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The Seat of the Timeless One

Many of you, like me, may have been following the recent debates in the UK over the establishment of religious courts. Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury has caused a furor with his comment that it “seems unavoidable” that parts of Islamic Sharia law will be adopted in the UK. In an interview with BBC’s Radio 4, Dr. Rowan Williams says that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

Dr. Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court. He says Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty.”

He suggests that having only one approach to law compels the loyalties and allegiance individuals hold for their cultural or religious codes of conduct and therefore poses “a… danger.” He supports aspects of Muslim law being accommodated into the legal system as have other aspects of religious law. (Currently, the Beth Din, Orthodox Jewish courts already exist in the UK).

“The principle that there is only one law for everybody is an important pillar of our social identity as a western democracy,” he said. “But I think it is a misunderstanding to suppose that people don’t have other affiliations, other loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and that the law needs to take some account of that…What we don’t want either, is I think, a stand-off, where the law squares up to people’s religious consciences. We don’t either want a situation where, because there’s no way of legally monitoring what communities do… people do what they like in private in such a way that that becomes another way of intensifying oppression inside a community.”

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Pardes Hoya Pardes

A recent article carried by Asian News International claims that many Pardesi Punjabis are sending their children back to Punjab for education. Citing Christian evangelism in places such as Canada, a desire to imbibe Punjabi values and tradition, and learning the Punjabi language were all reasons why some parents have decided to send their children to school in Punjab.

stamp.jpgOne particular school in Gurusar Sudhar Village (Ludhiana), Jatindera Greenfield School, seems to be catering to the needs of these pardesi Punjabi students. Boasting of a Western style curriculum, students are said to engage with computers, crafts, and languages. A preliminary Google search of the school cited a tree plantation camp and a kindergarten clay-modeling contest.

In the past, I remember parents would often threaten to send their children to Punjab if they misbehaved. I can think of a number of children still in Punjab for this very reason. Still others pardesi Punjabis would send their children to Indias most prestigious school as America, Canada, UK, etc. provided them the means to gain access for their children. So my question, would you consider sending your kids to school in Punjab? Why or why not? Is this some misplaced romanticism or is this a real alternative? What would be the positives and what would be the drawbacks?

A Sikh’s Rights

Lately there has been numerous stories affecting Sikhs around the globe, and an interesting number of them concern our innate rights as Sikhs. Sarika Singh, a 14 year-old Sikh girl living in Wales, was excluded from her school for wearing aKara. Last November a legal fight began for Sarika to be allowed back into her school, whom say she was “legally” dismissed due to violating their policy of “NoJewelry” to ensure equality for students. The school’s governingcommittee have yet to research the importance of theKaraand appreciate the significance it holds for Sikhs. Sarika has now filed hercasein a High Court.

Another ongoing issue concerns the French law passed which bans students from wearing “religious headgear” in schools. A great number of students have beenexpelledfrom class for not abiding with this ban, which in fact means Sikhs cannot wear turbans and Muslims cannot wear headscarves.(The Sikh schoolboys lost theirappealin a French court). I felt great disappointment and anger when this was passed in France, and I thought where are the rights of these individuals as Citizens of this country? Then I remind myself how Sikhs in the U.S. must have felt when the TSA was allowing the searches of theirTurbansin public. Thankfully with the perseverance of the Sikh community, and organizations like Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, and United Sikhs, we were able to “educate” people and facilitate an addendum to their policy. In1969Sohan Singh Jolly, a 66 year-old Sikh man living in theU.K., won a fight to wear his Turban on duty as a busman. I am amazed that we are still fighting for our rights as Sikhs, and yet we feel we have come such a long way. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to bring up the issueof this ban with French PresidentSarkozy, when he visits India later this month. Sikhs held apeacemarch to protest against the French turban ban earlier this week in New Delhi. (Now with India being tagged as one of the emerging economicpowersof the world, maybe Sarkozy will feel the need to make relations better with the Indian community, like Gordon Brown did earlier this week).

Tejinder Singh Sidhu wasdeniedentry into a Calgary court earlier this week due to wearing aKirpan. He had beensummonedby the court to testify as a witness, and was not allowed to fufill hiscivicduty and testify. Our rights as Sikhs to freely practice our faith arecontinuouslybeing violated. I am thankful that we have a great number of Sikh organizations that work incredibly hard to maintain and fight for our rights every day. But something is wrong in the world today where we are allowing such laws to be passed that discriminate, and areunjustified.

Maybe we fight more passionately for our rights becauseSikhiinstills values in us like equality amongst all people, respect and live by positive ideals, and fight for justice and fairness for all?

Sikh Diaspora 2007: Year in Review

newyear.jpgAs we celebrate the New Year and look forward to what it holds in store for us (at the very least an election!), it is important to look back and remember what we have experienced as a community this past year. In celebration of the Sikh Diaspora and what it represents to us today, here is a look back at some of the global stories, books, films and websites that impacted our community in 2007.

  1. Young Sikh Men Get Haircuts, Annoying Their Elders. Its usually college-going students who are more worried about looking good than about their spiritual identity[It] releases a certain amount of pressure.
  2. A new website, Sikh Chic, discussing articles related to the art and culture of the Sikh Diaspora was launched. We need to re-think the Sikh idea in the North American idiom, in our language, in our way of articulating our thoughts.
  3. The Sikh clergy issues an edict directing the Sikh Sangat to snap all ties, including social, religious and political, with Baba Ram Rahim Gurmit, head, Dera Sacha Sauda, and its followers.
  4. Several books for and about Sikhs are published and discussed including Shame, Sacred Games, Sikhs in Britain, Londonstani, Sikhs Unlimited, I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion.
  5. A Sikh-Canadian group slams the long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names. It was later noted that the immigration letter sent out was poorly worded.

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