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
New_Year__s_day__11.jpg

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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Holding Members of Congress Accountable on Sikh Issues

220px-BhagatsinghthindYesterday, the Washington Post reported that a bipartisan group of 105 Members of Congress sent a letter urging the Department of Defense to end a presumptive ban on devout Sikhs who want to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Over the past several years, civil rights group, The Sikh Coalition, has been working to address the issue of equal opportunity in the Armed Forces allowing all Sikhs to serve.  Since 2009, three Sikh Coalition clients—Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba—have received rare and historic accommodations to serve in the U.S. Army with their articles of faith intact.  A timeline of the efforts can be found here.

The Members wrote:

Dear Secretary Hagel,

We respectfully request that the United States Armed Forces modernize their appearance regulations so that patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith.

Devout Sikhs have served in the U.S. Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada, India and the United Kingdom, among others. Notably, the current Chief of Staff of the Indian Army is a turbaned and bearded Sikh, even though Sikhs constitute less than two percent of India’s population. Throughout the world, and now in the U.S. Army, Sikh soldiers are clearly able to maintain their religious commitments while serving capably and honorably.

After hearing from their constituents, many Members of Congress who represent large constituencies of Sikhs signed onto this letter representing the importance and value of political engagement.  Unfortunately, there were also Members of Congress – some who represent Sikh constituents, who fund-raise within the Sikh community and even sit on the American Sikh Congressional Caucus who did not sign this letter.  This includes my own Member of Congress, Devin Nunes who “represents” (or that’s what we thought) a large constituency of Sikhs in the Central Valley of California.  Other missing signatories include Congressman LaMalfa and McClintock – who, in the past, have reached out to the Sikh community for support.

It isn’t enough to simply invite Members to our Gurdwaras and offer them saropay.  We have to hold our Members of Congress accountable once they leave our Gurdwaras and are challenged to support our issues on the Hill.  Our presence and political engagement will only make a difference when we continue to take a leadership role to address inequity in our society and establish a strong voice on behalf of the Sikh community.


Hair double standards?

An unexpected video posted on the Jezebel.com has gone viral in the last 24 hours. The moving clip highlights the  story of 23-year-old Harnaam Kaur from Slough, UK who has a full beard. Harnaam’s polycystic ovary syndrome led to her facial and body hair growth as a pre-teen, resulting in intense bullying and harassment from her peers. Harmaan took amrit as a 16-year-old, proudly embracing her Sikh identity and her unshorn hair — facial hair included.  It seems the teenage Harnaam found the strength to overcome years of isolation and self-loathing in part through Sikhi.

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The Center for Change

harjitblogpicBlogged by Harjit Singh

Many people who know me wonder why as an astrophysics and geophysics major I interned in the office of Congresswoman Judy Chu. In her office I have was not only able to explore my interests, but I also served my Sikh community and built a network of friends and mentors who will likely be there for me as I ready to launch in the world- post- undergrad.

As an astrophysicist, I was assigned to conduct research on NASA’s priorities and goals. I read the Congressional Research Survey Reports about NASA, attended hearings on the topic of NASA reauthorization, and wrote memos summarizing those hearings. The internship helped me to understand the future of space exploration and become somewhat of an expert in the policy aspect of this field.

One of the highlights was meeting Bill Nye at a NASA event I attended through my internship. This man helped many kids fall in love with science so meeting him was inspirational.
In terms of advancement of Sikhs, I believe I contributed to the cause during my time in D.C. First, it was a positive step adding to the diversity but specifically increasing the Sikh presence and visibility in the city, especially on Capitol Hill. Even in a city filled with graduate and professional degrees, there remains much ethnic and religious ignorance. Luckily, I had the opportunity to dispel some of that ignorance through my daily interactions with people. Also, with Judy Chu being a co-chair of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, I worked on a few cool things for the caucus. My most important contribution would have to be writing the first draft to a resolution (H.Res. 334) that was introduced in Congress to commemorate the anniversary of the shootings at the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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Raising Sikh awareness — without and within

Co-blogged by American Turban and Sundari

San Quentin State Prison, California.

San Quentin State Prison, California. (Image: San Quentin News.)

The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization, was recently asked to present to a group of inmates at San Quentin State Prison in Northern California.  Organized by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, which has a weekly class inside San Quentin State Prison called SQ ROOTS (Restoring Our Original True Selves), the organization was asked to make a presentation about the Sikh community.  The class is modeled after Asian American Studies courses, covering topics such as history, culture, personal experiences as well as health and reentry issues.  The class is comprised of Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, Chinese, Mexican in addition to Punjabi Sikh men.

The presentation included a Sikh awareness talk followed by a discussion on the post-9/11 challenges experienced by the Sikh community, including hate crimes, school bullying, religious profiling and workplace discrimination.  It was a unique experience for both the Sikh Coalition volunteers as well as the inmates who noted at the end that they were “grateful” and “thankful” to have learned about the Sikh community and the issues that Sikh Americans were experiencing.  It was a moving experience and pushed us to think about restorative justice and the role of forgiveness within Sikhi.

Many of us on the “outside” have preconceived ideas about what life is like inside the prison system. To be sure, our few hours inside the prison and interacting with the inmates may not be a fully representative view of prison life. Yet, the warm reception we received by inmates before, during, and after our session was eye-opening; the inmates in our class were very engaged, courteous and collegial. We enjoyed the positive and warm atmosphere exuded by each member of our audience, and were touched by the obvious desire by these inmates to learn more about the Sikh community, and to even empathize with some of the issues that Sikhs in this country have faced.

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The Sikh response to homophobia in India and beyond

A few weeks ago, the Indian Supreme Court re-criminalized sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex. The Supreme Court overturned a 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court to strike down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which came directly from a British colonial law from 1861. Section 377, which was just reinstated, states:

377. Unnatural offenses — Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

As Prerna Lal states about the recent ruling, “the Indian Supreme Court has re-criminalized gay sex in India, rendering almost 20 percent of the global LGBT population illegal.” As a result, LGBT Indians and their allies in India and around the world have taken to the streets, signed petitions, and engaged in creative actions through social media, showing their outrage about this backwards decision.

But what has the Sikh response been? I have previously written about the homophobia rampant in our community and how ironic it is, given our Gurus’ deep commitment to equality and social justice. In the days after the ruling on 377, I wondered if any Sikh activists committed to LGBT equality would come out of the woodwork. I also wondered about the Sikh response to the ruling in India and if any Sikh institutions publicly supported or lobbied for this ruling. Embarrassingly, Sikh institutions have publicly campaigned against LGBT equality in the past, including supporting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the US a few years back.

Enter Kanwar Saini, aka Sikh Knowledge, a young, openly gay hip hop artist in Toronto. In protest of 377 and as a part of a social media campaign, Saini posted a photograph of him kissing another man on Facebook, which went somewhat viral and led to a lot of discussion and debate about Sikhi and gay rights. Facebook removed the photo from his page for 16 hours, quite possibly due to a whole lot of homophobic Sikhs reporting the picture to Facebook as offensive.

Saini recently appeared on CTV discussing the incident and his response.

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Year in Review: The Best and Worst Sikh Moments of 2013

The Best:

  1. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh went on a hunger strike for 44 days which led to the release of 4 political prisoners and increased international attention on human rights in India. We were all deeply moved and inspired, and Bhai Sahib sparked a new movement!

  2. Sikh women claimed their place in new and outstanding ways!

    • Balpreet Kaur gave this inspiring talk. We all love her.

    • SAFAR held it’s second annual Young Women’s Leadership conference, took us beyond International Women’s Day and shared a beautiful message on the International Day of the Girl.

    • The Sikh Coalition acknowledged International Day of the Girl for the first time.

    • The Sikh Activist Network featured poems about rape in India.

    • Sikhnet hosted an online youth film festival focused on KAUR. How amazing is that?!

    • The Sikh Art & Film Festival added a female speaker to their panel and 18MillionRising stepped in to support gender equality.

    • My awesome friends are building a Dastaar Tutorial Project for women (more details to come soon). Maybe now I can figure out how to keep a patka on my head that doesn’t slip off underneath my dastaar. Win!!!!!

  3. We marked the one-year anniversary since Oak Creek and grieved several other hate crimes but still came out on top.

    • Piara Singh was attacked in Fresno and the community rose to the occasion in inspiring ways, serving meals and buckets full of compassion to local families.

    • Dr. Prabhjot Singh invited his attackers to worship with him and shifted the narrative of justice when it comes to hate crimes.

    • The Sikh Coalition released a new version of Fly Rights. Rockin it!

    • Jasjeet Singh spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. No big deal.

    • Dr. Kiran Arora began a study on religion and race-related stress among North American Sikhs. Much-needed.

    • Turban Myths was released, the first national public perception assessment on the Sikh American community, conducted by SALDEF in collaboration with Stanford University. Nicely done! Continue Reading »


To Dr. Prabhjot Singh’s Attackers: A bed time story about white supremacy

Op-Ed printed in The Harlem Times Nov/Dec Issue

White supremacy typically evokes images of Klansmen on night rides setting homes ablaze with burning crosses or white policemen hosing down African American protesters during the civil rights movement.  However, white supremacy is also what led a group of black teenagers to violently attack a Sikh man in Harlem this September.  Given that the attackers are not white, how then is white supremacy related?

Early reports indicated that a group of 15-20 young boys assaulted Dr. Prabhjot Singh yelling “Terrorist” and “Get Osama,” leaving him with several injuries including a fractured jaw.  What Dr. Singh experienced is not an isolated incident.  Though violence against Sikhs has increased in the last 10 years and some attribute this to 9/11, it is part of a much more complex narrative that pre-dates 9/11: long-standing histories of oppression and genocide of Sikhs in pre-colonial and post-colonial India as well as systemic racism in the U.S.  Media reports of the attack against Dr. Singh have followed an almost prosaic plot, identifying post 9/11 backlash, Islamophobia, racial profiling and misidentification as the usual suspects but failing to address white supremacy as a root cause in both the past and present.

Though police have not yet identified the attackers, accounts from Dr. Singh and eyewitnesses intimate that his aggressors were young black boys.  When Melissa Harris-Perry interviewed Dr. Singh, she remarked on her surprise that his assailants represent a group also targeted by racism.  However, it is precisely their experience as targets of racism which likely motivated them.  Black males continue to be targeted and profiled as dangerous or unsafe or less competent at work and school, as evidenced recently by the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk tactics and the murder of Trayvon Martin.  Historically, groups systematically targeted by racism scapegoat other groups that pose real or perceived threats.  During the founding years of the United States, divisions between communities began when slavery and colonialism were the reality of white on black relations.  Tensions between people of South Asian and African heritage have an equally long history, spanning the 19th century when Indians first immigrated to Africa and the U.S.  Lastly, race still defines our society, the way we see ourselves and other groups of people as it has for centuries though now in a more diverse context.

In many ways, what Dr. Singh experienced was similar to the way Irish, Jewish and Japanese immigrants were scapegoated in the 19th and 20th centuries in the U.S.  Continue Reading »


UPDATED Call to Action: Sikh Art and Film Foundation excludes female panelists for the second year in a row

BREAKING NEWS: The Sikh Art and Film Foundation has responded by including a female speaker in next week’s Leadership Summit!!! Great progress.  Yet, the lack of representation of women and girls from 2004 – 2012 in the film festivals and galas still needs to be addressed, and this is a community wide issue.  See below for actionable solutions.

Via Email:

November 15, 2013 7:43PM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

Dear Sikh Art and Film Foundation,

I am very glad to see that Rashmy Chatterjee will be speaking at next Friday’s Leadership Summit.  This is a tremendous gain for our community as most of the speakers at the summit have been men since 2011.  This represents a trend in many Sikh organizations I hope we can change together. As a Sikh woman and resident of NYC for the last 11 years, I have followed your organization since it’s inception.  Over the years, I have attended many of your events and have been so inspired by the films, speakers and attendees.  I have also noticed the lack of representation of women and girls in your programs.  Though you took a step forward this week, I believe you could be doing more to address, highlight and celebrate the challenges and triumphs of Sikh women and girls whether in your Film Festival, Heritage Gala or Leadership Summit.

I understand that your goal is to transcend the dichotomies and binaries of gender and other categories to sustain the universality and equality that our Gurus envisioned in order to promote and preserve Sikh and Punjabi heritage.  I share your vision and do not condone a gender binary or bias towards either men or women.  I am also aware that you face limitations as all organizations do, in particular that you must base the selections of films on the submissions you receive.  However, Sikh men and boys have been a central part of your programs in a way Sikh women and girls have not and this indicates a bias – whether intentional or not.

From 2007 to 2012, none of your Gala awards for Leadership and Vision have been presented to Sikh women.  In fact, the only women who received awards were for Creativity/Art with the exception of Shonali Bose who received an award for Courage and Shelley Rubin who received an award for Leadership jointly with her husband.  For 5 years in a row you have only presented Sikh women with awards for Creativity/Art and no other category.  As a Sikh woman, this sends a message to me and the next generation of Kaurs that women can be honored for creativity and art but not for leadership and vision.  It raises questions about your beliefs and assumptions related to gender roles and women’s capacities in relation to men.  This is most certainly not the message young Kaurs should be receiving, nor do I think this is your intention based on the email I received from Ravi last week.         Continue Reading »


Focusing the Lens on Sikh Women

girl-email-featureThere are only a few days left in the annual SikhNet Youth Online Film Festival.  This year’s theme, “onKaur: Focusing the Lens on Women”, brings together a collection of 18 films by and about Sikh women.  The films look at the idea of “Kaur”, what that means and how it can be represented in film.

The films have been categorized as documentary (“think”) and drama (“cry”) with issues including: Anand Karaj, bullying, hair, health issues of Panjab, gender justice, family, and gatka among others.

The film festival is important for several reasons and this year’s theme brings to light the need to include Sikh women’s voices in conversations around identity and community.  It’s a valuable way of showcasing issues affecting Sikh women.

Here’s how to view and vote:

The film festival also provides a platform for young filmmakers to showcase their films to a wider audience.

1. View the documentary films here and vote via Facebook.

2. View the drama films here and vote via Facebook.

Voting ends on October 9th.

 


A Critical Analysis of Post 9/11 Sikh American Activism: Addressing White and Christian Supremacy

Guest Blogged by Jaideep Singh

As the Sikh American community embarks yet another mobilization against hate attacks— since this latest episode of violence has really hit home with many Sikhs in a way rarely seen since Balbir Singh Sodhi— we would do well to first answer the difficult, necessarily critical questions posed by my sister Nina Chanpreet Kaur in her thoughtful, passionate piece from last year.[1]

Our efforts at “education and outreach” clearly have yielded perilously little success— as measured by the safety of our communities. So education obviously is NOT enough. Reality is far more complex and ugly. A person who would attack a gurdwara is not coming to an open house or community feeding (langar) to abate their hatred. The long list of those in our communities who have been injured and killed, and the homes and gurdwaras defaced, testifies to as much. We cannot advance by hiding in our gated communities, far from the raw racial realities daily faced by our less fortunate sisters and brothers.

Fighting centuries of entrenched, utterly irrational white [and Christian] supremacy is neither an easy task, nor a short term one. Many of us cannot even bring ourselves to admit these forces even exist, let alone how they permanently define Sikhs as racial and religious outsiders. That naïve approach must end, replaced by a sophistication borne of serious historical study of U.S. history.

Continue Reading »


Quebec proposes another ban on religious garb (off the soccer field)

Quebec is at it again. Just a few months after the Quebec Soccer Federation reversed its ban on turbans and other religious headwear on the field after a whole lot of public outcry, officials in Quebec have introduced a proposal to ban “conspicuous religious symbols” from public sector workplaces. These so-called symbols include the turbans, hijabs, and even yarmulkes.

The proposed policy in Quebec would allow public service employees to wear the kinds of "symbols" on the top row but not the bottom five.

The proposed policy in Quebec would allow public service employees to wear the kinds of “symbols” on the top row but not the bottom five.

The proposal is drawing lots of criticism, including from federal government officials in Canada. Minister of Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney stated, ”we are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion and based on their deepest convictions,” and promised to put any law that passes through constitutional review.

Ironically, two years ago, Kenney, not particularly concerned about people’s deepest spiritual convictions, announced a ban on burqas from citizenship ceremonies, citing women’s liberation as part of the justification. The new proposed policy in Quebec also includes a burqa ban:

The proposal also requires people receiving state services “to make their faces completely visible,” a measure aimed at banning the burqa, a traditional head-to-toe garment worn by some Muslim women.

Quebec premier Pauline Marois had told a Quebec newspaper that, for her, a day care teacher wearing a head scarf carries a “connotation of a certain gap between the respect of equality between men and women, of a sort of submission.” (link)

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