Molotov bombs seemed to confirm this. Yet, as the days unfolded, and disorder spread throughout the capital and country, a distinction between the two eras became apparent: 2011 was marked, to a far greater degree than 1981, by opportunist looting which came to devastate as many small independent businesses as insured corporate chains and, amid the chaos, most tragically, led to further loss of life with Duggans death being all but forgotten.

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Fatting It Up at the Langar Hall

Guest blogged by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

My wifes family is Hindu, with varying degrees of connections to the religion. Some of them have statues of deities like Krishna and Ganesh scattered throughout the house, others have entire rooms sectioned off for bhajans and pujas, and then there are those, who shall remain nameless, that go on random fasts they cant explain. It is a potato diet. I will eat potatoes today. Who else wants aloo parantha and aloo pakodas? is the only explanation given during fasting for the nine days of Navratri. I still dont get it. Nor do I get why some Sikhs dont eat certain foods on Thursdays, or why Jains have such a problem with potatoes because living organisms might be killed, but have no qualms about dousing their bland food with ghee, or eating vast quantities of paneer.

Many of my wifes family live in a concentrated area in Central Jersey a few minutes from each other. In the neighborhood, there is a Hindu temple, which they visited once, and never returned to. No, not because of politics, or religious differences. The reason: they didnt like the food. It is a Gujarati Hindu Temple, and they are very Punjabi. So they go out of their way, driving through the most industrial and uninspiring landscape New Jersey has to offer, to eat Punjabi food at the Gurdwara.

The irony is not that they are Hindu and attending a Sikh Gurdwara when a Hindu temple is a few minutes away. Sikhism has, from its inception, been welcoming to all religions, and many of the verses in the Guru Granth Sahib were written by Muslims and Hindus. The four openings at the Harimandir Sahib invite people from all directions and walks of life. The irony is that through their food, which Gujaratis and Punjabis take very seriously, both communities have been the hardest hit by ailments like heart disease and diabetes, affectionately known as sugar.

My post is an expansion on Brooklynwalas post Working for Langar Justice, which talks about making the move for our Langar Halls to go organic, a move I highly encourage.

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Working for Langar Justice

I love food. I love to cook. I love to gather with friends, community, and sangat and share a meal together.

Because food it our most primal need and our common bond to the earth and one another, it can ground us as we stretch ourselves to draw in all the interlaced threadsso we can weave a whole, meaningful picture for ourselves. I still believe food has this unique power. With food as our starting point, we can choose to meet people and to encounter events so powerful that they jar us out of our ordinary way of seeing the world, and open us to new, uplifting, and empowering possibilities. – Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, from Hopes Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet

The Sikh institution of langar has always been something near and dear to me, partially because of my borderline obsession with food, but also because it really gets to the heart of Sikhi. The practice of langar, our free community kitchen, was started some 500 years ago by Guru Nanak to meet a basic human need eating and to create a space for community-building that reflected the Gurus radical vision of equality. Rules about food preparation and eating were (and still are) one of the central ways that caste oppression was enforced. Langar turned this all on its head. With everyone sitting together on the same level (on the floor) and eating the same simple food, which was prepared by people from all caste backgrounds, langar was nothing short of a revolutionary accomplishment.

It is with this lens that I want to discuss the food of langar itself.

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The Langar Hall Evolves in the New Year
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New Years Day at the Darbar Sahib

From all of us here at The Langar Hall, we’d like to wish all our readers a very happy new year! As youmay havenoticed,our posts have been intermittentlately. This is a result ofcommittment changes and transitions occuring in the lives of many of our bloggers. As is the case in all communities, change is inevitable, and TLH is no exception.

While the basic premise of this site will remain the same (see more here), 2011 is bringing us some fresh new voices and exciting changes. You can expect to see more posts by a number of guest bloggers (Mehmaan) and by February several new permanent bloggers. We are excited about the new writers who will be contributing to TLH this year, and we continue to encourage readers who are interested in participating in this process to send a note to admin[at]thelangarhall[dot]com.

Also, as previously mentioned, we hope TLH can be a place where Sikhs all over North America (and hopefully even beyond!)can find out about Sikhi related events happening in their areas. We are still working out the technology to make this happen, but we hope to get an events calendar up and running early this year.

Let the conversations begin,

Fateh!


A [Simple] Langar

Challenges_Sikh_Studies_Academia_Ajeet_Courm4d156542.jpgThe concept of langar is probably one of the most unique aspects of the Sikh faith. For hundreds of years now, Sikhs have carried on this tradition which was first started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and later institutionalized by Guru Amar Das Ji. W.O. Cole, who studies Sikhi, states “, the unique concept of universality and the system of Langar (free community meal) in Sikhism are the two features that attract me towards the study of Sikhism. Langar is the exclusive feature of Sikhism and found nowhere else in the world.”

There are essentially two elements of langar. One is clear in its definition of free kitchen and the tradition of expressing the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. The second element is that langar should be simple. The cost of langar is covered by voluntary donations from the sangat and is made through the hands of seva.

Today, langar has transformed into (as some people joke) the dollar buffet. I dont find this joke to be amusing at all. Everytime I go into a gurdwara now, I am overloaded by the amount of food which is made (and often times wasted). Langar was meant to be simple probably so that we could feed the most amount of people in the most efficient manner. Everyone wants their langar to be the most complimented and delicious meal but too often we forget that is not the intention.

We want the sangat to participate in langar seva and we want them to be able to afford to do so. Lets not add the adverse health impact of food we serve in gurdwaras today to this equation. If our standard today is that langar should include lavish spreads at breakfast time and lunch time, I am not surprised why gurdwaras need to constantly ask the sangat to please do langar seva. Lets keep the costs down and encourage the making of simple langars and this way, all community members (not just middle and upper class Sikhs) have an opportunity to do this seva.

An interesting read on the Sociology of Langar can be found here.


The Langar Hall Community Grows

Dear Langarites,

Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting posts by several individuals who answered our call for additional bloggers. We hope you welcome their writing andopenly dialogue with them. Just this past week, you have seen two of our guest bloggers emerge. As a collective decision, several of these bloggers will joinThe Langar Hall team- your commentary andfeedback will help us determine this next phaseof our growth. Please join us in welcoming our guest bloggers!

- The Langar Hall Team


The Langar Hall in 2008

As we approach the calendar year 2008, it also marks a year of our existence.

Looking at our top 10 posts in terms of the number of hits, I guess it is sort of a mixed bag on how The Langar Hall is finding its voice. Our top hit getters were usually part of the first comers rule. Our bloggers were the first to put up the Kenneth Cole Sikh Ad and our comment board became a one of the first internet hubs for fans to mourn the loss of Ishmeet Singh.

Still our breakthroughs, in my opinion, were our original commentary that sparked various discussions whether it was about Sikhs and the Media in Will the Revolution be Televised?, the issues of drug distribution in our community in the still popular Balbir Dhami article, looking at the role and effects of Punjabi Sikhs in the ensuing mortgage crisis, or even in creating our desi list in Sikh Medicine.

For the full list, see below the fold:

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Langar Hall Kaneda

As a young kid, the langar hall was my favourite space in our local Gurdwara. Located in the basement of the building, it was a home away from home. My parents helped build the Gurdwara in the 1970s and I spent many weekends helping with the preparation of Sunday morning langar. I occasionally helped with the cooking, often with the serving and always with the running around. The wide open empty space in the hall provided many hours of fun with playing tag and football with a ball made of tied-up ramaals (handkerchiefs). It was a place to hang out with kids that looked like me and who were going through the same things as me.

As I moved through my late-teens and what I affectionately call my “hard-core” phase, I saw the langar hall as a place serving only two specific functions; serving meals and eating meals (on the floor). Idle social conversation wasn’t what you were going to Gurdwara for. You could do that during the famous multi-family dinner parties that all Punjabi parents dragged their kids to. Gurdwaras were for serious matters and all these people sitting around and gossiping were just taking up valuable time space. Thankfully, I lightened up.

Fast forward a decade (or two) and now, I’ve reconciled my past. Growing up, while I was hanging with other kids who called “jooda time-outs”, the adults were also drinking chaa, talking and sharing stories with other adults. Through the universal acts of serving a meal and sharing a meal, the langar hall became a hub for my local Sikh community.

I’ve seen many an animated conversation in a langar hall. I’ve seen people talk with passion about faith, family, politics, business, sports. In fact, aside from the langar hall, our community has few other forums that provide for all walks of life to come together and share their ideas.

That is why I love that the Langar Hall has gone online. In the same spirit of my community Gurdwara, this site brings together ordinary Sikhs to talk about the issues of the day. The only difference here is that you have to supply your own chaa and mutheai (how the heck do you write that in English? Its worse than paranthas).

I’ve been asked to take on the seva of contributing to this great project. I do not have an English degree from a fancy American university like my illustrious colleagues, in fact I probably should have taken up my Grade One teacher’s offer of English as a Second Language classes. Regardless, I will promise to add another voice to the conversation. Not one that is highly educated or representative of all Sikh-Canadians but one of a second generation Sikh-Canadian born and raised in a country he loves as his own.

Let the gup-shup begin!


The Spirit of Langar

After attending a recent workshop organized by the Sikh Research Institute on The Guru: Connecting with the Divine Light, I have been pondering much of what was discussed. The focus of the workshop was becoming Guru centered and one of the questions that arose in the discussion was related to the discrepancy we see today between what our Gurus teachings say and how they are actually practiced. What many of us struggle with is asking difficult questions about whether our words and actions follow those principles that have been bestowed upon us in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Its dismaying to constantly hear about the divisions being created in our community. So, I was happy to come across a press release from Sikhcess, relaying information about a forthcoming global langar project providing an example of unity:

Today, Sikhcess, a community service organization, unveiled definitive plans to feed the homeless worldwide through its Feed the Homeless campaign on March 1, 2008. Sikh communities throughout the globe will participate, with efforts to feed the homeless and needy in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. [link]

I think this is what our Guru Ji intended when the revolutionary concept of langar was introduced. And to me, it is a good example of how Sikhi is working today.

Through this ideal of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind.

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Defending Our Mother Earth: Sikhs at the People’s Climate March

Guest blogged by Bandana Kaur

“Pavan guru paanee pitaa
Maataa dharat mahat10608260_10154584131160263_3283797911179145605_o
Divas raat du-i daa-ee daayaa
Khaylai sagal jagat”
-Guru Nanak Sahib 

In honor of the Sikh concern for preserving ‘Mata Dharat’ (Mother Earth), Sikhs from cities across the northeast are joining the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st, the largest mass movement for climate justice in history.

Next week, world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. The world is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

Why Are We Marching?

We march because Sikhi affirms the sanctity of the Earth.

We march because the ecological basis of Sikhi rests in the understanding that the Creator (‘Qadir’) and the Creation (‘Qudrat’) are One. The Divine permeates all life, and is inherent in the manifest creation around us, from the wind that blows across land and skies, to the water that flows through rivers and seas, to the forests and fields and all creatures of land and sea that depend on the earth for sustenance.

We march because Sikh Gurus teach that there is no duality between the force which makes a flower grow and the petals we are able to touch and sense with our fingers.

We march because the Sikh Gurus referred to the Earth as a ‘Dharamsaal,’ a place where union with the Divine is attained. Guru Nanak describes this in Jap Sahib, that amid the rhythms of Creation, the changing seasons, air, and water, the Creator established the earth as the home for humans to realize their Divinity in this world.

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Interview with Shonali Bose, director of Amu and Margarita, with a Straw

Shonali Bose, writer and director of the acclaimed 2005 film Amu (which powerfully uncovered the brutal realities of 1984) has just MWASflyerblackcompleted a new feature film called Margarita, with a Straw. Premiering next week at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film is a coming of age love story about a part-Sikh college student from Delhi named Laila who has cerebral palsy.

Given the popularity of Amu in the Sikh community, I wanted to interview Shonali about her new film, which explores equally important issues to those brought up in Amu—disability and sexuality among them. Read on for the full interview, and check out the trailer here.

 

What inspired you to make Margarita, with a Straw?

This my second film, which is inspired by my cousin sister Malini who has acute cerebral palsy. That’s a condition where the part of your brain that controls your motor skills is damaged at birth. But your emotional and intellectual abilities are intact.  When I was 40 and Malini was 39, I asked her, what are we going to do for your 40th? It’s absolutely the best birthday. Her speech is usually garbled and difficult to understand. But sometimes when she is angry or excited – it comes out crystal clear. This was one of those times. She banged her fist on the table and spoke loud and clear: I just want to have sex by the time I’m 40! I grinned sheepishly and assured her it was not what it was made out to be, etc. But later when I was thinking about what she said, what she so passionately wanted – I realized that I had never thought about her sexuality much. Or maybe I just avoided it as I didn’t know what to do about it. This started me on my journey of Margarita.

As I started exploring my fictional character and her issues, the big question that came up was one of self worth. This is a core issue that everyone faces, whether one is disabled or not. From there it went to a place of finding deep self acceptance and self love.

 

I loved your first film, Amu, which powerfully highlighted the anti-Sikh pograms of 1984 through the eyes of a young Sikh woman. The main character in your new film is also a Sikh woman. Where does your interest in telling “Sikh stories” come from?

I don’t see them as Sikh stories at all. The 1984 genocide is a watershed in the entire subcontinent. Like Partition. I made a film about it because no one had and it was covered up. And this history had to get out. To me, this is not a Sikh issue. It’s an Indian issue. Thousands of innocent people being killed in the capital city in broad daylight, organized by those in power—30 years later justice still not delivered. Every justice loving Indian—every Indian who cares about right and wrong and about their country—should be as bothered by this issue as those who were made victims. That was the aim of Amu. In fact, the leads are all Bengalis. It’s only in the end that the lead protagonist, raised as a Hindu Bengali, finds out that she is Sikh and wears a kara.

When I was making Amu, the son of one of my investors—Bhajneet Singh Malik—told me that he was bothered by the fact that Sikhs are only shown as victims, terrorists, or buffoons in films. That remark stayed with me. It’s a fact. When I started creating characters for Margarita and was thinking of the father’s role, I thought it would be nice if I made him Sikh. As a tribute to Amu. To the community that has given me so much love and support on my first film. Balraj Kapoor is an ordinary middle class father. He also happens to be Sikh. He had a love marriage and married his college mate who is Maharashtrian. The actor playing this role was actually little Amu’s father who got killed in Amu.

Bhajneet also said that he hated when Sikhs were played by non-Sikhs who put a turban on. So it was very important to me once I made this decision to cast a real Sikh. My lead protagonist in Margarita is the daughter of this man, Laila Kapoor. She is half Punjabi, half Maharashtrian. Half Hindu. Half Sikh.

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Kaur Life: Inspiring Lioness Queens to Rule the World

Guest blogged by Harleen Kaur

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Logo Kaur LifeSangat: a concept that has been emphasized to me, and thus I have reiterated to others, for as long as I can remember. My mom telling me to be aware of the friends I was keeping at school, my camp counselors telling me that I should strive for sadh sangat, or people who will push me to be better in every moment.

As a young Sikh girl growing up in Wisconsin, sangat was something that was redefined for me every day. Although I found it in my peers on my softball team to my friends in the school musical, the sangat I truly desired was the one I found at gurdwara and at the local Sikh youth camp. With such a small Sikh community in Wisconsin, however, it was not something that was easily found. Sangat came in moments few and far between, and it was often something that I desired more than what I received.

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Rape Her to Dishonor Them

Guest blogged by Shahe Kaur

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(Photo courtesy of Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times)

The story is not a scene from a movie or excerpt from a novel; it is the living nightmare of a 13-year-old rape survivor in Swang Gulgulia Dhoura, India. In a remote village in the woods, in the middle of the night, an intruder assaulted Devi while she sleeps in her hut.  Startled by the stranger’s presence, Devi screamed and Harendra, the intruder, escaped.  When Devi’s husband complained of the incident to the Panchayat (village elder), the Panchayat decreed that the punishment for Harendra’s crime would be that his sister, a 13-year-old girl, be raped by Devi’s husband, Pasi.  According to the Panchayat, only then would justice be served for Devi.  In this case, the Panchayat happened to be the father of Devi, so his impartiality in commanding his son-in-law, Pasi, to carry out his sentence wreaks more of revenge than justice.

Nonetheless, Devi went into the 13-year-old’s hut and dragged her out by her hair, in the middle of the afternoon, and then passed her on to Pasi. Spectators stood by silently as the 13-year-old cried out for help as she was dragged into the jungle where the Panchayat’s sentence was carried out.  “The girl limped back to her family’s hut 45 minutes later, and then set out on the hour long walk to the nearest police station.”  In an act of great courage, the 13-year-old girl filed a complaint at the local police station. In these cases, survivors of sexual assault rarely file complaints and pursue legal action because perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. Those survivors that do seek justice risk bringing “besti” (dishonor) upon themselves and their families, sometimes risking greater consequences of further abuse.

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PUZZL3PEACE: The Photography of Jusdeep Singh Sethi

PUZZL3PEACE is the alias of Los Angeles born Sikh artist Jusdeep Singh Sethi, who passed away last year in a tragic accident at the Puzzl3Peace Flier FRONTage of 21. Jusdeep, the younger brother of hip hop artist Mandeep Sethi, used 35mm film photography as his primary means of creative expression. He was known for his deep love of and connection to nature and planned to go to school to study naturopathy and holistic healing. 

According to Jusdeep’s tribute website:

Jusdeep recognized Mother Earth as his foremost teacher, while continuously giving praise to the most high divine spirit. He was never too proud to ask questions, working daily to diminish his own ego in order to learn more from those that surrounded him.

Jusdeep was a shining free spirit who created music and art with his sitar and film camera, while living a passionate life. Driven by his yearning for social justice and positive change, Jusdeep was also a genuine soldier for the causes. He had the power to light up a room with a smile and embodied the kind of energy that was delightfully contagious.

If you met Jusdeep even once, you remembered him forever.

Whether you had the privilege of meeting Jusdeep or not (sadly, I never did), his family and community are putting together an event in a few weeks well worth checking out if you’re in southern California. On August 16, 2014, community members, friends and family, and lovers of photography and art will be gathering in Los Angeles for the 1st Annual Puzzl3Peace Photo and Art Exhibition. The event will be a celebration the life and artistic work of Jusdeep and will feature his photos never seen before publicly. There will also be space to express and share memories of Jusdeep’s life, work, and impact on attendees.

According to Jusdeep’s brother, Mandeep, “This event marks a 1 year rotation around the sun since the transition of our young warrior. Jusdeep enshrined a piece of himself with all those he had the chance to share space with. When we collectively align together, we begin to fit together as parts of a larger puzzle. A puzzle that will bring us all Peace.”

Below are all the details. You can RSVP and spread the word on Facebook as well.

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Not Quiet, Not Idle – A Voice Against Sexual Abuse of Sikh Boys

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 12.05.13 PMGuestblogged by Daler Singh

Warning: This post contains graphic depictions of sexualized violence.

I was about 7 years old when a respected granthi and my dad’s friend sexually molested me. I would spend much of my afternoons and evenings at the gurdwara. My father is a devout Sikh and made sure he went at least once a day after work to visit, but Sundays were the days I remember my entire day could be spent at our local Gurdwara.  One evening, while divan was occurring, I went to go play hide-and-seek with my friends. During one of these games, I ran past a van that was parked on the premises of the gurdwara. It was brown and I remember there were curtains in the van. The door slid open and a young boy, a little older than me, climbed out. He immediately called over to me and asked me to come look inside the van, so I did.

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Lalkaar NY 2014 ReCap

Guestblogged by Jagga Singh.

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 5.29.13 PMIt was a hot June day, and I was stuck in traffic. This was the last place I wanted to be today. As the cars in front of me inched little by little, I imagined myself in my frigid air conditioned room reading a book or watching Netflix. Instead I was sweltering in the heat of my run down car slowly making my way across northern New Jersey so I could live in the woods for a weekend. When a friend I met at a book club told me about Lalkaar, a Sikh camp run by a progressive Sikh organization, I was excited to learn more about it and check it out. But at that moment in my car, I wish I had stayed behind.

It was only a week or so prior that I had finally decided that I wanted to go. Between job hunting and living at home, this summer was turning into a long rut. I wanted something to break the norm, I wanted to immerse myself into something larger than me. Unsure if they would consider my financial situation or the timing of my application, I sent a request in anyway. To my surprise, the folks at the Jakara Movement, the organization that runs the Lalkaar camp, accommodated my needs and were happy to have me attend. I couldn’t say no to that.

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From Khalistan to Palestine

Guest blogged by Moninder Singh

I am for Palestinian statehood, and at the same time I am for the existence of the state of Israel. I am against rockets fired into civilian areas killing innocents indiscriminately, but I am even more against what can only be seen as purposely targeted air strikes against the children and innocents of Gaza. I am against those who think the existence of Jews and Israel must be challenged, and in the same breath, I am against Zionist and Israeli nationalism that doesn’t recognize the state of Palestine or the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. It is indeed that simple in my mind.

A recent Palestine solidarity rally in the Bay area. Photo by Gurinder Singh Wadhwa.

A recent Palestine solidarity rally in the Bay area. Photo by Gurinder Singh Wadhwa.

It was only a recent photograph of a forward thinking and young Sikh waving a Khalistan flag at a pro-Palestine rally in California  that pushed me to give my views on the topic as well– but as a Sikh and not a wannabe political analyst. For weeks I have been listening to conversations from many within the Sikh community on the issue of Palestinian statehood versus the existence of Israel. The underlying question nobody is really touching on is, why does it have to be one or the other?

This illegal occupation and massacre instigated and carried out by Israel with excuses of Palestinian aggression has nothing to do with the fact that Yasser Arafat (former Leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization) was close to Indira Gandhi or the fact that Israel was instrumental in training Indian law enforcement agencies on dealing with threats to their national security which were also deployed in Punjab against Sikhs throughout the 1990s. These actions do not define the masses or their rights. It defines only misguided leadership and corrupt governments. What is even more troubling is the refusal of many Sikhs to comment on this issue by stating, “I am not an expert in Palestinian/Israeli affairs.” But who said you had to be? If it is only the “experts” that are needed to make decisions on the fate of an entire population, then we as Sikhs should take up shovels for digging graves and hauling carts of wood for funeral pyres because the oppressed peoples of the world who are resisting tyranny like the Palestinians will need them today, and make no mistake that we ourselves will likely need them tomorrow…just like we did yesterday.

A revolution never did and never will need “experts.” A revolution needs nothing but the people. And from them it demands their minds for the ability to think without fear, it demands their voices for the ability to speak without fear, and if needed, it will demand their blood to accomplish their dream to live without fear. It should never be that the oppressed of yesterday becomes the oppressor of today, but when that does happen and as it has happened in the case of Israel oppressing our Palestinian brothers and sisters, we as Sikhs have a duty to uphold the principles of our Gurus and stand in solidarity with and struggle alongside those who are being oppressed.
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Palestine/Israel 101

185 Palestinians have been killed, thousands injured, and nearly 1,000 homes destroyed in the last week in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes (underwritten by American tax dollars). My last post about the dangers of Sikh alliances with pro-Israel groups has sparked some important and much needed discussion and debate in our community about this issue.

Many people I talk to (Sikh and non-Sikh alike) explain they feel like they do not know enough about the situation to take a stance or get involved. Or they feel overwhelmed about the complicated history of the conflict. If this sounds like you or anyone you know (or you just want a history refresher), check out this short video put out by Jewish Voice for Peace. 

And if you don’t understand why this is a Sikh issue, see here, here, or here for more about that.


Solidarity with Oppression? The Danger of a Sikh-Israel Alliance
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A rally in Brooklyn, NY in support of the BDS movement on Monday.

Monday evening in Brooklyn, about 50 people gathered to protest Israeli apartheid and encourage the boycott of Israeli goods, a part of the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Inspired by the effective use of boycott and divestment tactics in the struggle against South African apartheid decades ago, the BDS movement is growing with recent victories such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and many colleges and universities deciding to stop investing in companies complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people.

The mood of Monday’s rally was heavy. What was intended to be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the BDS movement instead was a mourning of the many Palestinian lives taken in recent days by Israeli soldiers/bombs and civilians/settlers alike. Like Muhammad Abu Kheidr, a 16-year-old who was burned alive last week in what is widely assumed to be a revenge lynching by Israeli settlers after the bodies of three missing Israeli teens were discovered (blamed on Hamas without any evidence). Or Muhammad’s cousin Tareq, a 15-year-old Palestinian American who was badly beaten and detained for being at the wrong place at the wrong time (with the wrong ethnicity) a few days later. Or the 31 people in Gaza killed and countless others injured and displaced by 378 Israeli airstrikes in the last two days of its increasingly devastating “Operation Protective Edge.” Or the 10+ killed and over 360 kidnapped in Israel’s “Operation Brother’s Keeper” a few weeks ago in the West Bank, a form of collective punishment on the entire population after the  disappearance of three Israeli boys.

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Sikh Pride, Gay Pride

This past weekend was pride weekend in my home of New York City and many other cities around the country and world. I missed many of the festivities because I was traveling but did attend the annual Trans Day of Action last Friday, a march a rally organized by the Audre Lorde Project and many other groups on the historic Christopher Street Pier. It was a beautiful gathering of a very diverse and energetic group of queer people, trans people, and allies. The event was largely led by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people of color and immigrants, a breath of fresh air given how these individuals are so often invisible/marginalized/excluded in both the mainstream gay movement and in their own communities and families.

Towards the end of the rally, a young desi man came up to me, introduced himself, and asked me about local Sikh activist groups to get involved in. He, like so many others in our community, has not found a Sikh space where he can take action on the various social justice issues he is passionate about — including LGBT rights and justice. We had a nice, short conversation about the activist roots of Sikhi and our Gurus’ radical commitment to equality and liberation. Yet we are all too aware of the rampant homophobia in our community, which I have written about before.

Given this reality, I was happy to see a PSA circulating in the last few days that features a Sikh family speaking out against homophobia. We could certainly use one in Punjabi to reach more members of our community, but this Hindi video is a great start nevertheless.

4) PSA Hindi from Asian Pride Project on Vimeo.

 


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