Sikhs could learn from Icelandic on stigmas, taboos

Over a year ago, Ajmer Singh Hothi was found shot dead inside a semi-truck that he had just bought and was still making payments on. Only a day before, he had changed his phone number and gotten a restraining order against his ex-girlfriend and her father. [link]

hothi_ajmer.jpgMore information surrounding the case has recently became available since 553 pages of court records from a grand jury hearing have become public.

A prosecutor accuses Gurparkash Khalsa of being driven by humiliation over his daughter’s soiled reputation to the point of ambushing Hothi in a big rig parked east of Stockton. The 56-year-old now sits in a jail cell charged with capital murder… Details of the case recently became public when San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Charlotte Orcutt unsealed the 553-page transcripts of a four-day grand jury hearing that ended with Khalsa’s April 25 indictment. He was arrested hours later. [link]

The events that led to Ajmer’s death began with a relationship between Hothi and Khalsa’s daughter.

It began in November 2004, when a secret romance sparked between Hothi and Khalsa’s daughter, Kiranjot Pannu, then age 17. The lovers kept it quiet because Hothi was a lowly trucker, while her father owned Pacific Coast Intermodal in French Camp. Hothi’s father, also a trucker, once worked for Khalsa and feared him, according to Hothi’s sister, Kiranjit Hothi, who testified before the grand jury. [link]

Khalsa forbade the romance and Hothi’s parents sent Ajmer to India for an arranged marriage. But then Khalsa heard rumors that Hothi had gotten his daughter pregnant, and that she’d had an abortion. The angry father then demanded that Hothi marry his daughter. He followed Ajmer to India and tried to have him divorced. It seems that he was unsuccessful, and word of his attempt traveled back to Stockton where Khalsa felt humiliated in the eyes of the community. [link]

As for evidence against Khalsa:

Investigators never recovered the weapon, but years ago Khalsa registered a similar type of gun with the Stockton Police Department. He cannot establish an alibi, among other evidence Himelblau [the prosecutor] said he has against Khalsa. [link]

An unexpected and interesting contrast is found in Iceland, which has the highest birth rate in Europe + highest divorce rate + highest percentage of women working outside the home but also tops the latest table of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index rankings…iceland.jpg

meaning that as a society and as an economy – in terms of wealth, health and education – they are champions of the world. . . According to a seemingly serious academic study reported in the Guardian in 2006, Icelanders are the happiest people on earth. (The study was lent some credibility by the finding that the Russians were the most unhappy.) [link]

Regardless of the truth of the study cited by the article, one factor in particular that the Icelandic cite for their success is really interesting and especially applicable to the Sikh community.

Oddny Sturludottir, a 31-year-old mother of two, told me she had a good friend who was 25 and had three children by a man who had just left her. ‘But she has no sense of crisis at all,’ Oddny said. ‘She’s preparing to get on with her life and her career in a perfectly optimistic frame of mind.’ …. It is a largely pagan country, as the natives like to see it, unburdened by the taboos that generate so much distress elsewhere. That means they are practical people. [link]

The Icelandic have high rates of divorce.

‘That is not something to be proud of,’ said Oddny, with a brisk smile, ‘but the fact is that Icelanders don’t stay in lousy relationships. They just leave.’ And the reason they can do so is that society, starting with the parents and grandparents, does not stigmatise them for making that choice. Icelanders are the least hung-up people in the world. [link]

I’m not advocating for more divorce, just less judgment from the community when relationships are lousy and go awry. We already raise children through extended and patchwork families (depending on how much and where parents are working), but everyone has an opinion about what’s best or right for everyone else. We all are familiar with the intense shame that our peers and adults (even complete strangers) mete out for a variety of reasons that don’t merit shame- being too religious or not religious enough, going to college too far from home, not having the ‘right’ job, getting married too early or too late, etc. (though as commenters have discussed, there may be a productive use for shaming too). Maybe we should learn from the Icelandic – stop stigmatising and stop being hung up by these stigmas/taboos. (Though I have to point out that Icelandic also have the benefit of major state investment in education from pre-school onwards and healthcare, which is less effective in the US.)


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104 Responses to “Sikhs could learn from Icelandic on stigmas, taboos”

  1. Phulkari says:

    Kaptaan and Blue,

    Hear, hear! Exactly … thank you for bringing this nuance to the conversation!

  2. Phulkari says:

    Hmmm … when did stereotypes (i.e. "backwards) and divisions (i.e. pind/shaar) become "tangential" when their used to frame discussions about social issues (i.e. female feticide")? For Sukhi these stereotypes and divisions are at the heart of the female feticide issue. "Backward" Punjabi "village mentality" is to blame! Ultimately, this way of thinking prevents us from reaching tangible solutions because it becomes a blame game than a discussion about real solutions rooted in the reality of the matter.

    So, Blue and Kaptaan brought in the nuance … hear hear … female feticide is not rooted in "backwards" Punjabi "village mentality", but "forward-thinking" shaaris do it too. Being "educated" and "metropolitan" isn't always the solution. Get over the blame game based on ill-founded divisions around the issue. Stop trying to continually divide the community … it will only make OUR issues worse. We are ALL to blame … what is it about US that is perpetuating the issue … how do we develop REAL solutions!

  3. sizzle says:

    ah – my mistake. i hadn't read the earlier comments in a couple days and forgot how much the village identity was discussed and criticized in the earlier comments. given the timing, i had assumed those subsequent comments were in response to my own tangential "pindh" comment. apologies. i agree with you wholeheartedly.

  4. sizzle says:

    Kaptaan and Blue,

    Hear, hear! Exactly thank you for bringing this nuance to the conversation!

    funny that it’s only the “pindh” comment, an extremely tangential, equivocal point mentioned in passing and taken slightly out of context, that has elicited such grand discussion and back patting. but glad we’re all clear now.

  5. Kristin Kaur says:

    Yes, I too think it is not right to blame entire problem on Punjab village mentality. Isn't it true women face discrimination all over the world ( in different form though)? I have friends whose shaari and well educated parents controlled lives of their daughters. On the other hand, I have few friends whose parents are completely illiterate but had let their daughters make choices that feel right to them. We should not make broad generalizations based on limited anecdotal evidence (n=2) of our personal experiences.

  6. Phulkari says:

    Hmmm … when did stereotypes (i.e. “backwards) and divisions (i.e. pind/shaar) become “tangential” when their used to frame discussions about social issues (i.e. female feticide”)? For Sukhi these stereotypes and divisions are at the heart of the female feticide issue. “Backward” Punjabi “village mentality” is to blame! Ultimately, this way of thinking prevents us from reaching tangible solutions because it becomes a blame game than a discussion about real solutions rooted in the reality of the matter.

    So, Blue and Kaptaan brought in the nuance … hear hear female feticide is not rooted in “backwards” Punjabi “village mentality”, but “forward-thinking” shaaris do it too. Being “educated” and “metropolitan” isn’t always the solution. Get over the blame game based on ill-founded divisions around the issue. Stop trying to continually divide the community it will only make OUR issues worse. We are ALL to blame what is it about US that is perpetuating the issue … how do we develop REAL solutions!

  7. sizzle says:

    ah – my mistake. i hadn’t read the earlier comments in a couple days and forgot how much the village identity was discussed and criticized in the earlier comments. given the timing, i had assumed those subsequent comments were in response to my own tangential “pindh” comment. apologies. i agree with you wholeheartedly.

  8. Kristin Kaur says:

    Yes, I too think it is not right to blame entire problem on Punjab village mentality. Isn’t it true women face discrimination all over the world ( in different form though)? I have friends whose shaari and well educated parents controlled lives of their daughters. On the other hand, I have few friends whose parents are completely illiterate but had let their daughters make choices that feel right to them. We should not make broad generalizations based on limited anecdotal evidence (n=2) of our personal experiences.

  9. kaptaan says:

    just so we're clear, "nobody messes with the pindh!" :-)

    FYI, i was at an event held by SFU Students some time back and they had a "family feud" type of skit pitting Sharis against Pindhus and do you know who the mostly university crowd was cheering on?? the Pindhus, and do you know why? because pretty much everyone I know who is from the Punjab knows what village their family belongs too and the Sharis from India or otherwise never ever admit or seem to know what their ancestral villages are… which I always found pretty funny and bizarre…

    best regards,

    Kaptaan

  10. Reema says:

    The author of this post is misinformed if she feels that the father killed Ajmer Hothi under the influence of social stigma created by his Sikh culture. Sikh culture is in the Sikh scriptures, traditions, and organizations. Sikh culture is Hola Mohalla, and bana, and dtadi vaars, and gatka, and other social habits and customs guided by the Sikh traditions. If you are talking about PUNJABI CULTURE, then that is a different thing. Please compare apples with apples.

    This killing was due to punjabi culture and not sikhism.

    This comes up so often, on various threads, I guess I should fess up my perspective and why I consistently talk about things that others see as singularly Punjabi.

    Yes, of course, Punjabi culture and Sikhi are 2 separate things. There are Punjabis who aren't Sikh and there are Sikhs who aren't Punjabi.

    However, the vast majority of Sikhs have some connection to Punjab, whether they're one, two, or three generations removed.

    To those who don't, posts that integrate "Punjabi issues" may not be as interesting/applicable, but they do apply to most of the Sikh community.

    To pretend that "Punjabi issues" can be so cleanly separated from Sikhs, and treated as an entirely separate phenomenon is to deny the reality of our dual identities, and in a way – it's a cop out. Many of our community are both Punjabi and Sikh. Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity?

    Why aren't our Sikh values stopping the domestic violence, drug abuse, and murders? Is a Sikh suddenly only Punjabi when he beats his wife? (No!) To say that problems are only "Punjabi issues" is to deny the issues that need to be addressed, AS issues of the Sikh community.

    I'd also venture that Punjabi culture and "Sikh culture" as Singh described it above- feed each other. They are inseparable and intertwined (this may be less so as more Sikhs join the diaspora and eventually lose touch completely with our Punjabi heritage). For now, there is some Punjabiness in Sikhi, and there is some Sikhi in Punjabi culture.

    Disagree all you want, you probably won't change my mind on this.

  11. kaptaan says:

    just so we’re clear, “nobody messes with the pindh!” :-)

    FYI, i was at an event held by SFU Students some time back and they had a “family feud” type of skit pitting Sharis against Pindhus and do you know who the mostly university crowd was cheering on?? the Pindhus, and do you know why? because pretty much everyone I know who is from the Punjab knows what village their family belongs too and the Sharis from India or otherwise never ever admit or seem to know what their ancestral villages are… which I always found pretty funny and bizarre…

    best regards,
    Kaptaan

  12. Reema says:

    The author of this post is misinformed if she feels that the father killed Ajmer Hothi under the influence of social stigma created by his Sikh culture. Sikh culture is in the Sikh scriptures, traditions, and organizations. Sikh culture is Hola Mohalla, and bana, and dtadi vaars, and gatka, and other social habits and customs guided by the Sikh traditions. If you are talking about PUNJABI CULTURE, then that is a different thing. Please compare apples with apples.

    This killing was due to punjabi culture and not sikhism.

    This comes up so often, on various threads, I guess I should fess up my perspective and why I consistently talk about things that others see as singularly Punjabi.

    Yes, of course, Punjabi culture and Sikhi are 2 separate things. There are Punjabis who aren’t Sikh and there are Sikhs who aren’t Punjabi.

    However, the vast majority of Sikhs have some connection to Punjab, whether they’re one, two, or three generations removed.

    To those who don’t, posts that integrate “Punjabi issues” may not be as interesting/applicable, but they do apply to most of the Sikh community.

    To pretend that “Punjabi issues” can be so cleanly separated from Sikhs, and treated as an entirely separate phenomenon is to deny the reality of our dual identities, and in a way – it’s a cop out. Many of our community are both Punjabi and Sikh. Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity?

    Why aren’t our Sikh values stopping the domestic violence, drug abuse, and murders? Is a Sikh suddenly only Punjabi when he beats his wife? (No!) To say that problems are only “Punjabi issues” is to deny the issues that need to be addressed, AS issues of the Sikh community.

    I’d also venture that Punjabi culture and “Sikh culture” as Singh described it above- feed each other. They are inseparable and intertwined (this may be less so as more Sikhs join the diaspora and eventually lose touch completely with our Punjabi heritage). For now, there is some Punjabiness in Sikhi, and there is some Sikhi in Punjabi culture.

    Disagree all you want, you probably won’t change my mind on this.

  13. Singh says:

    Reema, your concern is that trying to discuss the contemporary Sikh diaspora completely without any contextual knowledge of Punjab and modern Punjabi culture is wrong, and I agree.

    However, trying to discuss contemporary Sikh diaspora completely without any contextual knowledge of all of the other cultures that Gurbani represents is also equally wrong. The Sikh culture is rooted in the cultures that Gurbani represents, which are all cultures.

    "Punjabi Sikhism" could be a field of study, however "Punjabi Sikhism" is not synonymous with "Sikhism as a Whole."

  14. Singh says:

    Reema, your concern is that trying to discuss the contemporary Sikh diaspora completely without any contextual knowledge of Punjab and modern Punjabi culture is wrong, and I agree.

    However, trying to discuss contemporary Sikh diaspora completely without any contextual knowledge of all of the other cultures that Gurbani represents is also equally wrong. The Sikh culture is rooted in the cultures that Gurbani represents, which are all cultures.

    “Punjabi Sikhism” could be a field of study, however “Punjabi Sikhism” is not synonymous with “Sikhism as a Whole.”

  15. Gurpal says:

    Reema, don't post links and articles from news to make everything seems so true. Fact of reality is, nobody nows what exactly had happen, who is innocent or guilty yet. I personality cannot judge other person until he is proven to be guilty.

  16. Gurpal says:

    Reema, don’t post links and articles from news to make everything seems so true. Fact of reality is, nobody nows what exactly had happen, who is innocent or guilty yet. I personality cannot judge other person until he is proven to be guilty.

  17. Reema says:

    … don’t post links and articles from news to make everything seems so true. Fact of reality is, nobody nows what exactly had happen, who is innocent or guilty yet. I personality cannot judge other person until he is proven to be guilty.

    Gurpal, I'm glad you have complete faith in the judicial system. I wouldn't assume anyone to be guilty until after a fair trial either, and depending on how fair it was, maybe not even then.

    But in this post, I nowhere claimed to personally find Khalsa innocent or guilty. I only restated parts of his trial that are already public.

    If posting something on a blog makes it seem true to you or anyone else, you (or they) need a higher standard for, and better way to find out the truth.

  18. Reema says:

    … dont post links and articles from news to make everything seems so true. Fact of reality is, nobody nows what exactly had happen, who is innocent or guilty yet. I personality cannot judge other person until he is proven to be guilty.

    Gurpal, I’m glad you have complete faith in the judicial system. I wouldn’t assume anyone to be guilty until after a fair trial either, and depending on how fair it was, maybe not even then.

    But in this post, I nowhere claimed to personally find Khalsa innocent or guilty. I only restated parts of his trial that are already public.

    If posting something on a blog makes it seem true to you or anyone else, you (or they) need a higher standard for, and better way to find out the truth.

  19. jagtar singh says:

    to my knowledge he hasnt been proven guilty so why have some of us put the burden of guilt on him already. He's innocent until proven otherwise.

  20. sizzle says:

    to my knowledge he hasnt been proven guilty so why have some of us put the burden of guilt on him already. He’s innocent until proven otherwise.

    duh…thank you jonhny cochran.

    but given the known facts, we can still speculate that he may be guilty and discuss the many implications and possible contributory factors of his alleged actions so that we may better ourselves and our community.

  21. jagtar singh says:

    to my knowledge he hasnt been proven guilty so why have some of us put the burden of guilt on him already. He’s innocent until proven otherwise.

  22. sizzle says:

    to my knowledge he hasnt been proven guilty so why have some of us put the burden of guilt on him already. Hes innocent until proven otherwise.

    duh…thank you jonhny cochran.

    but given the known facts, we can still speculate that he may be guilty and discuss the many implications and possible contributory factors of his alleged actions so that we may better ourselves and our community.

  23. Suki says:

    Reema don't worry about what other people might say, its good of you to bring up these issues that some refuse to believe that exist in our community.

    Speaking of these issues, there was another murder of punjabi women by husband this weekend in the Vancouver area. She was shot by her husband and the couple 20 something daughter was shot by father and is in the hostipal, but the couples two sons were not harmed by her father. Hopefully there will more details in the next few days. But I hope this was not a case of marriage that was falling apart, but the couple could not get divorce due to what the community would think, or the father being upset with her daughter being too western.

  24. Suki says:

    Reema don’t worry about what other people might say, its good of you to bring up these issues that some refuse to believe that exist in our community.

    Speaking of these issues, there was another murder of punjabi women by husband this weekend in the Vancouver area. She was shot by her husband and the couple 20 something daughter was shot by father and is in the hostipal, but the couples two sons were not harmed by her father. Hopefully there will more details in the next few days. But I hope this was not a case of marriage that was falling apart, but the couple could not get divorce due to what the community would think, or the father being upset with her daughter being too western.

  25. kaptaan says:

    Since you put up this post, and wanted to get a reaction, knowing full well that many many people absolutely DO NOT equivocate Punjabi culture and Sikh culture together, either 1. because they aren't Punjabi ethnically speaking or 2. they are Punjabi ethnically, but don't identify with Punjabi culture because they identify with Sikh culture, you can explain to the readers what parts of what this person may or may not have done have anything to do with Sikh culture?

    Your response that many "Sikhs have some connection to Punjab" doesn't address the issue. What does anyone's past affliation with Punjab have to do with anything? There are many ethnic Irish in Canada and the USA, yet no one starts questioning how their Catholicism has anything to do with what may be purely Irish ethnic issues?

    Also, what bad values do you attribute to Sikh culture because you wrote, "Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity?" This may precisely be the case.

    You said it, now defend it, what are these "bad" values??

    I don't mind discussing the issue of this person being murdered allegedly by his girlfriend's father, but don't link it in any way with Sikh religion or Sikhs.

    regards,

    Kaptaan.

  26. kaptaan says:

    Since you put up this post, and wanted to get a reaction, knowing full well that many many people absolutely DO NOT equivocate Punjabi culture and Sikh culture together, either 1. because they aren’t Punjabi ethnically speaking or 2. they are Punjabi ethnically, but don’t identify with Punjabi culture because they identify with Sikh culture, you can explain to the readers what parts of what this person may or may not have done have anything to do with Sikh culture?

    Your response that many “Sikhs have some connection to Punjab” doesn’t address the issue. What does anyone’s past affliation with Punjab have to do with anything? There are many ethnic Irish in Canada and the USA, yet no one starts questioning how their Catholicism has anything to do with what may be purely Irish ethnic issues?

    Also, what bad values do you attribute to Sikh culture because you wrote, “Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity?” This may precisely be the case.

    You said it, now defend it, what are these “bad” values??

    I don’t mind discussing the issue of this person being murdered allegedly by his girlfriend’s father, but don’t link it in any way with Sikh religion or Sikhs.

    regards,
    Kaptaan.

  27. Gurpal says:

    Sukhi, You stated "Don't worry what other people say" I was just bring about my opinion on the article. Every world community has issues, but it does not really help to keep fueling the fire of issues that exist within our community. Why not rather discuss solution to these problems. How one can take step on personal level to solve these issues. Make life's better for people that surrounding our circle. We come in this world empty handed and we gonna leave empty. Only thing that will go with us is our karma.

  28. Gurpal says:

    Sukhi, You stated “Don’t worry what other people say” I was just bring about my opinion on the article. Every world community has issues, but it does not really help to keep fueling the fire of issues that exist within our community. Why not rather discuss solution to these problems. How one can take step on personal level to solve these issues. Make life’s better for people that surrounding our circle. We come in this world empty handed and we gonna leave empty. Only thing that will go with us is our karma.

  29. Reema says:

    Also, what bad values do you attribute to Sikh culture because you wrote, “Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity?” This may precisely be the case.

    Oh, Kaptaan. I feel like a broken record, having to say the same thing over and over again. There is a disparity between Sikh doctrine and what is practiced.

    If you think that anyone who doesn't perfectly follow Sikh doctrine is not a Sikh, then there are too few Sikhs to make a Sikh community.

  30. kaptaan says:

    maybe you feel like a broken record because you don't answer questions put to you after you make contentious statements. you still haven't explained what "bad" values you attribute to Sikh culture. Sikh doctrine doesn't have anything to do with what you wrote. Why are you attributing anything this person did to Sikh culture?

    Perhaps, if all the principals of this tragedy followed Sikh culture instead of Punjabi culture things might have had a happier ending? How about blogging about the virtue of a Sikh cultural solution to these types of tragedies???

  31. Reema says:

    Also, what bad values do you attribute to Sikh culture because you wrote, Why can only our problems come from our Punjabi-ness and only our good values be attributed to our Sikh identity? This may precisely be the case.

    Oh, Kaptaan. I feel like a broken record, having to say the same thing over and over again. There is a disparity between Sikh doctrine and what is practiced.

    If you think that anyone who doesn’t perfectly follow Sikh doctrine is not a Sikh, then there are too few Sikhs to make a Sikh community.

  32. kaptaan says:

    maybe you feel like a broken record because you don’t answer questions put to you after you make contentious statements. you still haven’t explained what “bad” values you attribute to Sikh culture. Sikh doctrine doesn’t have anything to do with what you wrote. Why are you attributing anything this person did to Sikh culture?

    Perhaps, if all the principals of this tragedy followed Sikh culture instead of Punjabi culture things might have had a happier ending? How about blogging about the virtue of a Sikh cultural solution to these types of tragedies???

  33. P.Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Sikhi has no bad qualities or bad values – if I believed otherwise, I would not be a Sikh. Many Sikhs have plenty of bad qualities and bad values – to believe otherwise would be ridiculous.

    Like you kaptaan, I attribute these bad qualities and/or values to the Punjabi in me, not to the Sikh in me; however, if I understand Reema correctly, how the heck does one separate the Sikh from the Punjabi (re Punjabi Sikhs) – as if an individual's identity can be separated like two pieces of lego when necessary? Perhaps this is exactly the case, but it all appears a little too convenient and disingenous.

    Sikhi, when adhered to completely, when a Sikh bows his/her head to the Guru and accepts the Guru's thinking entirely in lieu of his/her own (gurmat vs manmat), is the ideal. In my opinion, it would be impossible to find any flaw in such a Sikh. But how many such flawless Sikhs have you encountered? 1? 2?

    For example, if a Punjabi Sikh exhibits sexist/casteist behaviour – we can readily acknowledge that such values stem from Punjabi culture and NOT from Sikh principles; however, why is the Sikh in that person not held accountable? Should not the Sikh values held by that Sikh provide a more than sufficient counterbalance to any of the idiocy found in Punjabi culture? Ideally, yes. Realistically, it is hit or miss. Sikhi may wholly denounce sexism/casteism but there are many Sikhs who harbour sexist/casteist values. This is as much a problem arising from that Punabi's Punjabiyat, as it is a weakness in that Sikh's Sikhi.

    If we are to have a bright-line test on the matter, then we can do so easily – anyone who adheres 100% to the Guru's teachings is a Sikh and anyone who deviates even slightly is not a Sikh. If we go that route, the Sikh community dwindles to a handful of individuals, if that.

    While we can certainly attribute the root of many evils in our community to culture, such attribution alone does little to counter the evil, and often comes across as weak justification and rationalization. If these problems are going to be addressed properly, then we need to acknowledge these problems exist amongst Punjabi Sikhs and step up to counter them as Punjabi Sikhs.

  34. P.Singh says:

    Kaptaan,

    Sikhi has no bad qualities or bad values – if I believed otherwise, I would not be a Sikh. Many Sikhs have plenty of bad qualities and bad values – to believe otherwise would be ridiculous.

    Like you kaptaan, I attribute these bad qualities and/or values to the Punjabi in me, not to the Sikh in me; however, if I understand Reema correctly, how the heck does one separate the Sikh from the Punjabi (re Punjabi Sikhs) – as if an individual’s identity can be separated like two pieces of lego when necessary? Perhaps this is exactly the case, but it all appears a little too convenient and disingenous.

    Sikhi, when adhered to completely, when a Sikh bows his/her head to the Guru and accepts the Guru’s thinking entirely in lieu of his/her own (gurmat vs manmat), is the ideal. In my opinion, it would be impossible to find any flaw in such a Sikh. But how many such flawless Sikhs have you encountered? 1? 2?

    For example, if a Punjabi Sikh exhibits sexist/casteist behaviour – we can readily acknowledge that such values stem from Punjabi culture and NOT from Sikh principles; however, why is the Sikh in that person not held accountable? Should not the Sikh values held by that Sikh provide a more than sufficient counterbalance to any of the idiocy found in Punjabi culture? Ideally, yes. Realistically, it is hit or miss. Sikhi may wholly denounce sexism/casteism but there are many Sikhs who harbour sexist/casteist values. This is as much a problem arising from that Punabi’s Punjabiyat, as it is a weakness in that Sikh’s Sikhi.

    If we are to have a bright-line test on the matter, then we can do so easily – anyone who adheres 100% to the Guru’s teachings is a Sikh and anyone who deviates even slightly is not a Sikh. If we go that route, the Sikh community dwindles to a handful of individuals, if that.

    While we can certainly attribute the root of many evils in our community to culture, such attribution alone does little to counter the evil, and often comes across as weak justification and rationalization. If these problems are going to be addressed properly, then we need to acknowledge these problems exist amongst Punjabi Sikhs and step up to counter them as Punjabi Sikhs.

  35. Mewa Singh says:

    P.Singh: Well-said.

  36. Mewa Singh says:

    P.Singh: Well-said.

  37. Phulkari says:

    Thanks P.Singh for clearly addressing this on-going issue on our community! Nicely said! :)

  38. Phulkari says:

    Thanks P.Singh for clearly addressing this on-going issue on our community! Nicely said! :)

  39. Kaptaan says:

    P. Singh, et al.

    so we agree that when someone who has a dual identity is confronted with an issue it should be Sikh culture, principle and gurmat that he/ she should turn to to resolve the issue in the most moral ethical manner?

    Secondly, you and I may agree that Punjabi/ non-Sikh culture and values which aren't in consonance with Sikh culture and values influence the negativity in our lives, whereas Sikhi doesn't promote negative or bad values and behaviour.

    Thirdly, Reema wanted to know why negatives should only be attributed to Punjabi culture and only good values to Sikh culture. Well, building on your point, Sikh culture and religious values and principles only inculcate positive life affirming behaviours. Whether it is Punjabi, Eastern, or Western culture which is the font for casteism, sexism, racism, bigotry, hate, inequality, inhumanity, or any other negative behaviour doesn't matter because my point is that it is not Sikh culture or values that do this.

    The way I see it, this is a forum where we can only communicate with words and so Reema's words matter on this point. I would like to know if she agrees with this point.

    I'd like to see Reema propose a stronger identification of Sikhs with the Sikh identity to mitigate 'bad' behaviour that some people pursue. If she wants people to live truer to Sikh values which are against the practice of sexism, racism, casteism, etc… then make that point in posts.

    We can all let people know we don't agree with them when they engage in anti-Sikh practices around us and are looking for our acceptance of that behaviour or want us to go along with it. IF someone makes racist statements or casteist statements you should let them know its not part of what you believe.

    I don't deny having been influenced by non-Sikh culture, however, I believe in choosing the Sikh identity to guide me when Sikh values and non-Sikhs values conflict. I believe that's the point when I or others say that we identify more as Sikhs and not as Punjabis or Chinese or Namibian or whatever ethnicity someone might be. That doesn't mean I deny that I'm a Punjabi, but it doesn mean that I don't accept Punjabiness or any other identity lock, stock and barrel.

    regards,

    Kaptaan

  40. Kaptaan says:

    P. Singh, et al.

    so we agree that when someone who has a dual identity is confronted with an issue it should be Sikh culture, principle and gurmat that he/ she should turn to to resolve the issue in the most moral ethical manner?

    Secondly, you and I may agree that Punjabi/ non-Sikh culture and values which aren’t in consonance with Sikh culture and values influence the negativity in our lives, whereas Sikhi doesn’t promote negative or bad values and behaviour.

    Thirdly, Reema wanted to know why negatives should only be attributed to Punjabi culture and only good values to Sikh culture. Well, building on your point, Sikh culture and religious values and principles only inculcate positive life affirming behaviours. Whether it is Punjabi, Eastern, or Western culture which is the font for casteism, sexism, racism, bigotry, hate, inequality, inhumanity, or any other negative behaviour doesn’t matter because my point is that it is not Sikh culture or values that do this.

    The way I see it, this is a forum where we can only communicate with words and so Reema’s words matter on this point. I would like to know if she agrees with this point.

    I’d like to see Reema propose a stronger identification of Sikhs with the Sikh identity to mitigate ‘bad’ behaviour that some people pursue. If she wants people to live truer to Sikh values which are against the practice of sexism, racism, casteism, etc… then make that point in posts.

    We can all let people know we don’t agree with them when they engage in anti-Sikh practices around us and are looking for our acceptance of that behaviour or want us to go along with it. IF someone makes racist statements or casteist statements you should let them know its not part of what you believe.

    I don’t deny having been influenced by non-Sikh culture, however, I believe in choosing the Sikh identity to guide me when Sikh values and non-Sikhs values conflict. I believe that’s the point when I or others say that we identify more as Sikhs and not as Punjabis or Chinese or Namibian or whatever ethnicity someone might be. That doesn’t mean I deny that I’m a Punjabi, but it doesn mean that I don’t accept Punjabiness or any other identity lock, stock and barrel.

    regards,
    Kaptaan

  41. P.Singh says:

    Apologies in advance – for the long post. If I had the patience to read over what I've written, I'm sure I could have 'halved-it'. Chalo – next time 😉

    Kaptaan,

    With regards to your first question, I think my previous post made my opinion on dual-identities fairly clear. To reiterate, I do not think the Sikh part of us, and the Punjabi/Chinese/etc. side of us can be so easily separated whenever convenience or rationalization or justification calls for it. When a Punjabi Sikh slaps his wife, it is a Sikh slapping his wife as much as it is a Punjabi slapping his wife, irrespective of the original source of such negative values.

    I do not think we have any argument on the purity of Sikhi followed in ideal fashion, but sadly, that ideal form has always been rare. Even Guru Gobind Singh ji’s hand picked Singhs revealed less than ideal behavior. For example, Guru ji selected 5 trusted men (Panj-Piare) to accompany Banda Singh Bahadur, and some accounts indicate at least two of them revealed themselves to be casteist (Binod Singh and Kahan Singh) when they took control of Amritsar. Regardless of the source of their casteism, they were Sikhs espousing casteist beliefs and we cannot brush aside that Sikhs continue to espouse this and other negative beliefs, by throwing the strawman of Punjabi culture into the mix.

    When a Christian priest sexually assaults a young altar boy, we do not justify/rationalize such depravity by labeling it inconsistent with ideal Christian thought, and saying it was the English/Spanish/German side of that priest that committed the crime. The perpetrator was a Christian and the problem needs to be addressed by Christians and Christian institutions. The problem is a Christian problem.

    Accepting first that I disagree with this concept of duality that you have mentioned – and I do (there is no air-tight, compartmentalized Sikh self and Punjabi self), consider the following: If negative values from whatever source (Afghan culture, Punjabi culture, European culture) exist amongst Sikhs, do they not become a part of Sikh culture? What if such negative values exist amongst Sikhs for 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years? How long do Sikhs continue rationalizing such problems as being rooted in XYZ culture, and not taking responsibility for such flaws as Sikhs?

    To clarify again, ideal Sikh culture would be a community of saints – we’d all be perfect, and there would be heaven on earth. Real Sikh culture, as it exists today, is far from ideal. I simply do not think we can disavow the negatives in our community as separate from Sikh culture. Separate from ideal Sikh culture perhaps – but not separate from Sikh culture as we find it today.

    I have little contention with the rest of what you have written. The Sikh community, Sikh institutions, and yes, even Sikh culture today, is a fragmented, out-of-focus, and in many ways, corrupt image of what it should be, of what it could be if the ideals of Sikhi were followed intact. As you have mentioned, and I agree, we need to turn to these ideals to solve the problems in our midst.

    To avoid any misunderstanding, is there anything in my previous post which you disagree with? If so, please point it out.

    Thank you Mewa Singh and Phulkari – I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who thought in this fashion – good to have the confirmation though!

    Ps. On a slight tangent – if we agree that there is no such thing as Sikh culture, the picture becomes uncluttered…hmmmm . For some Sikhs, those with non-Punjabi ethnicity, perhaps the picture is uncluttered. For Punjabi Sikhs, I think the culture and religious beliefs have been intertwined over the centuries – putting them in a slightly different position than Sikhs of other ethnicities? A random thought/question, but there it is…

  42. […] With respect to an honor killing where the family has been allegedly shamed, just days ago Reema discussed the case of Gurparkash Khalsa — a man who heard rumors that his daughter had been impregnated […]

  43. P.Singh says:

    Apologies in advance – for the long post. If I had the patience to read over what I’ve written, I’m sure I could have ‘halved-it’. Chalo – next time 😉

    Kaptaan,

    With regards to your first question, I think my previous post made my opinion on dual-identities fairly clear. To reiterate, I do not think the Sikh part of us, and the Punjabi/Chinese/etc. side of us can be so easily separated whenever convenience or rationalization or justification calls for it. When a Punjabi Sikh slaps his wife, it is a Sikh slapping his wife as much as it is a Punjabi slapping his wife, irrespective of the original source of such negative values.

    I do not think we have any argument on the purity of Sikhi followed in ideal fashion, but sadly, that ideal form has always been rare. Even Guru Gobind Singh jis hand picked Singhs revealed less than ideal behavior. For example, Guru ji selected 5 trusted men (Panj-Piare) to accompany Banda Singh Bahadur, and some accounts indicate at least two of them revealed themselves to be casteist (Binod Singh and Kahan Singh) when they took control of Amritsar. Regardless of the source of their casteism, they were Sikhs espousing casteist beliefs and we cannot brush aside that Sikhs continue to espouse this and other negative beliefs, by throwing the strawman of Punjabi culture into the mix.

    When a Christian priest sexually assaults a young altar boy, we do not justify/rationalize such depravity by labeling it inconsistent with ideal Christian thought, and saying it was the English/Spanish/German side of that priest that committed the crime. The perpetrator was a Christian and the problem needs to be addressed by Christians and Christian institutions. The problem is a Christian problem.

    Accepting first that I disagree with this concept of duality that you have mentioned and I do (there is no air-tight, compartmentalized Sikh self and Punjabi self), consider the following: If negative values from whatever source (Afghan culture, Punjabi culture, European culture) exist amongst Sikhs, do they not become a part of Sikh culture? What if such negative values exist amongst Sikhs for 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years? How long do Sikhs continue rationalizing such problems as being rooted in XYZ culture, and not taking responsibility for such flaws as Sikhs?

    To clarify again, ideal Sikh culture would be a community of saints wed all be perfect, and there would be heaven on earth. Real Sikh culture, as it exists today, is far from ideal. I simply do not think we can disavow the negatives in our community as separate from Sikh culture. Separate from ideal Sikh culture perhaps but not separate from Sikh culture as we find it today.

    I have little contention with the rest of what you have written. The Sikh community, Sikh institutions, and yes, even Sikh culture today, is a fragmented, out-of-focus, and in many ways, corrupt image of what it should be, of what it could be if the ideals of Sikhi were followed intact. As you have mentioned, and I agree, we need to turn to these ideals to solve the problems in our midst.

    To avoid any misunderstanding, is there anything in my previous post which you disagree with? If so, please point it out.

    Thank you Mewa Singh and Phulkari I was pretty sure I wasnt the only one who thought in this fashion good to have the confirmation though!

    Ps. On a slight tangent – if we agree that there is no such thing as Sikh culture, the picture becomes unclutteredhmmmm . For some Sikhs, those with non-Punjabi ethnicity, perhaps the picture is uncluttered. For Punjabi Sikhs, I think the culture and religious beliefs have been intertwined over the centuries putting them in a slightly different position than Sikhs of other ethnicities? A random thought/question, but there it is

  44. Special festival dishes, devotional songs and decorations are the vital part of this festival. Hindu Pandit in Spain