Sikhs are a race?

Sarika Watkins-Singh won her case in South Wales this week. The news was in many newspapers, including The Guardian, which is normally well researched. Considering the high standard of journalism that its reporters are normally held to, it’s surprising that the following statement was made so off-handedly, in a story about Sarika’s case.

Mr Justice Stephen Silber concluded the school was guilty of indirect discrimination under race relations – Sikhs are a race – and equality laws. [link]sarika_watkins_singh.jpg

Um, we are?! Last I heard, Sikhi was a religion. How does a religion become a race? Where did this author get this idea from?

The only remotely related idea that this statement could come from stems from the antiquated idea that Sikhs are a martial race. But even wikipedia makes clear that this idea is no longer acceptable.

Martial Race or Martial Races Theory is an ideology based on the assumption that certain ethnic groups are inherently more martially inclined than others. It was a term originally used by the British, who observed that the Scottish Highlanders were more fierce in battle than others in the British Isles, and extended this concept to India, where they classified each ethnic group into one of two categories: ‘Martial’ and ‘Non-Martial’. A ‘martial race’ was typically considered brave and well-built for fighting but was also described as ‘unintelligent’. The ‘non-martial races’ were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles. Of late, this concept has been dismissed as Imperialistic and based on racial stereotypes. [link]


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44 Responses to “Sikhs are a race?”

  1. Jodha says:

    Um…Reema, in England the answer is yes, we are a race.

    Sikhs fought long and hard over a number of different issues to get recognition from the government. For a discussion how the Sikhs came to 'constitute' a race under the Race Relations Act of 1976, click here.

    Racial grounds include the grounds of race, colour, nationality – including citizenship – or ethnic or national origins. Groups defined are: Africans Caribbean’s, Gypsies, Indians, Irish, Pakistanis, Travellers, Jews and Sikhs.

    Muslims and Hindus have been angered that they were not included. This was a tactical decision by the Sikh community during the 1970s due to experiences of discrimination and vile attacks during the 60s and 70s. It was actually in reference to the Sikhs' ability to gain such recognition that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale commented that Sikhs are a separate 'nasal'.

  2. Jodha says:

    Um…Reema, in England the answer is yes, we are a race.

    Sikhs fought long and hard over a number of different issues to get recognition from the government. For a discussion how the Sikhs came to ‘constitute’ a race under the Race Relations Act of 1976, click here.

    Racial grounds include the grounds of race, colour, nationality including citizenship or ethnic or national origins. Groups defined are: Africans Caribbeans, Gypsies, Indians, Irish, Pakistanis, Travellers, Jews and Sikhs.

    Muslims and Hindus have been angered that they were not included. This was a tactical decision by the Sikh community during the 1970s due to experiences of discrimination and vile attacks during the 60s and 70s. It was actually in reference to the Sikhs’ ability to gain such recognition that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale commented that Sikhs are a separate ‘nasal‘.

  3. Camille says:

    Reema, I think there's a bit of confusion over the historical context; "Race Relations" in the U.K. are not limited to the American conceptualization of race. Given that race is a social construct, yada yada, it has a VERY specific political and historical meaning that is NOT derived from, or related to, Martial Race theory. A good example of this is the historic use of the term "Black" in the UK; Southall Black Sisters, for example, are an almost entirely desi organization. However, "Black" at the time of their founding reflected an identity that transcended U.S. concepts of color and ancestry.

    I think Jodha's link provides excellent context, and I do think it's fair to conceptualize of Sikhs as a nation in a similar (although very nascent) way to how Jews are viewed as a nation.

    Going back to Jodha's comment on hate-violence in the 70s, if you look at the number of hate-based assaults that resulted in murder during this time in the UK, nearly 80% were against people of South Asian descent, and of those, Sikhs were disproportionately represented relative to their total % of the desi and overall "minority" population (these stats aren't online, but are available through the IRR library; the government didn't start collecting this information in an organized way until 1976, 11 years after the passage of the first Race Relations Act).

    Also, in 2003 the act was expanded to include discrimination based on religious belief (thus incorporating Muslims, who had long gone unrecognized as a "racial group" that had experienced systematic discrimination).

  4. Camille says:

    Reema, I think there’s a bit of confusion over the historical context; “Race Relations” in the U.K. are not limited to the American conceptualization of race. Given that race is a social construct, yada yada, it has a VERY specific political and historical meaning that is NOT derived from, or related to, Martial Race theory. A good example of this is the historic use of the term “Black” in the UK; Southall Black Sisters, for example, are an almost entirely desi organization. However, “Black” at the time of their founding reflected an identity that transcended U.S. concepts of color and ancestry.

    I think Jodha’s link provides excellent context, and I do think it’s fair to conceptualize of Sikhs as a nation in a similar (although very nascent) way to how Jews are viewed as a nation.

    Going back to Jodha’s comment on hate-violence in the 70s, if you look at the number of hate-based assaults that resulted in murder during this time in the UK, nearly 80% were against people of South Asian descent, and of those, Sikhs were disproportionately represented relative to their total % of the desi and overall “minority” population (these stats aren’t online, but are available through the IRR library; the government didn’t start collecting this information in an organized way until 1976, 11 years after the passage of the first Race Relations Act).

    Also, in 2003 the act was expanded to include discrimination based on religious belief (thus incorporating Muslims, who had long gone unrecognized as a “racial group” that had experienced systematic discrimination).

  5. Reema says:

    Camille and Jodha,

    Thanks for the clarification!

  6. Reema says:

    Camille and Jodha,

    Thanks for the clarification!

  7. J.T. Singh says:

    Reema,

    I feel like the point of the article still stands. The way the term "marshall race" is thrown around when it come to Sikhs is ridiculous.

    While I understand the reason Sikhs fought for the the right to be defined as a "race" in England, I am slightly discouraged that action couldn't be taken in a way that didn't perpetuate such a stigma: it really can't work in a positive way for Sikhs, as races can be categorized especially in stereotypes, in ways that religions can't (but thats a whole other article).

    Jews are different. They actually ARE a race and define themselves as such. You are a Jew if you are born of a Jewish mother. Bloodline, is essential to being a Jew. This has of course changed with a number of different reformations…but many still maintain it.

    Anyway, thanks again Reema – I still maintain the wake-up call was necessary.

    -JTS

  8. J.T. Singh says:

    Reema,

    I feel like the point of the article still stands. The way the term “marshall race” is thrown around when it come to Sikhs is ridiculous.

    While I understand the reason Sikhs fought for the the right to be defined as a “race” in England, I am slightly discouraged that action couldn’t be taken in a way that didn’t perpetuate such a stigma: it really can’t work in a positive way for Sikhs, as races can be categorized especially in stereotypes, in ways that religions can’t (but thats a whole other article).

    Jews are different. They actually ARE a race and define themselves as such. You are a Jew if you are born of a Jewish mother. Bloodline, is essential to being a Jew. This has of course changed with a number of different reformations…but many still maintain it.

    Anyway, thanks again Reema – I still maintain the wake-up call was necessary.

    -JTS

  9. Sikhism? says:

    […] a link for this or something to verify your post, thanks? I did a quick search and came up with this, which seems to have been written by a Sikh and seems to confirm Muttys assertion, although there […]

  10. Jasmeen says:

    Im really lost here. I thought Sikhism was a religion not a race? I just had a huge argument with my father about this, on the census form he wanted to put sikh as our race and i was like "why don't they list catholics, Christians, and other religions if our religion is going to become our race?"

  11. Jasmeen says:

    Im really lost here. I thought Sikhism was a religion not a race? I just had a huge argument with my father about this, on the census form he wanted to put sikh as our race and i was like "why don't they list catholics, Christians, and other religions if our religion is going to become our race?"

  12. Roop says:

    Strictly, No. But if one goes by the definition of Sikhs Nation, they can call themselves a nation, but that is not a reference to a country, but of being part ofd Khalsa…Most Sikhs are Punjabi

  13. Roop says:

    Strictly, No. But if one goes by the definition of Sikhs Nation, they can call themselves a nation, but that is not a reference to a country, but of being part ofd Khalsa…Most Sikhs are Punjabi

  14. iSingh says:

    Sikhism is a religion !! That is news to me. I thought it was a spiritual philosophy.
    British imposed their concept of religion onto Sikhs for census purposes and lent all the ills that religions bring.

  15. iSingh says:

    Sikhism is a religion !! That is news to me. I thought it was a spiritual philosophy.
    British imposed their concept of religion onto Sikhs for census purposes and lent all the ills that religions bring.

  16. Rakesh Sood says:

    Sikhs r not a dffrnt race,all human beings belong to hosapiens categry.Its not even an independent religion,it is an amalgamation of diffrent spritual thoughts mainly from hinduism and islam,combined with some philosophy by the gurus.With so much mixture no wonder it doesnot have a consice or clearcut doctrinal message.

  17. Rakesh Sood says:

    Sikhs r not a dffrnt race,all human beings belong to hosapiens categry.Its not even an independent religion,it is an amalgamation of diffrent spritual thoughts mainly from hinduism and islam,combined with some philosophy by the gurus.With so much mixture no wonder it doesnot have a consice or clearcut doctrinal message.

  18. Dosanjh says:

    ^ Says a fella that worships flying monkeys. With his track record we should definately sit up and take notice of what he says about religion. :)
    Seriously though, what it shows is the respect given to Sikhism and Sikhs, not by Indians because they generally show it very little respect, but by the British. The highest authorities in English legal system examined the evidence and concluded that of all the worlds religions it was only two : Jews and Sikhs that deserved the title of a 'race' of people, thus given more protection in English Law than any other faith. But of course, what do they know…They only spent 60 years studying and making the Law after Cambridge and Oxford. Mr Rakesh Sood, knows better…He got his information from not one but two library books he borrowed. The man is wasted as a rickshaw puller in Bombay…he should be teaching law at Harvard.

  19. Dosanjh says:

    ^ Says a fella that worships flying monkeys. With his track record we should definately sit up and take notice of what he says about religion. :)
    Seriously though, what it shows is the respect given to Sikhism and Sikhs, not by Indians because they generally show it very little respect, but by the British. The highest authorities in English legal system examined the evidence and concluded that of all the worlds religions it was only two : Jews and Sikhs that deserved the title of a 'race' of people, thus given more protection in English Law than any other faith. But of course, what do they know…They only spent 60 years studying and making the Law after Cambridge and Oxford. Mr Rakesh Sood, knows better…He got his information from not one but two library books he borrowed. The man is wasted as a rickshaw puller in Bombay…he should be teaching law at Harvard.

  20. A. Singh says:

    I think Sikhs and Sikhism is more than a religion, as it also has very rich-cultural history shown by our gurus and gursikhs throughout centuries. If one reads and reflect about Sikh history, for instance, regarding act of bravery and leadership, there are many examples throughout and regarding act of sacrifice, there are many examples. Moreover, regarding act of kindness, again we have many unlimited examples throughtout history since the formation. Furthemore, standing and fighting against injustices we have many more examples. If it is analyzed altogether, it is clear Sikhs have martial sprit as well as spritual facet, the concept of Sant-Sipahi, as given by our Gurus. And these different aspects have been shown and exercised from time to time.

  21. A. Singh says:

    Hence, Sikhi and Sikhs who follow that Chardi Kalaa Spirit are more than a religion as compartive to others religions around the world. On the other hand, if we looks biological or anthropological distinctions of race, we may not fit in that category, however, some definitions of Race also refers to – Group of people forming an ethnic stock, or any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, and even religious believes etc. In this regard, Sikhs can be classified as race. When comparing both aspects, I believe it is more than religion or race, and english word cannot describe it appropriately. In punjabi it is better understood as one panth and it refers the path to salvation by using the Guru's advise or Guru's word. This is the main core of Sikhism.

  22. A. Singh says:

    I think Sikhs and Sikhism is more than a religion, as it also has very rich-cultural history shown by our gurus and gursikhs throughout centuries. If one reads and reflect about Sikh history, for instance, regarding act of bravery and leadership, there are many examples throughout and regarding act of sacrifice, there are many examples. Moreover, regarding act of kindness, again we have many unlimited examples throughtout history since the formation. Furthemore, standing and fighting against injustices we have many more examples. If it is analyzed altogether, it is clear Sikhs have martial sprit as well as spritual facet, the concept of Sant-Sipahi, as given by our Gurus. And these different aspects have been shown and exercised from time to time.

  23. A. Singh says:

    Hence, Sikhi and Sikhs who follow that Chardi Kalaa Spirit are more than a religion as compartive to others religions around the world. On the other hand, if we looks biological or anthropological distinctions of race, we may not fit in that category, however, some definitions of Race also refers to – Group of people forming an ethnic stock, or any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, and even religious believes etc. In this regard, Sikhs can be classified as race. When comparing both aspects, I believe it is more than religion or race, and english word cannot describe it appropriately. In punjabi it is better understood as one panth and it refers the path to salvation by using the Guru's advise or Guru's word. This is the main core of Sikhism.

  24. Dosanjh says:

    So, using the logic of 'Sher' and 'SikhiFever' there is no such thing as Christianity because it is basically a branch of Judaism…..And there is no such thing as Islam because it is basically a version of Christianity and Judaism.
    Or……..do they reserve their fuzzy logic for Sikhism only as it helps in their pan-hinduvta ideals ?
    (note how they quite conveniently fail to talk about the many Islamic terms and ideals within Sikhism. Not surprising though, considering how they would then be forced to apply the same 'logic' to this and state that Sikhism is basically Islam)
    Having said that, I am now coming 'round to Sher and SikhiFever's ideals. I used to think I have a flat screen HD TV. But I now realise that the foundation of my TV is the same basic technology that gave rise to my grandad's black & white TV in the 60's. My flat screen colour TV does not, therefore, exist. It is basically a bulky black & white TV with a different name.

  25. Dosanjh says:

    So, using the logic of 'Sher' and 'SikhiFever' there is no such thing as Christianity because it is basically a branch of Judaism…..And there is no such thing as Islam because it is basically a version of Christianity and Judaism.
    Or……..do they reserve their fuzzy logic for Sikhism only as it helps in their pan-hinduvta ideals ?
    (note how they quite conveniently fail to talk about the many Islamic terms and ideals within Sikhism. Not surprising though, considering how they would then be forced to apply the same 'logic' to this and state that Sikhism is basically Islam)
    Having said that, I am now coming 'round to Sher and SikhiFever's ideals. I used to think I have a flat screen HD TV. But I now realise that the foundation of my TV is the same basic technology that gave rise to my grandad's black & white TV in the 60's. My flat screen colour TV does not, therefore, exist. It is basically a bulky black & white TV with a different name.

  26. pnr says:

    Sikhs are both a race (nassal) and a religion as well as a way of life. The father of every Sikhs Is Guru Gobind Singh Sahib ji.

    I think the real issue here is why have we been disarmed? Sikhs must be fully armed at all times.

    Only deviants (atheists, liberals, devils etc.) fear weapons. Healthy individuals Love weapons.

  27. luke says:

    Sikhs are actually Scythians living in India and they're Scythians and most of the Sikhs went to Punjab and it's there homeland now Punjab