Mr. Singh Goes to Washington, Er, Ottawa

As part of its series on the upcoming federal elections in Canada, the Globe and Mail offers this article on the emergence and success of Sikhs in the Canadian political scene. Consider:politics-300x213.jpg

  • Sikhs [are] the only group with a greater number of MPs than their share of the population.
  • [In the House of Commons,] Punjabi is now the fourth most common language, after English, French and Italian.
  • Many Sikh candidates live in Mississauga and Brampton, where they comprise 15 per cent and 19 per cent of the population respectively.
  • [There are] 17 Punjabi newspapers in Brampton [Link]

These statistics are very impressive. I applaud the Sikh candidates for their participation in Canadian politics (which cuts against the suggestion that Sikhs are not sufficiently integrating into Canadian society). And I thank this publication for highlighting the political advancements that Sikhs are making in Canada.

That said, I am troubled by two parts of the article:

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Blue-turbanned Sikh at the first presidential debate

sardar_at_first_presidential_debate.pngWere you watching the Presidential debate last Friday? Did you catch flashes of a sardar in a blue turban? I assume that anyone who did was equally as surprised as I was (though happily so). Well, who is the mystery man? He’s Arvinder Singh Kang, a twenty five year old who was the only Punjabi, and the only Sikh at the University of Mississipi when he came from Punjab to do a graduate degree.

I came to the U.S. in the fall of 2005, as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi. From a proud Sikh family, I was the first kid from my village and from my maternal and paternal lineage to come to America for studies.

I brought twenty-something Puggs (turbans). I knew Japji Sahib by heart and had been exposed to Sikh history more than I had been to comics. All through my undergrad years, I had taught my juniors how to wear a turban. There was no doubt, whatever the circumstances might be, I would always be a Turbanator!

While boarding a plane from London’s Gatwick Airport, I sat beside a Sikh girl living in Houston who was born and raised in London. “…So it’s going to be hard to keep a turban in university”, she said in a lovely British accent.

“Much nee te kuch nee!” (What’s a man without a mustache) I had quipped. [link]

You can read more from Arvinder at Sikhchic.


French Muslims Find Refuge In… Catholic Schools?

The NYT recently covered the rising admission of Muslim students in Catholic schools, unsurprisingly, because there is a greater freedom to practice their faith in Catholic school than in “secular” public schools:

French Sikhs Protest Religious Ban

There is respect for our religion here, said Nadia Oualane, 14, a student of Algerian descent who wears her hair hidden under a black head scarf. In the public school, she added, gesturing at nearby buildings, I would not be allowed to wear a veil.

The experience of French Muslims mimics the crushing oppression that Sikhs and other religious minorities face under France’s harsh and discriminatory anti-religious policies:

The quiet migration of Muslims to private Catholic schools highlights how hard it has become for state schools, long Frances tool for integration, to keep their promise of equal opportunity…

Imam Bencheikhs oldest daughter attends Catholic school. Its ironic, he said, but today the Catholic Church is more tolerant of and knowledgeable about Islam than the French state.

In a recent state meeting between the French and Indian PMs, Sarkozy and Singh, respectively, reporters used the opportunity to reopen the question of how the religious ban has impacted Sikhs. Sarkozy ignored the disparate impact of the ban by claiming that its uniform application meant it had no discriminatory intent [Hat tip, Tejinder]:

Visibly irritated, Sarkozy continued, “But sir, we have rules, rules concerning the neutrality of civil servants, rules concerning secularism, and these rules don’t apply only to Sikhs, they apply to Muslims or others. They apply to all on the territory of the French Republic.”

His comments, however, about the universal nature of this ban are contradicted by his Minister of National Education, who indicates that there is an explicitly anti-hijab and anti-Muslim intent behind this policy:

The head scarf is a sexist sign, and discrimination between the sexes has no place in the republican school, Frances minister of national education, Xavier Darcos, said in a telephone interview. That is the fundamental reason why we are against it.

Muslim enrollment in Catholic schools is facilitated, in part, by marginally “freer” religious practice options, but also by the idea of a shared Abrahamanic history and God. Where do Sikhs find refuge, both in the context of education and religious practice, given their distinct history, practice, and interaction with Judeo-Christian institutions? France’s ban has been decried by human rights organizations and religious organizations, but little positive action has taken place against the ban. Indeed, in some cases the State’s reaction seems retaliatory.


Are Sikhs in Haryana what Sarah Palin is to the Republican ticket?

Though this may not be the best analogy, I’m going to make it. It seems the Congress party in Haryana made the demand for a separate Gurdwara committee, in order to mobilize Sikh votes in their favor (at least according to one news source).haryana.gif

What is also well known is that Haryanas Sikh vote has traditionally been mobilised by the SAD(B) for Devi Lal and then his son Om Prakash Chautalas party. After 1984, the anti-Congress vote headed in that direction even more. By all accounts, the 2005 Assembly elections also the one in which the Congress manifesto included the demand for a separate gurdwara management body for Haryana constituted a break in the story. According to a CSDS survey, 50 per cent of the Sikh vote in Haryana went to the Congress in 2004, and only 35 per cent to Chautalas INLD. [link]

And Sarah Palin- as qualified as she may be- was not selected to run as Vice President because of her outstanding qualifications, but for her token status as a woman. It was hoped that she would fulfill the dreams of Hillary supporters who wanted the glass ceiling in the White House shattered. (From what I’ve seen in the polls though, this doesn’t seem to have worked. The women who rallied behind Hillary don’t want a token representative.)

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Revisiting Pashaura Singh and Punjabi and Sikh Studies

sikh27akfm_400.jpgThis post is sort of dedicated to P.Singh. Let me first begin by saying that I agreed with ALL (and I use that word only after re-reading all of his comments) of the points that he made in a prior post (not all of his comments in other posts, but I digress.).

However, I did want to revisit the topic of Dr. Pashaura Singh in light of some more news, posit a contrarian viewpoint based on an academic article, and then revisit the question of endowed Sikh chairs.

Update on Dr. Pashaura Singh

On Friday of last week, Sikhs throughout California organized buses down to the UC Riverside campus to protest Dr. Pashaura Singhs hire as the chair of the endowed Jasbir Singh Saini Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Language Studies. While newspaper articles stated that over 300 people were in attendance, my own eye-witness sources claim that it was in excess of 500.

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The kirpan and Montreal’s assault case against a Sikh youth

Earlier today I stumbled on this article in the Montreal Gazette detailing the suspension, and now calls for a speedy trial, for a Sikh boy accused of assault:Kirpan

The teenager made his first appearance on the charges in Montreal Youth Court yesterday where he pleaded not guilty to three counts alleging he used a kirpan, a Sikh religious object that resembles a dagger, to threaten his schoolmates.

This case comes on the heels of another landmark Quebec case in which Canada’s Supreme Court unanimously voted to protect the right of Sikh school children to wear the kirpan (with some limitations on its use) in 2006.

But did the boy actually draw, or use, his kirpan during the argument? At first blush, it sounds like this was a schoolyard disagreement, but if the boy drew his kirpan it would be incredibly inappropriate, both under dharmic understandings and under school policy. But on reinspection, it’s unclear if this incident actually ever happened, or if this is a racist reaction against the kirpan. The boy’s lawyer, the same man who argued the Supreme Court case for accommodation of the kirpan, believes the reaction is racist:

Grey accused the Montreal police and the Marguerite Bourgeoys school board of “overreacting.” He also said a large part of Quebec society has never accepted the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I think that what we’re witnessing – it’s my opinion and the court will decide – is a deep bias against the kirpan that has never died in Quebec…”

If his lawyer is correct, then this brings up a larger issue: how do inclusion policies and values translate on the ground if a region or group is hostile to accommodation?

Legal protection of the kirpan is vitally important and relevant and worth protecting, but, if this incident did not take place, how many Sikh children will be pressured, harassed, and suspended from schools for exercising their right to practce their faith? In this case, the school board is not an advocate for the Sikh child (and in the previous kirpan case, when the school drafted an accommodation policy it was invalidated by the school board as well); if that democratic channel fails, then how can we support families in this position?


Sarah Palin meets Manmohan Singh

It’s Friday. Hooray! On that note, I think a light hearted post is needed for today. As David Letterman recently pointed out: McCain taking Palin to meet with world leaders at the United Nations this week was like “take-your-daughter-to-work day.” Oooh Snap!

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HopefullyManmohan Singhdidn’t gush over Governer’s Palin’s looks as his neighbor did earlier this week!

Enjoy the Presidential Debate tonight and have a good weekend Langarites!


Standing Up for the Truth… and Against Other Sikhs

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslims and Arabs in America engaged in various efforts to respond to the post-9/11 backlash. narinder-200x300.jpgFor example, in the halls of Congress they advocated against discriminatory security measures and in the courts of law they pressed allegations of employment discrimination and airport profiling.

Muslim- and Arab-Americans also turned to another, perhaps less conventional forum: stand-up comedy clubs. For example, a comedy show, “Allah Made Me Funny,” was “an attempt by a group of American Muslim comics to counter the negative stereotypes and attitudes about Muslims and Arabs by poking fun at themselves, their communities and the prejudices they face.” [Link; see also here, here, and here.]

The latest edition of Newsweek contains an article by one Sikh, Narinder Singh, regarding his attempts to use comedy for the same purpose.

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Spinning Wheel Festival: A Celebration of Sikh Arts

Heads-up friends, the season of the Spinning Wheel Festival is about to begin across North America this autumn. Celebrating Sikh films and art, the first stop will be in New York City on Saturday, October 04, 2008 at the Asia Society & Museum (p.s. thats next Saturday). Buy your tickets NOW! The wonderful Rabbi Shergill will be performing at the opening gala (yes I am really biased here I heart Rabbi Shergill) and DJ Rekha will be literally spinning at the after party.

Films a the NYC festival will range from documentaries on Pahelwani (i.e. Panjabi wrestling) and Kabaddi-playing Canadian police officers to issues affecting the Sikh community from 1984 and post-9/11 hate crimes. There will also be short and feature films. For example, one on a young boys struggle to keep his hair while his family fears the obstacles he will encounter and another on a young Sikh doctor struggling with the inequities of the American Health System and ultimately his own identity. The Holy Duels of Hola Mohalla is a film looking at the Khalsa Panth.

The films seem interesting both in content and presentation. The stories are grounded in the realities many of us encounter everyday. You can get a full listing of the films and their synopses here.

In the past, I have attended the Spinning Wheel Festival at one of its many North American stops and found it a great space for artists and art-enthusiasts to be exposed to Sikh creativity. I remember there being a panel discussion with the directors and the audience. We dont have too many of these creative opportunities in our community even though we spend plenty of time and space advertising foreign medical schools in Poland, China, and the Caribbean.

I have found that some films are really hit or miss at these festivals, but its expected sense the focus is on cultivating and inspiring creativity; while, building a permanent Sikh film festival for years to come. Cash prizes are awarded to the bests in various categories. I have been told that the listing and quality of films varies across the different North American stops.

At the end of the day why not go, especially if its close by. I personally think its worth a visit as an act of supporting Sikh arts and learning about the various issues affecting our community. Sometimes we get too caught up in our own worlds and dont realize these issues are taking place or we are in amidst of them and they become normal parts of our lives leaving very little room for reflection or exposure to others perceptions. Thus, its an opportunity to get a fresh/new look at various issues.

Lastly, the arts, from painting and photography to films and music, are our communitys soul! They help us speak in ways we cant always articulate. So go save your soul and attend a Sikh artistic event! :)

Okay, enough of the attempt at convincing the other North American stops will be:

  • Toronto, Canada from October 10-12, 2008 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.
  • Hollywood, California from November 14-16, 2008 at the Writers Guild Theatre.

Are yall thinking of going? What have your experiences been at the various Spinning Wheel Festivals? Does anyone know of other North American stops?

p.p.s. The Toronto and Hollywood poster is really interesting isn’t it … a conversation in of itself!


A Sikh tele-drama?

[Joint post by Singh and Reema]

The plot is thick. Nearly 100 million Phillipine pesos are at stake (roughly $ 2.2 million USD). Multiple groups of god-father like figures control entourages of loyal henchmen. Money is being used for unauthorized purposes, and powerful figures have put competitors out of play – risking not just the money, but [dun dun dun]…their lives!
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Is this:

(a) The set of Al Capone?

(b) A government paramilitary force under a dictatorship?

(c) The Punjab Police?

(d) Or is it just the story of a gurdwara?

You guessed it: the answer is (d)!

This is the set for the latest episode of “Who Wants to be a Pardhaan (President of the Gurdwara),” and it takes place in Manila, where a battle for control of the local guru ghar has been waged for years. We had heard of this type of thing being publicized in the West (Europe and the Americas), but why should the Phillipines be any different – and undoubtedly this story has just as much drama and un-Sikh-like behavior as any we have heard. It goes something like this:

2004: Bansal became Gurdwara president following a court-supervised elections. After coming into power, he looked into organizations assets and found that Amardeeps group (the old committee) had siphoned off P30.6 million from Gurdwara donations to a new corporation they had createdKhalsa Diwan (Sikh Religious Association) Inc.

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Postpartum Depression Among South Asian Women

We are only beginning to hear about the prevalence of postpartum depression in the larger community, so it comes as no surprise to me that we hear about it even less within the South Asian community. Recent research suggests that Indian women, particularly new immigrants, may be at a higher risk of postpartum depression than their non-Indian counterparts. Experts suggest isolation stemming from the immigrant experience and a lack of the traditional support system often found in the home countries, as reasons for increased prevalence among Indian women.

In the United States, about one in 10 women suffers from postpartum depression (PPD). South Asian women may be at a higher risk for PPD, due to the impact of acculturation and cultural customs including factors such as arranged marriage and the gender of the child.

A groundbreaking 2007 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that 28 percent of Indian American women suffered mild symptoms of postpartum depression and 24 percent suffered major symptoms. The paper-titled “Immigrant Asian Indian Women and Postpartum Depression” is the only study of Indian American women and postpartum depression. [link]

Dr. Nirmaljit Dhami, medical director of the new Maternal Outreach Mood Services program at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., says that post-birth, many women present symptoms of tearfulness and crying. Sadness, emptiness, feeling overwhelmed, having a short temper, appetite changes and withdrawal from family and friends are all symptoms common to postpartum depression. [link]

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New Futures and ‘Insight into Sikhism’

For many of us Sikhs of Panjabi-background, those Sikhs that chose to embrace Sikhi (often termed as ‘goray Sikhs’, but by no means are all of them of such ‘gora’ background) are sometimes seen as an enigma. Too often stereotypes and easy labels such as ‘hippie’ or ‘weird’, knee-jerk opinions on ‘yoga’, or even a certain ‘guilt’ in terms of our own relationship with our Guru tend to be expressed in hushed tones. narayan.jpgHowever, such labels only dehumanize those that we should be most embracing as brothers and sisters of a shared Guru.

A recent article in a local Surrey newspaper recently has me re-thinking how as a Sikh community we can continue to strengthen our Qaum. Reading about Hari Nam Singh Khalsa’s own evolution was not only inspiring, but also a point for reflection.

The Oakville, Ontario resident is the host of the only English-language program on Canadian television that provides knowledge about Sikhi. His “Insight into Sikhism” airs on Saturday mornings throughout Canada (you can click here for Canadian times and channels). On the show’s website, the program’s purpose is described as:

Each week, host HariNam Singh Khalsa explains aspects of the Sikh religion and its relevance to modern day issues. Insight into Sikhism introduces the core principles of Sikhism in a simple and basic format in English for everyone to understand. HariNam Singhs mission is to spread the universal teachings of Sikhism to people of all faiths.[link]

Although I have never seen the show (if you have, please do comment and let us know your thoughts about it), it seems like a remarkable and much-needed project.

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From Paneer to Parmigiano

I got this cute video link via ASATA and wanted to share it with TLH. It talks about Italy’s desi-Sikh minority, relations between Italians and Sikhs, and the role of Sikhs in Italy’s cheesemaking industry

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Pakistani Sikh delegation takes a tour

A delegation of representatives for the PSGPC traveled to the U.S. and UK to discuss congregational needs, socioeconomics, and Muslim-Sikh relations in Pakistan [ed note: forgive the confusing grammar from the news source; the translation is imperfect].

The delegation did quite a bit of fundraising, and they stopped to check in with several Sikh “community leaders” throughout California, and elsewhere. Largely these were founders or heads of private non-profits, not congregations. It’s hard to discern what actually happened from the news coverage, which focused on explaining “those wacky” Sikhs. However, the group attempted to bring special attention to the disparities in achievement, etc., between Pakistani Muslims and Sikhs.

I finished the article with many more questions than when I started reading it; Why did the committee chose to travel to those two regions? Why were so many of their questions fixated on the ritualistic veins of Sikhi that have begun to penetrate our communities? How did they pick who to visit on their trip? What is the status of Pakistani Muslim-Sikh relations and disparities, today?

Did you hear about this tour from anyone? If so, what did you think?


Stuff Panjabi Sikh Moms Like…

So recently I came across a blog about all the Stuff Korean Moms Like. A Korean girl, Chiyo, who loves her KM (Korean Mom) decided to create this blog to share the joy and dread of KM.corningware1-150x150.jpg As I went through the list I kept thinking about our own PSMs (Panjabi Sikh Moms) now now dont think its funny to call our mummies PMS that actually stands for Panjabi Male Syndrome!

From corningware to marrying people off and stank eye I found many similarities between KMs and PSMs (although the differences were stark I dont even think many PSMs know what redbean is let alone love it. And when it comes to Jesus lets just stick with the Gurus and Waheguruji)!

Inspired by Chiyos blog on Korean Moms, let start our own list of “Stuff Panjabi Sikh Moms Like”! I will begin

  1. Tupperware (i.e. I am not just talkin about Rubbermaid I mean sour cream and whipped butter dabhaa). Over time this Tupperware becomes yellow from all the haldhee in sabjis but soak it in the sun and most of the stains go away. Slowly over time old ones are replaced as new ones are collected.
  2. Corningware (do I really need say anything more I think Chiyos explanation resonates perfectly with PSMs).
  3. Zee TV, Sony TV, and Alpha Etc. Punjabi nateekhs (whats your moms favorite soap opera ).
  4. Noon Dhani (i.e. the steel container with small steel bowls and spoons for all their spices).
  5. Dhahee (i.e. homemade yogurt sorry I personally cant stand the boxed stuff after growing up on my moms delicious freshly made dhahee).
  6. Outrage at the rising cost of Ataa (i.e. flour that is commonly bought at the Indian store to make roti).
  7. House-walls that are painted hospital white look how clean and simple they look. The rooms feel much more lighted with this color.
  8. Overstuffing Family And Friends With Food lai if they leave your house without a food-coma, they did not have a good-time.
  9. Cooking your favorite Panjabi dish when you come home from college. Its a sign of how much she missed you.
  10. The ten Gurus pictures, particularly those of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji, are the number one home-decorating items.

Please add to the list ( it’s in no particular order)! What do you think Panjabi Sikh Moms really like? I know many of you must have your own favorites! :)

Disclaimer: Please keep it clean, respectful, and hate-free I really should not have to say this, but unfortunately in the virtual world people often display a holds-no-bar attitude when commenting on issues like this one.


Sikhs and Civics

This day marks the 221th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

No matter how much we argue about the details of its meaning today, in the opinion of many, the Constitution signed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 represents the greatest expression of statesmanship and compromise ever written. In just four hand-written pages, the Constitution gives us no less than the owners’ manual to the greatest form of government the world has ever known. [Link]

To commemorate this historic day, the U.S. Congress designated September 17 as “Constitution Day” and required all schools that receive federal financial assistance to “provide some educational programming about the U.S. Constitution on or around Sept. 17[.]“ Despite the brilliance of the American constitutional system and the congressional mandate for schools to study the Constitution on at least one day, ignorance of the American government remains high. For example:

  • When asked to name two of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs and two of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 77% of Americans polled were able to identify two dwarfs, while only 24% could name two Supreme Court Justices.
  • 73% of those polled [were] able to name all three of The Three Stooges, while only 42% could name the three branches of government. [Link]

Further, more American teenagers

  • know the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than know the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (94.7% to 2.2%)
  • know which city has the zip code “90210″ than the city in which the U.S. Constitution was written (75% to 25%) [Link]

These and similar statistics should alarm Americans and they reflect the need for greater civics education in American schools. But we should not think that this is a concern from which Sikhs are exempt.

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Police Patrol by Delhi Sultanate and Sukhmani Malik

In light of the Indian government’s response to this past weekend’s bombings in Delhi, this video seems especially poignant (not to mention sweeet!).

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[hat tip: chapati mystery]

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Bollywood’s “Heroes” – More Sikh Characters on the Big Screen

We have had a lot of discussion about the Sikh identity here on TLH, so it is no surprise that when I saw this movie poster I immediately wanted to bring it to your attention.

heroes_turban.jpgBollywood is doing it again another movie with Sikhs. But instead of what we have seen in the past with Sikhs often portrayed as unflattering villains and goofballs, it seems that the trend now is to cast people in Sikhs roles where the Sikhs are the heroes. I suppose it is partly in that spirit that the movie is called Heroes.

Heroes is about two friends who journey through India meeting everyday heroes, at least one of whom is a Sikh. But that is not the part that interested me of course. The interesting part is not the story line, but all of the press that Salman Khan (the actor who plays a Sikh hero) has gotten for his attempt to play a real Sikh.

Salman Khan [is] seen in a Sikh makeover for the first time ever and he makes a good looking jatt Sikh with a beautifully tied turban. He grew his beard for three weeks before the filming for an authentic bearded Sikh look. Source.

I think this is probably the first time that I have heard this happening. Although, I think actor Sunny Deol may have grown his own beard for a couple of his roles as a Sikh it has never been so explicitly commended or publicized. Im not sure how I come down on this, but all the press does point to a deliberate effort by Bollywood to NOT-offend Sikhs, which I think is a positive move on the film industries part.

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A review of the Sikh Research Institute’s First Webinar

Update: wow, I did an AWFUL job of summarizing SRI’s first webinar. (Apologies to the good folks at SRI) Here’s a better summary:

Sikh Theology – A Gurmat Framework: The first session comprised of introducing an approach to Sikhi and recognizing how Guru Nanak Sahib revolutionarily delivered a message of Oneness through illustrating a direct connection between ideas and practice. We engaged in understanding what ‘Guru’ means in the Sikh context and how we can begin to comprehend the Guru’s wisdom, Gurmat. To develop this understanding, three facets of bani (scripture), tavarikh (history) and rahit (lifestyle) were introduced. The greatness of a religion is when harmonious balance between Ultimate reality and visible form is exemplified thru the aforesaid facets. We concluded with Puran Singh’s rendering on the Guru’s vision, “It sweetens you and your sweetness sweetens all life around. At your sight, the lamb and the tiger must drink at the same pool.”

And some info on session 2:

Bani – The Message: In session two, we continued to build on our understanding of the Guru’s message; We engaged in actively learning about the scriptural canon, the Guru Granth Sahib. In covering topics as the compilation, contributors, structure, language and content of Guru Granth Sahib, we tackled questions such as, “How do we know Guru Granth Sahib is the Guru?” and “What is the Sabad Guru?”; thus, facilitating and inspiring us to continue to build our personal relationship with Guru Granth Sahib.

And 3:

Tavarikh The Revolution: Having concentrated on the written form of our Gurus message (Bani) last week, this week in session three, Tavarikh The Revolution, we will turn our focus on to how our Gurus exemplified The Message. We will walk through the lives of Guru Nanak Sahib through Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and try to understand them through a social, political, economic and spiritual framework. We will cover a range of issues, from touching on the ramifications of negating the need of a Divine intermediary, to the economic center created by the Guru Sahibs, to the activism of both social and political kind. In surveying the inspiring history of our Gurus, we hope to remind ourselves of how relevant, active and exemplary the revolution of Sikh? is.

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Endowed Sikh Chairs

Dr. Pashaura Singh, Professor at University of California, Riverside, was recently appointed to its Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Language Studies. However, not without controversy. There have been several incidents since his inception to the Chair where members of the Sikh community have challenged his appointment because of Dr. Singh’s interpretation of the Sikh scriptures.

Sikhs believe the scriptures were revealed to a series of gurus…those revelations in the form of 6,000 hymns were compiled in 1604 by the fifth guru, Guru Arjan, and became the holy scriptures. Pashaura Singh’s thesis and subsequent research are based on a manuscript that surfaced in 1987 that he believes is a draft of the 1,430-page document compiled by Guru Arjan. Singh says the so-called 1245 manuscript, part of the rare book collection at Guru Nanak Dev University, includes sections that are blank and others that have been crossed out, showing evidence of having been edited. [link]

life_and_work_of_guru_arjan.jpgThe story goes back many years. Singh, coming from the University of Michigan, was hired in 2005 to teach Sikh and South Asian religious studies. While at that time the chair position was not official, Dr. Singh was recruited with the promise of a potential endowed chair that would provide him with financial support for research. At that time, members of the Sikh community expressed concern about Dr. Singh’s appointment stating his research was problematic and challenged traditional Sikh views. Another issue stemmed from the fact that Ellen Wartella, executive vice chancellor and provost, assured the community in writing that while Singh would teach religious studies “it has been determined that he will not hold this chair.” The community is upset that the university went back on its word.

Today, members of the Sikh community are still upset about Dr. Singh’s appointment and are arranging a peaceful protest on the university grounds on September 26th, 2008.

The idea that the scriptures were edited or changed is blasphemous to traditional Sikhs. “If this is true, then the revealed word of God is not the revealed word,” said Dr. Baljeet Sahi, an Altadena veterinarian and president of Sikhs for Preservation of Sikhism and Sikh Heritage. Sahi called the 1245 manuscript fraudulent and said it was obtained from a scrap dealer. He said it may have been written by one of the guru’s rivals, who started a parallel tradition after he was denied a guruship. [link]

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