Arab Sovereignty, Sikh Solidarity

Kicked off by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution last month, the massive uprisings against U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes throughout the Arab world have grown into an undeniable and unprecedented force for real democracy.

Since the dictators being targeted have close ties to Washington, the leaders of our government are finding themselves in a rather uncomfortable position. Senator John McCain was a little more blunt than the Obama adminstration when, on Fox News last week, he called the rise of democratic movements a “virus…spreading throughout the Middle East,” referring to this as “the most dangerous period of history…of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times.” Obama and Clinton talk a smoother, more diplomatic talk, but the take home message is the same: “Change” in the Middle East must be on our terms.

In a column in the Guardian on Friday, Noam Chomsky wrote, “Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless properly tamed.”

Indeed, while the Obama administration pays lip service to supporting “democracy” in Egypt (after backing and funding Mubarak for the last 30 years), it has lined up long-time Mubarak aide Omar Suleiman to lead the so-called transition to a new government. The New Yorker reported that Suleiman “has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak… [H]e was the C.I.A.s point man in Egypt for renditionsthe covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.”

That’s democracy for you, American style.

For Sikhs in the United States today, what does it mean for us to pay taxes to a government that actively works against the freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty of millions of people around the world, including our brothers and sisters in Egypt whose relentless protests have been met with violent, state-sponsored repression?

This is of course a question that I would ask all citizens of the United States, but for us Sikhs, I don’t think it is simply a political question, but also spiritual one.

Sikhi was born out of a thirst for freedom and liberation, out of humanity’s immense need to obliterate the various forms of injustice, tyranny, and sectarianism that stand in the way of our connection to to the Divine Light in all, Waheguru.

Baadhisaah saah sabh vas kar dheene
Amrit Naam Maha Ras Peene

The people are sovereign, not under the rule of any shahs or emperors
They drink the most Divine tasting ambrosial nectar
(SGGS, p. 201)

The late, great Sikh scholar Jagjit Singh states,

The Sikh view…does not permit any dichotomy of life or any divorce of the individual from his society. Nor does it visualize that true religion and ethics can operate unconcerned besides an unjust social or political order, nor that spiritual freedom can coexist with religious dictation and political slavery.

So what is our responsibility then as Sikh Americans to the people of Egypt (and the list goes on) who are, by no exaggeration, politically enslaved by our government?

Our government and the uncritical corporate media will claim that Washington has to save the Arab people from Islamic fundamentalism, but as Chomsky states, “The general threat has always been independence. The US and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.”

Sikhs have been fighting for sovereignty and independence practically since our inception over 500 years ago. Isn’t our thirst for freedom intertwined with the millions of people in Egypt courageously fighting to transform their country?

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17 Responses to “Arab Sovereignty, Sikh Solidarity”

  1. […] with the millions of people in Egypt courageously fighting to transform their country?…ikhsolidarity/ […]

  2. Kavleen says:

    Yes, you have done a great job of analyzing this issue.
    Unfortunately it is very hard to make peace with people who can and will not stop and think about what they are doing.
    However, the government is employed by the people. People run the government, what else would the government govern if there were no people? They are too consumed with greed and corruption to see how their people suffer…and it is the right of the citizens to overthrow that government, regardless if it is written in their constitution or not.

  3. brooklynwala says:

    yes, revolution is underway in egypt, and the people are not backing down. they know suleiman is just as bad as mubarak and hardly reflect the kind of society they want to build. here's a great article about suleiman from yesterday:

    especially noteworthy and horrific is this:
    "[Habib] was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils and beaten. His fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. At one point, his interrogator slapped him so hard that his blindfold was dislodged, revealing the identity of his tormentor: Suleiman.

    Frustrated that Habib was not providing useful information or confessing to involvement in terrorism, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a shackled prisoner in front of Habib, which he did with a vicious karate kick."

  4. Aryeh Leib says:

    "… a great job of analyzing this issue" – from a radical leftist point of view, to be sure. As for the comments of the worthy Jagjit Singh Ji, if you think, "religious dictation and political slavery" have been an issue in Egypt up to now – just wait 'til you see what a Muslim Brotherhood-led government will produce in both those departments. As they say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

    May I also point out that the present governments of Turkey, Gaza, and that of the former Nazi Germany – were all democratically elected. The only place that reflects democracy American style …. is America.

  5. Aryeh Leib says:

    Sonny, I saw the uruknet article, and I remain something less than impressed. Let's remember that the Iranian revolution against the Shah was also started by young university students (not a few of whom had gone to school in the West) – and, see how THAT "democracy" movement turned out. Regardless of their present protestations to the contrary, The Ikhwan are the only truly organized group in the Egypt – this, despite Mubarak's heavy-handed policies to keep them down. Take the Russian Revolution of 1917 as another example. The Mensheviks started it – the Bolsheviks reaped all the benefits, producing some 70 years of untold misery for miliions of people. I think we all need to watch how events unfold before rushing to conclusions. There's still quite a lot of dust yet to settle.

  6. Aryeh Leib says:

    Further edification may be obtained here:

  7. […] The massive pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have gained tremendous momentum since the successful ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak two weeks ago. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Libya this week, as their calls for the end of Moammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign have been met with brutal repression. Gaddafi’s forces (including mercenary soldiers) have killed an estimated 640 to 1,000 protesters so far in just one week. The world is watching as the people of Libya sacrifice their lives for freedom and self-determination. May Waheguru bless them in their righteous struggle against tyranny. […]

  8. […] growing “Occupy” movement all over the country. Inspired by the mass uprisings of the Arab Spring, the movement is uniting under the banner, “We are the 99%”, in its protest of […]

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  13. lacom says:

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  15. cimis says:

    Regardless of their present protestations to the contrary, The Ikhwan are the only truly organized group in the Egypt – this, despite Mubarak's heavy-handed policies to keep them down. Take the Russian Revolution of 1917 as another example.

  16. saDan says:

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