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]

A little more about Dr. Singh’s background,

Singh, who was born in Punjab, was exposed to the western analytical tradition of religious studies at the University of Calgary, where he earned his master’s degree in 1987…Singh’s research focused on how the holy scripture came into being, how it was compiled and how Guru Arjan refined the language of the earlier gurus to reflect the culture and language of the time. His doctoral thesis, completed in 1991 at the University of Toronto, was almost immediately condemned. “They think the divine word has come from God and is exactly written in the pages,” Singh said of his critics. Singh was indicted in 1994 by the Akal Takhat, the Sikhs’ highest temporal authority, for blasphemy. [link]

Dr. Singh has said that he has received numerous death threats for his views and even appeared before the tribunal in Punjab because of these issues. He has said that he agreed to the objections the tribunal raised to his thesis, but only if they had academic merit, stating, “I made it quite explicit that none of my critics has any right to abridge my academic freedom.” Nevertheless, Singh has said that the controversy over his thesis and subsequent published works from what he calls a “fringe group in the Sikh community” has not shaken his faith.

Singh said he and his family do not attend the Riverside gurdwara after he and his wife and daughter, who has Down syndrome, were accosted by three men who threatened to behead him. Instead, Singh and his family worship in a special room at home where Dish Network provides broadcasts of daily proceedings from the Golden Temple. [link]

For his part, Pashaura Singh states, “I expose my students to different perspectives on the Sikh tradition in the class and encourage them to make up their own mind in the end.”


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51 Responses to “Endowed Sikh Chairs”

  1. whatsinaname says:

    lol

    Sorry couldn't help being amused by 'highest temporal authority for blasphemy'

    It almost sounds like an award is being dished out for worst dressed etc.

    On a more serious note I think the subject of 'studying' sikhism is a difficult one. It's inevitable that students / scholars will need to ask questions in order to seek out the 'truth'. Sometimes the questions lead to controversial answers.

    It's a tough one. Does a Sikh need to 'study' religion or 'learn and believe it'

    Western techniques of learning have their merits but they do wipe out the eastern doctrines of 'acceptance'

  2. whatsinaname says:

    however philosophies of acceptance can be mind numbing and supressing.

  3. whatsinaname says:

    Ooh…

    anther scatterbrain moment.

    I think the awarding of 'chairs' is just as silly as the award for ‘highest temporal authority for blasphemy’

    Ustat karo apne waheguru di ateh nindiya kise di na karo. easy. Hence each to their own.

  4. Singh1 says:

    These Sikh protesters shouldn't be allowed to call themselves such. It's a crying shame for a young Sikh like e to see this from my community. It makes me ashamed to even maintain my identity since these crazies run most of the community.

    If these protesters want to challenge this guys – why don't they write a book, or offer to debate him in class. They don't because their kirpan wielding fools. All they know is how to scream and yell. Try using your brain like the Gurus did.

    Our community might just survive if this happens and we kick out the Bhinderwale terrorist fanatics.

  5. Bik Singh says:

    To the poster Singh

    What's Sant Bhindranwale got to do with this? Stop trying to muddle the issue. Just because some people chose to protest as is their right in a democratic society you are ashamed to 'maintain your identity'? What a stupid statement! To most Sikhs it's you who is a fool and not Sikhs exercising their democratic right.

  6. whatsinaname says:

    lol

    Sorry couldn’t help being amused by ‘highest temporal authority for blasphemy’

    It almost sounds like an award is being dished out for worst dressed etc.

    On a more serious note I think the subject of ‘studying’ sikhism is a difficult one. It’s inevitable that students / scholars will need to ask questions in order to seek out the ‘truth’. Sometimes the questions lead to controversial answers.

    It’s a tough one. Does a Sikh need to ‘study’ religion or ‘learn and believe it’

    Western techniques of learning have their merits but they do wipe out the eastern doctrines of ‘acceptance’

  7. whatsinaname says:

    however philosophies of acceptance can be mind numbing and supressing.

  8. whatsinaname says:

    Ooh…

    anther scatterbrain moment.

    I think the awarding of ‘chairs’ is just as silly as the award for highest temporal authority for blasphemy

    Ustat karo apne waheguru di ateh nindiya kise di na karo. easy. Hence each to their own.

  9. Singh1 says:

    These Sikh protesters shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves such. It’s a crying shame for a young Sikh like e to see this from my community. It makes me ashamed to even maintain my identity since these crazies run most of the community.

    If these protesters want to challenge this guys – why don’t they write a book, or offer to debate him in class. They don’t because their kirpan wielding fools. All they know is how to scream and yell. Try using your brain like the Gurus did.

    Our community might just survive if this happens and we kick out the Bhinderwale terrorist fanatics.

  10. Singh1 says:

    I have to problem with Sikhs exercising their democratic right. It is not anyone's democratic right to threaten this guy with decapitation at the Gurdwara because he actually tries to challenge young minds in the classroom.

    Thank God the administration folks aren't taking the extremist position here like the community is. (that is the relevance of Bhinderwale – maybe this will clear it up for ya)

  11. Bik Singh says:

    To the poster Singh

    What’s Sant Bhindranwale got to do with this? Stop trying to muddle the issue. Just because some people chose to protest as is their right in a democratic society you are ashamed to ‘maintain your identity’? What a stupid statement! To most Sikhs it’s you who is a fool and not Sikhs exercising their democratic right.

  12. Singh1 says:

    I have to problem with Sikhs exercising their democratic right. It is not anyone’s democratic right to threaten this guy with decapitation at the Gurdwara because he actually tries to challenge young minds in the classroom.

    Thank God the administration folks aren’t taking the extremist position here like the community is. (that is the relevance of Bhinderwale – maybe this will clear it up for ya)

  13. tatkhalsa says:

    Dr Singh's work is blasphemous along with his buddy McLeod. They claim to think in the Western notion of thought and seek to belittle the religion. Its really sad though what they have done to this man. He might have blasphemous writings. The uneducated folks have threatened to hurt him in many ways. A lot of these folks claim to be orthodox sikhs yet as soon as they leave gurdwara they turn into the heretics they claim to fight. globalsikhstudies.org has a great amount of matieral that refutes Dr. Singh. These people use violence to threaten him rather than academics to refute his position. Dr. Singh is professor and sadly though his academics he has the right to do this, but Sikhs have an equal right to challenge his views. This should instead hand out the articles published by globalsikhstudies to show why his research in a sense is off. The Pen is mightier than the sword.!

  14. P.Singh says:

    Singh,

    Bindranwale is still not relevant and your explanation does not help your position.

    It's amusing how often the strawman of Bhindranwale is haphazardly thrown into arguments, as if the reference alone constitutes sufficient argument. It does not.

    Furthermore, we could start an entire debate based on whether Bhindranwale was extremist/terrorist or not. The matter is not as clear-cut as you seem to believe.

  15. sikhpath says:

    [quote comment="5719"]These Sikh protesters shouldn't be allowed to call themselves such. It's a crying shame for a young Sikh like e to see this from my community. It makes me ashamed to even maintain my identity since these crazies run most of the community.

    If these protesters want to challenge this guys – why don't they write a book, or offer to debate him in class. They don't because their kirpan wielding fools. All they know is how to scream and yell. Try using your brain like the Gurus did.

    Our community might just survive if this happens and we kick out the Bhinderwale terrorist fanatics.[/quote]

    Do you not understand that protest is a sacred right in America. Someone who has ideals stands up against injustice. I think you are a narrow minded person who rather sit and type on your computer rather than make a difference. These young students are voicing their opinions. Write a book, you must be joking and I assume you can find a publisher who cares. Give me break stop with your cynicism and encourage instead of setting a bad example of name calling.

  16. tatkhalsa says:

    Dr Singh’s work is blasphemous along with his buddy McLeod. They claim to think in the Western notion of thought and seek to belittle the religion. Its really sad though what they have done to this man. He might have blasphemous writings. The uneducated folks have threatened to hurt him in many ways. A lot of these folks claim to be orthodox sikhs yet as soon as they leave gurdwara they turn into the heretics they claim to fight. globalsikhstudies.org has a great amount of matieral that refutes Dr. Singh. These people use violence to threaten him rather than academics to refute his position. Dr. Singh is professor and sadly though his academics he has the right to do this, but Sikhs have an equal right to challenge his views. This should instead hand out the articles published by globalsikhstudies to show why his research in a sense is off. The Pen is mightier than the sword.!

  17. saihaj says:

    Ok. I get that he's controversial. Most scholars are and actually I don't think that him questioning Sikhi is necessarily a bad think. As Sikhs we should question and challenge certain beliefs. The hope is that after challenging such beliefs we reman true to our Guru Ji's word. I'm not offended by his views. He has every right to express them. If our fear is that our 'youth' will listen to it and accept it as truth then maybe we are at fault for not doing a better job of instilling those teachings and values in our kids. We're so quick to lay blame and offer threats? That's also not the Sikh way!

  18. sikhpath says:

    I understand that people have differing opinions and views on all matters especially a scholar. However, Singh's history as a student is a grim one in which he has been trying to satisfy his head who was an adversary of Sikh religious ideologies. There is hence an innate bias in Singh's work, and he has been excommunicated from the Akal Takht (little merit, I know) but there was an eight hour session in which he was proven wrong and he admitted his wrongdoing. When he came back to America he switched his perspective again. He is not the man that should be teaching the powerful verses of our scripture to students ignorant about it already. That is like a atheist teaching Christianity at a school, and Christians being worried. They have right, because distorted religion is wrong.

  19. P.Singh says:

    Singh,

    Bindranwale is still not relevant and your explanation does not help your position.

    It’s amusing how often the strawman of Bhindranwale is haphazardly thrown into arguments, as if the reference alone constitutes sufficient argument. It does not.

    Furthermore, we could start an entire debate based on whether Bhindranwale was extremist/terrorist or not. The matter is not as clear-cut as you seem to believe.

  20. sikhpath says:

    [quote comment=”5719″]These Sikh protesters shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves such. It’s a crying shame for a young Sikh like e to see this from my community. It makes me ashamed to even maintain my identity since these crazies run most of the community.

    If these protesters want to challenge this guys – why don’t they write a book, or offer to debate him in class. They don’t because their kirpan wielding fools. All they know is how to scream and yell. Try using your brain like the Gurus did.

    Our community might just survive if this happens and we kick out the Bhinderwale terrorist fanatics.[/quote]

    Do you not understand that protest is a sacred right in America. Someone who has ideals stands up against injustice. I think you are a narrow minded person who rather sit and type on your computer rather than make a difference. These young students are voicing their opinions. Write a book, you must be joking and I assume you can find a publisher who cares. Give me break stop with your cynicism and encourage instead of setting a bad example of name calling.

  21. saihaj says:

    Ok. I get that he’s controversial. Most scholars are and actually I don’t think that him questioning Sikhi is necessarily a bad think. As Sikhs we should question and challenge certain beliefs. The hope is that after challenging such beliefs we reman true to our Guru Ji’s word. I’m not offended by his views. He has every right to express them. If our fear is that our ‘youth’ will listen to it and accept it as truth then maybe we are at fault for not doing a better job of instilling those teachings and values in our kids. We’re so quick to lay blame and offer threats? That’s also not the Sikh way!

  22. sikhpath says:

    I understand that people have differing opinions and views on all matters especially a scholar. However, Singh’s history as a student is a grim one in which he has been trying to satisfy his head who was an adversary of Sikh religious ideologies. There is hence an innate bias in Singh’s work, and he has been excommunicated from the Akal Takht (little merit, I know) but there was an eight hour session in which he was proven wrong and he admitted his wrongdoing. When he came back to America he switched his perspective again. He is not the man that should be teaching the powerful verses of our scripture to students ignorant about it already. That is like a atheist teaching Christianity at a school, and Christians being worried. They have right, because distorted religion is wrong.

  23. P.Singh says:

    Sikhpath,

    Thank you for pointing that out. There is certainly room for academic questioning, scholarly debate on issues; however, one would hope that the Sikh chair in any university would hold true to accepted, acknowledged Sikh theological viewpoints and promote discussion from that vantage point – instead of putting forward his/her own wacky assertions.

    This situation reminds me of Oberoi taking the Sikh chair at the University of British Columbia. The Sikh community worked its ass off in getting the go-ahead for a Sikh chair, raised funds to support the chair, and the university 'annointed' Oberoi – who's views were starkly in contrast to those held by the Sikh community supporting the chair.

    For those not aware, the Indian government was strongly opposed to the establishment of a Sikh chair at UBC, and was doing its level best to prevent its creation.

    The Sikh community paid the required money to, and entered a contract with UBC to establish a Sikh chair in 1985; however, it took two years for the Sikh chair to be established. Why the delay?

    Many believe the delay allowed the powers that be to find an appropriately anti-Sikh candidate for the Sikh chair. In other words, it took two years for UBC to find a candidate that met with the Indian government's approval.

    One, there were certain agreed upon requirements that a candidate for Sikh chair had to possess. Oberoi did not meet the requirements and admitted to being only a student of Sikh history, with little knowledge of the Sikh religion, Punjabi language, or literature – all of which were requirements for the job. He was selected in lieu of other qualified candidates.

    Two, there is evidence the Indian goverment was actively involved in matters regarding the Sikh chair, and UBC was consulting with the Indian government. A memo from Fritz Lehman of UBC (History) reads:

    India’s acting High Commissioner, Mr. K. P. Fabian wishes to visit U. B. C. in the very near future to meet South Asia Specialists and administrators. He would likely address us on an aspect of Indian foreign policy (he prefers North-South dialogue) and wishes to discuss the proposed chair in Sikh studies, about which his government is concerned. He seemed to me to be a reasonable and sympathetic person.

    Who were Oberoi's professors at the Jawaharla Nehru University? At least one of them was Bipin Chandra, who has done his bit by distorting Sikh history and religion in the history texts published for Indian high school students -history texts prescribed by India's National Council of Education Research and Training.

    Oberoi acknowledges his mentors as such:

    “My interest in social history was originally provoked and then sustained by my teachers at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, particularly Professors Bipan Chandra, Sarvepalli Gopal, Romila Thapar, K.N. Pannikar and Satish Saberwal. I hope this work reflects what I learnt from them.”

    So – it is not without precedent, that an ill-qualified, anti-Sikh 'scholar' has become a Sikh chair at a reputable university. I do not think it is unfair to challenge Mr. Pashaura's qualifications for the job. Furthermore, given the Indian government's twisted involvement with the UBC Sikh chair, and its perverse attacks on Sikh identity – there is certainly room to wonder if the Indian government was involved in the appointment of yet another anti-Sikh Sikh chair.

  24. P.Singh says:

    Sikhpath,

    Thank you for pointing that out. There is certainly room for academic questioning, scholarly debate on issues; however, one would hope that the Sikh chair in any university would hold true to accepted, acknowledged Sikh theological viewpoints and promote discussion from that vantage point – instead of putting forward his/her own wacky assertions.

    This situation reminds me of Oberoi taking the Sikh chair at the University of British Columbia. The Sikh community worked its ass off in getting the go-ahead for a Sikh chair, raised funds to support the chair, and the university ‘annointed’ Oberoi – who’s views were starkly in contrast to those held by the Sikh community supporting the chair.

    For those not aware, the Indian government was strongly opposed to the establishment of a Sikh chair at UBC, and was doing its level best to prevent its creation.

    The Sikh community paid the required money to, and entered a contract with UBC to establish a Sikh chair in 1985; however, it took two years for the Sikh chair to be established. Why the delay?

    Many believe the delay allowed the powers that be to find an appropriately anti-Sikh candidate for the Sikh chair. In other words, it took two years for UBC to find a candidate that met with the Indian government’s approval.

    One, there were certain agreed upon requirements that a candidate for Sikh chair had to possess. Oberoi did not meet the requirements and admitted to being only a student of Sikh history, with little knowledge of the Sikh religion, Punjabi language, or literature – all of which were requirements for the job. He was selected in lieu of other qualified candidates.

    Two, there is evidence the Indian goverment was actively involved in matters regarding the Sikh chair, and UBC was consulting with the Indian government. A memo from Fritz Lehman of UBC (History) reads:

    Indias acting High Commissioner, Mr. K. P. Fabian wishes to visit U. B. C. in the very near future to meet South Asia Specialists and administrators. He would likely address us on an aspect of Indian foreign policy (he prefers North-South dialogue) and wishes to discuss the proposed chair in Sikh studies, about which his government is concerned. He seemed to me to be a reasonable and sympathetic person.

    Who were Oberoi’s professors at the Jawaharla Nehru University? At least one of them was Bipin Chandra, who has done his bit by distorting Sikh history and religion in the history texts published for Indian high school students -history texts prescribed by India’s National Council of Education Research and Training.

    Oberoi acknowledges his mentors as such:

    My interest in social history was originally provoked and then sustained by my teachers at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, particularly Professors Bipan Chandra, Sarvepalli Gopal, Romila Thapar, K.N. Pannikar and Satish Saberwal. I hope this work reflects what I learnt from them.

    So – it is not without precedent, that an ill-qualified, anti-Sikh ‘scholar’ has become a Sikh chair at a reputable university. I do not think it is unfair to challenge Mr. Pashaura’s qualifications for the job. Furthermore, given the Indian government’s twisted involvement with the UBC Sikh chair, and its perverse attacks on Sikh identity – there is certainly room to wonder if the Indian government was involved in the appointment of yet another anti-Sikh Sikh chair.

  25. whatsinaname says:

    'If our fear is that our ‘youth’ will listen to it and accept it as truth…'

    I think we need to be teaching our kids to be independant thinkers. Teach them the importance of asking questions. If they ask they won't readily accept.

    I see it all too often. Kids mindlessly reciting stuff that they've been indoctrinated with at Punjabi school without understanding it. It's scary. We're not meant to be a body of followers. We're meant to be leaders and at the very least we're meant to be independant souls.

  26. whatsinaname says:

    ‘If our fear is that our youth will listen to it and accept it as truth…’

    I think we need to be teaching our kids to be independant thinkers. Teach them the importance of asking questions. If they ask they won’t readily accept.

    I see it all too often. Kids mindlessly reciting stuff that they’ve been indoctrinated with at Punjabi school without understanding it. It’s scary. We’re not meant to be a body of followers. We’re meant to be leaders and at the very least we’re meant to be independant souls.

  27. P.Singh says:

    Further to my previous post – I would suggest it is appropriate to weigh the benefits of establishing Sikh chairs.

    On the face of it, they appear to be excellent vehicles for the promotion and study of Sikhi; however, the fiasco of Oberoi as the UBC Sikh chair, and now similarly, Pashaura as the UCR Sikh chair should be enough reason for pause and consideration.

    For one, who is handing out Phds to these guys? In both Oberoi's and Pashaura's case, McLeod consulted on their thesis or was their supervisor. McLeod was also consultant to Gurinder Singh Mann of Columbia University.

    McLeod has become an 'authority' on Sikhism but with the sketchiest qualifications. He did his Phd under Dr. Basham, who McLeod readily admits knew nothing about Sikhi; furthermore, no one vetting his thesis was a Punjabi speaking Sikh. hmmmm….

    That's like me writing a thesis on Jews and the Torah, having a supervisor who doesn't know the Talmud from Tony the Tiger, and then having the thesis examined (and passed) by a non-Jewish, non-Hebrew speaking committee with little to no knowledge of Jews and their scriptures. Brilliant.

    And McLeod has pumped out PhDs who are occupying Sikh chairs, some of whom have started pumping out their own questionable Phds i.e. Jakobsh who studied under Oberoi and is now an 'expert' on Sikhi.

    If these Sikh chairs will continue to be filled by individuals pushing their own nutso views (which they cannot support when challenged), then are these Sikh chairs helping Sikhs or hurting Sikhs?

  28. P.Singh says:

    More on Pashaura – as copied from a SikhSpectrum article.

    Pashaura Singh…. whose PhD thesis created a furor in the Sikh Nation. He recently pleaded guilty to all the charges leveled against him by a high level team of experts in the area of Sikh Studies. This team of experts was assembled under the orders of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. Sri Akal Takhat Sahib is the highest authority in Sikh affairs. Pashaura Singh apologized in writing and accepted the punishment. The charges may be summed up as follows:

    i. Calling the Mina Text Manuscript # 1245 as the first draft of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, when all the evidences and research tools prove it to be inauthentic and fraudulent. Linking the Mool Mantra written on a separate piece of paper and pasted on the fourth folio of this manuscript with the Ninth Guru in a desperate attempt to establish it as an historical manuscript; and by speaking the language of Mcleod, the writer has committed an act of treachery and betrayal to the Guru and the entire Sikh World.

    ii. Claiming Jup ji as recorded in the inauthentic MS 1245 as the original and considering this and the other bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the revised and modified version was a deliberate attempt to create confusion among the followers of Sikhism amounting to the sacrilege of our holy Scripture, which is the Guru Eternal of the Sikhs.

    iii. His slanderous assertions that Sri Guru Arjun Dev ji altered the structure of many shabads either to modify their language or to make them more musical was a very serious charge without any evidence whatsoever and is the height of sacrilege.

    iv. He made a sinister distinction by stating, "whether one follows the teachings of Guru Nanak contained in Adi Granth , or one joins the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh" indicating a pre-planned mischievous conspiracy aimed at dividing the Sikh Nation into two different categories, viz. the followers of the first nine Gurus and the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh.

    v. At several places in the thesis, clumsy efforts have been made to create confusion over the Sikh Doctrine, Sikh history and authenticity of Gurbani , thus eroding the foundations of the Sikh religion. This deliberate misrepresentation, made under the garb of research, points to a deep – rooted conspiracy.

    Although Pashaura Singh has accepted all the charges and agreed in writing to exclude the objectionable material from his thesis, no such attempts seem to have been made by him in this direction. The only thing Pashaura Singh has done is to write an unqualified apology withdrawing his baseless assertions, and undergoing the punishment awarded to him by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Amritsar.

  29. saihaj says:

    P.Singh, you make some valid points but what I'm getting from your comments is that it's impossible for a Sikh scholar to hold a Sikh chair. How is the field of Sikh studies going to expand if we challenge every single appointed Sikh chair? Should our Giani Jis hold these positions and be chairs of Sikh studies? That way we can be sure that Sikhi remains 'true' unlike our issues with the blasphemous Sikh scholars we seem to identify?

    Can anyone name a Sikh chair that has been appointed appropriately? It's a sincere question because I really have no idea.

  30. P.Singh says:

    Further to my previous post – I would suggest it is appropriate to weigh the benefits of establishing Sikh chairs.

    On the face of it, they appear to be excellent vehicles for the promotion and study of Sikhi; however, the fiasco of Oberoi as the UBC Sikh chair, and now similarly, Pashaura as the UCR Sikh chair should be enough reason for pause and consideration.

    For one, who is handing out Phds to these guys? In both Oberoi’s and Pashaura’s case, McLeod consulted on their thesis or was their supervisor. McLeod was also consultant to Gurinder Singh Mann of Columbia University.

    McLeod has become an ‘authority’ on Sikhism but with the sketchiest qualifications. He did his Phd under Dr. Basham, who McLeod readily admits knew nothing about Sikhi; furthermore, no one vetting his thesis was a Punjabi speaking Sikh. hmmmm….

    That’s like me writing a thesis on Jews and the Torah, having a supervisor who doesn’t know the Talmud from Tony the Tiger, and then having the thesis examined (and passed) by a non-Jewish, non-Hebrew speaking committee with little to no knowledge of Jews and their scriptures. Brilliant.

    And McLeod has pumped out PhDs who are occupying Sikh chairs, some of whom have started pumping out their own questionable Phds i.e. Jakobsh who studied under Oberoi and is now an ‘expert’ on Sikhi.

    If these Sikh chairs will continue to be filled by individuals pushing their own nutso views (which they cannot support when challenged), then are these Sikh chairs helping Sikhs or hurting Sikhs?

  31. P.Singh says:

    More on Pashaura – as copied from a SikhSpectrum article.

    Pashaura Singh…. whose PhD thesis created a furor in the Sikh Nation. He recently pleaded guilty to all the charges leveled against him by a high level team of experts in the area of Sikh Studies. This team of experts was assembled under the orders of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. Sri Akal Takhat Sahib is the highest authority in Sikh affairs. Pashaura Singh apologized in writing and accepted the punishment. The charges may be summed up as follows:

    i. Calling the Mina Text Manuscript # 1245 as the first draft of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, when all the evidences and research tools prove it to be inauthentic and fraudulent. Linking the Mool Mantra written on a separate piece of paper and pasted on the fourth folio of this manuscript with the Ninth Guru in a desperate attempt to establish it as an historical manuscript; and by speaking the language of Mcleod, the writer has committed an act of treachery and betrayal to the Guru and the entire Sikh World.

    ii. Claiming Jup ji as recorded in the inauthentic MS 1245 as the original and considering this and the other bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the revised and modified version was a deliberate attempt to create confusion among the followers of Sikhism amounting to the sacrilege of our holy Scripture, which is the Guru Eternal of the Sikhs.

    iii. His slanderous assertions that Sri Guru Arjun Dev ji altered the structure of many shabads either to modify their language or to make them more musical was a very serious charge without any evidence whatsoever and is the height of sacrilege.

    iv. He made a sinister distinction by stating, “whether one follows the teachings of Guru Nanak contained in Adi Granth , or one joins the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh” indicating a pre-planned mischievous conspiracy aimed at dividing the Sikh Nation into two different categories, viz. the followers of the first nine Gurus and the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh.

    v. At several places in the thesis, clumsy efforts have been made to create confusion over the Sikh Doctrine, Sikh history and authenticity of Gurbani , thus eroding the foundations of the Sikh religion. This deliberate misrepresentation, made under the garb of research, points to a deep – rooted conspiracy.

    Although Pashaura Singh has accepted all the charges and agreed in writing to exclude the objectionable material from his thesis, no such attempts seem to have been made by him in this direction. The only thing Pashaura Singh has done is to write an unqualified apology withdrawing his baseless assertions, and undergoing the punishment awarded to him by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Amritsar.

  32. P.Singh says:

    Saihaj,

    I think the idea of Sikh chairs is relatively new, and given that many of them come from the McLeod camp – taints them all to one degree or another. If I hand out black belts in karate to students, and they all become karate instructors – how much legitimacy do they have if it's found out that my own black belt was picked up at a flea market?

    I don't think it is impossible for a Sikh scholar to hold a Sikh chair – someone like a Dr. Ganda Singh would have done an admirable job as a Sikh chair.

    I think the question requiring our thoughtful consideration pertains to the qualifications of those becoming Sikh chairs and the academic quality of their work.

    It is not scholarship to simply throw out fanciful suppositions and controversial conclusions for the sake of sensationalism – as seems to be the wont of many scholars. To heck with academic integrity -sensationalize something, make sure it's controversial, and perhaps it'll get published, right?

    The field of Sikh study has plenty of room for growth, and this scholarship should be an aid to understanding Sikh history, theology, the religion and yes, even its politics. If controversial questions arise from careful scholarship, then excellent – that is more ground for research and discussion. But putting forward titilating articles for the sake of having something to argue about, is not scholarship – it's more akin to Enquirer-esque hack-journalism.

    In addition to all of this, it is naive to discount the involvement of the Indian state and it's attacks on Sikh identity. What better way to continue the attack on Sikh identity than manouvering the 'right' people into positions of academic authority. Before my caution here is shrugged off as a loony conspiracy theory – consider the very real evidence of the Indian government's involvement in the establishment of the UBC Sikh chair. It is true that the UBC Sikh chair was established during the hey-day of political unrest in Punjab; however, it is, in my opinion, foolhardy not to consider the intent behind works produced by so-called Sikh scholars, especially when measured against the precedent of the Indian state's machinations in the past.

  33. saihaj says:

    P.Singh, you make some valid points but what I’m getting from your comments is that it’s impossible for a Sikh scholar to hold a Sikh chair. How is the field of Sikh studies going to expand if we challenge every single appointed Sikh chair? Should our Giani Jis hold these positions and be chairs of Sikh studies? That way we can be sure that Sikhi remains ‘true’ unlike our issues with the blasphemous Sikh scholars we seem to identify?

    Can anyone name a Sikh chair that has been appointed appropriately? It’s a sincere question because I really have no idea.

  34. P.Singh says:

    Saihaj,

    I think the idea of Sikh chairs is relatively new, and given that many of them come from the McLeod camp – taints them all to one degree or another. If I hand out black belts in karate to students, and they all become karate instructors – how much legitimacy do they have if it’s found out that my own black belt was picked up at a flea market?

    I don’t think it is impossible for a Sikh scholar to hold a Sikh chair – someone like a Dr. Ganda Singh would have done an admirable job as a Sikh chair.

    I think the question requiring our thoughtful consideration pertains to the qualifications of those becoming Sikh chairs and the academic quality of their work.

    It is not scholarship to simply throw out fanciful suppositions and controversial conclusions for the sake of sensationalism – as seems to be the wont of many scholars. To heck with academic integrity -sensationalize something, make sure it’s controversial, and perhaps it’ll get published, right?

    The field of Sikh study has plenty of room for growth, and this scholarship should be an aid to understanding Sikh history, theology, the religion and yes, even its politics. If controversial questions arise from careful scholarship, then excellent – that is more ground for research and discussion. But putting forward titilating articles for the sake of having something to argue about, is not scholarship – it’s more akin to Enquirer-esque hack-journalism.

    In addition to all of this, it is naive to discount the involvement of the Indian state and it’s attacks on Sikh identity. What better way to continue the attack on Sikh identity than manouvering the ‘right’ people into positions of academic authority. Before my caution here is shrugged off as a loony conspiracy theory – consider the very real evidence of the Indian government’s involvement in the establishment of the UBC Sikh chair. It is true that the UBC Sikh chair was established during the hey-day of political unrest in Punjab; however, it is, in my opinion, foolhardy not to consider the intent behind works produced by so-called Sikh scholars, especially when measured against the precedent of the Indian state’s machinations in the past.

  35. Balvinder Singh says:

    Ustat karo apne waheguru di ateh nindiya kise di na karo.Guru's contribution is great.It is practical and even useful in the present context.It is truth.Let us follow the path of

    guru's.Guru Granth Sahib is living Guru and we must try to follow may be a little. It will give piece. Let us not question it.

  36. Balvinder Singh says:

    Ustat karo apne waheguru di ateh nindiya kise di na karo.Guru’s contribution is great.It is practical and even useful in the present context.It is truth.Let us follow the path of
    guru’s.Guru Granth Sahib is living Guru and we must try to follow may be a little. It will give piece. Let us not question it.

  37. saihaj says:

    P.Singh, I just wonder who should be making these 'thoughtful considerations' on the 'qualifications' of these scholars. I don't necessarily think it should be the Akal Takhat. I also don't think that the larger Sikh community is qualified to assess a scholar's academic capacity. I would fully support the idea of having a panel of individuals who are not connected to the scholar's work and not connected to a political Sikh institution assess and recommend an individual for appointment but unfortunately I don't feel confident that our community could do this fairly.

    My point is that while I may not agree with a scholar's views, I can value the freedom in allowing people to express their opinions.

    ( I really appreciate this discussion)

  38. saihaj says:

    P.Singh, I just wonder who should be making these ‘thoughtful considerations’ on the ‘qualifications’ of these scholars. I don’t necessarily think it should be the Akal Takhat. I also don’t think that the larger Sikh community is qualified to assess a scholar’s academic capacity. I would fully support the idea of having a panel of individuals who are not connected to the scholar’s work and not connected to a political Sikh institution assess and recommend an individual for appointment but unfortunately I don’t feel confident that our community could do this fairly.

    My point is that while I may not agree with a scholar’s views, I can value the freedom in allowing people to express their opinions.

    ( I really appreciate this discussion)

  39. whatsinaname says:

    What is the deal with 'chairs' anyway?

    Does it accredit a scholar/professor with a position stating he/she has worthy amount of knowledge? If it is 'knowledge' and the type of knowledge that is being questioned, what is the validity of the chair?

    I have no regard for such status stamps. As far as I'm concerned there is only one chair. Guess who?

  40. whatsinaname says:

    What is the deal with ‘chairs’ anyway?

    Does it accredit a scholar/professor with a position stating he/she has worthy amount of knowledge? If it is ‘knowledge’ and the type of knowledge that is being questioned, what is the validity of the chair?

    I have no regard for such status stamps. As far as I’m concerned there is only one chair. Guess who?

  41. P.Singh says:

    Saihaj,

    You raise a good point. I have, admittedly, not thought much about how to institute a fair process regarding the selection of candidates for Sikh chairs at universities. However, that does not mean this is an impossible task. Instead of recreating the wheel, we could examine the selection process used to screen candidates for chairs in Jewish studies, or Islamic studies in North American universities, and use that as a starting point.

    Moreover, there are problems with the current process which can be eliminated, helping us to move towards a fair process. For one, the candidate should actually meet the qualifications required for the post, and his/her work should be able to withstand academic scrutiny.

    In Oberoi's case, he clearly did not meet the requirements UBC had listed for the post, and in Pashaura's case, his work did not withstand academic scrutiny. In Pashaura's case, he admitted to error when confronted with academic arguments by other scholars in India – something he refused to acknowledge when he came back to the States, where he nonchalantly shrugged off the criticism.

    I also believe there is room for community input and even input from the Akal Takhat, if it can provide academic, scholarly assessment of the candidate's works, allowing, of course, for the candidate to defend his work etc. This is off the top of my head and may be impractical for any number of reasons I haven't considered.

    My point is that while I may not agree with a scholar’s views, I can value the freedom in allowing people to express their opinions.

    I agree in general with your sentiment, but not really with regards to candidates for Sikh chairs. Their works must be based on solid research. If they can't back up their differing opinions with solid research, then they need to change their opinion or vacate the academic chair. There is also the added variable of community interest to consider. These chairs, whether for Jewish studies, or Islamic studies etc., also serve as promotional tools, raising awareness of the religion, culture, people. If a candidate believes Guru Gobind Singh ji was a devotee of Ganesha and incorporates this into his works and instruction – is he suited for the job, considering his belief runs counter to the beliefs of the community which funded the chair to begin with?

    There is certainly a 'line' there somewhere – and if we're going to err towards one-side or the other, I'd rather we err towards candidates espousing/promoting established, definitive beliefs about Sikhi rather than those who may appear sexy for the controversial positions they hold.

  42. P.Singh says:

    Saihaj,

    You raise a good point. I have, admittedly, not thought much about how to institute a fair process regarding the selection of candidates for Sikh chairs at universities. However, that does not mean this is an impossible task. Instead of recreating the wheel, we could examine the selection process used to screen candidates for chairs in Jewish studies, or Islamic studies in North American universities, and use that as a starting point.

    Moreover, there are problems with the current process which can be eliminated, helping us to move towards a fair process. For one, the candidate should actually meet the qualifications required for the post, and his/her work should be able to withstand academic scrutiny.

    In Oberoi’s case, he clearly did not meet the requirements UBC had listed for the post, and in Pashaura’s case, his work did not withstand academic scrutiny. In Pashaura’s case, he admitted to error when confronted with academic arguments by other scholars in India – something he refused to acknowledge when he came back to the States, where he nonchalantly shrugged off the criticism.

    I also believe there is room for community input and even input from the Akal Takhat, if it can provide academic, scholarly assessment of the candidate’s works, allowing, of course, for the candidate to defend his work etc. This is off the top of my head and may be impractical for any number of reasons I haven’t considered.

    My point is that while I may not agree with a scholars views, I can value the freedom in allowing people to express their opinions.

    I agree in general with your sentiment, but not really with regards to candidates for Sikh chairs. Their works must be based on solid research. If they can’t back up their differing opinions with solid research, then they need to change their opinion or vacate the academic chair. There is also the added variable of community interest to consider. These chairs, whether for Jewish studies, or Islamic studies etc., also serve as promotional tools, raising awareness of the religion, culture, people. If a candidate believes Guru Gobind Singh ji was a devotee of Ganesha and incorporates this into his works and instruction – is he suited for the job, considering his belief runs counter to the beliefs of the community which funded the chair to begin with?

    There is certainly a ‘line’ there somewhere – and if we’re going to err towards one-side or the other, I’d rather we err towards candidates espousing/promoting established, definitive beliefs about Sikhi rather than those who may appear sexy for the controversial positions they hold.

  43. Camille says:

    Generally I agree with P. Singh.

    A "chair" is simply an endowed position — it creates permanent funding to ensure a scholar of a certain subject has funds and a position. This helps (and hinders) areas of study that may come in/out of vogue or be especially sensitive to budget cuts. Sikh Studies absolutely qualifies as a "sensitive to finances" field.

    So where does the money come from? Often from Sikh congregations. These communities bend over backwards to ensure these positions exist for the long-term. They often do so with the belief that the position will be similar to a professor of theology — there will be a fundamental and agreed upon series of understandings about the faith itself, and research will be dynamic but stay within those confines.

    However, the university model doesn't really lend itself to this same interpretation, particularly for non-Judeo-Christian religions. They believe they're appointing a professor of either South Asian Studies or Religious Studies. Disciplinarily speaking, this distinction is significant. It's no wonder, then, that communities react negatively when someone articulates positions that contravene core teachings, values, and histories of the faith.

  44. Camille says:

    Generally I agree with P. Singh.

    A “chair” is simply an endowed position — it creates permanent funding to ensure a scholar of a certain subject has funds and a position. This helps (and hinders) areas of study that may come in/out of vogue or be especially sensitive to budget cuts. Sikh Studies absolutely qualifies as a “sensitive to finances” field.

    So where does the money come from? Often from Sikh congregations. These communities bend over backwards to ensure these positions exist for the long-term. They often do so with the belief that the position will be similar to a professor of theology — there will be a fundamental and agreed upon series of understandings about the faith itself, and research will be dynamic but stay within those confines.

    However, the university model doesn’t really lend itself to this same interpretation, particularly for non-Judeo-Christian religions. They believe they’re appointing a professor of either South Asian Studies or Religious Studies. Disciplinarily speaking, this distinction is significant. It’s no wonder, then, that communities react negatively when someone articulates positions that contravene core teachings, values, and histories of the faith.

  45. […] 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 […]

  46. Prem says:

    Singh said he and his family do not attend the Riverside gurdwara after he and his wife and daughter, who has Down syndrome, were accosted by three men who threatened to behead him.

    If you want to know why second and third generation Sikhs are turning away from Gurudwara and Sikhi, this is your answer. Because fascist, murderous, evil people like this live amongst us. Absolutely gut churningly disgusting. What barbarians.

    It's quite uncanny how close these fascists resemble Islamic extremists in their thinking and manners, even down to the choice of 'execution' (threatening to behead a man in front of his Down Syndrome daughter). There are no words to describe this — these people are cancers inside our community.

  47. Prem says:

    Singh said he and his family do not attend the Riverside gurdwara after he and his wife and daughter, who has Down syndrome, were accosted by three men who threatened to behead him.

    If you want to know why second and third generation Sikhs are turning away from Gurudwara and Sikhi, this is your answer. Because fascist, murderous, evil people like this live amongst us. Absolutely gut churningly disgusting. What barbarians.

    It’s quite uncanny how close these fascists resemble Islamic extremists in their thinking and manners, even down to the choice of ‘execution’ (threatening to behead a man in front of his Down Syndrome daughter). There are no words to describe this — these people are cancers inside our community.

  48. JOGINDER SINGH says:

    WITHOUT GOING IN TO THE DETAILS, LET US LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE AND MAKE IT AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE TO START WITH.

    THE PROBLEM SEEMS TO BE THAT DR. PASHAURA SINGH ON THE BASIS OF HIS RESEARCH BELIEVES THAT THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB WAS WRITTEN AND EDITED A FEW TIMES BEFORE IT CAME IN TO THE PRESENT SHAPE AND FORM.

    THIS IS IN-TOLERABLE TO OTHER HARD CORE SIKHS WHO BELIEVE THAT THE CONTENTS OF GURU GRANTH SAHIB WERE REVEALED TO THE GURUS BY GOD. AND THAT THEY PUT IT ON THE PAPER AS THEY EXPERIENCED THE REVELATION. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE CLAIM IS. WAS IT REVEALED AS AN IDEA AND THE GURUS PUT THAT IDEA INTO WORDS OR WAS IT REVEALED IN EXACT WORDS IN THE LANGUAGE AND SCRIPT USED IN GURU GRANTH SAHIB.

    AN IDEA IS ALWAYS GREATER THAN ANY WORDS WHICH ARE WRITTEN TO EXPLAIN IT.

    SO WHETHER THE GURUS EXPERIENCED THE REVELATION IN THE FORM OF AN IDEA OR IN THE FORM OF ACTUAL WORDS – SEEMS LIKE A MUTE POINT. THE SOURCE IS REVELATION FROM GOD WHO CHOSE THE GURUS TO REVEALS THE IDEA TO. AND IT IS ALSO THE GOD WHO GAVE THE CHOSEN GURUS THE INTELLECT TO PROCESS AND IMPLEMENT THE IDEA. SO IN THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF GOD'S IDEA, THE ART OF EDITING THE LANGUAGE AND THE WORDS OVER TIME CANNOT NEGATE THE WHOLE REVELATION. AND LET US NOT FORGET THAT THE WHOLE BANI IS WRITTEN IN POETRY. ASK ANY POET HOW MANY TIME THEY REVISE THE WORDS AND THE LANGUAGE TO CONVEY CORRECTLY THE THOUGHT BEHIND THE VERSES. I DO NOT SEE ANYTHING WRONG IN IT – AS LONG AS WE REMEMBER THAT THE IDEA OF THE WRITING CAME FROM GOD HIMSELF.

    JUST AN IDEA. PLEASE FORGIVE ME IF YOU THINK I AM WRONG. I BELIEVE THE BEST OF GURU NANAK'S TEACHING IS "TRUTH IS GREAT BUT TRUTHFUL LIVING IS GREATER". SPEAKING THE TRUTH IS LIKE THE "WORDS". TRUTHFUL LIVING IS AN "IDEA".

    [Joginder Singh, please refrain from writing in capital letters. Next time it will be deleted. Please check if you left your caps lock button down. Thank you…Admin Singh]

  49. JOGINDER SINGH says:

    WITHOUT GOING IN TO THE DETAILS, LET US LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE AND MAKE IT AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE TO START WITH.

    THE PROBLEM SEEMS TO BE THAT DR. PASHAURA SINGH ON THE BASIS OF HIS RESEARCH BELIEVES THAT THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB WAS WRITTEN AND EDITED A FEW TIMES BEFORE IT CAME IN TO THE PRESENT SHAPE AND FORM.

    THIS IS IN-TOLERABLE TO OTHER HARD CORE SIKHS WHO BELIEVE THAT THE CONTENTS OF GURU GRANTH SAHIB WERE REVEALED TO THE GURUS BY GOD. AND THAT THEY PUT IT ON THE PAPER AS THEY EXPERIENCED THE REVELATION. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE CLAIM IS. WAS IT REVEALED AS AN IDEA AND THE GURUS PUT THAT IDEA INTO WORDS OR WAS IT REVEALED IN EXACT WORDS IN THE LANGUAGE AND SCRIPT USED IN GURU GRANTH SAHIB.

    AN IDEA IS ALWAYS GREATER THAN ANY WORDS WHICH ARE WRITTEN TO EXPLAIN IT.

    SO WHETHER THE GURUS EXPERIENCED THE REVELATION IN THE FORM OF AN IDEA OR IN THE FORM OF ACTUAL WORDS – SEEMS LIKE A MUTE POINT. THE SOURCE IS REVELATION FROM GOD WHO CHOSE THE GURUS TO REVEALS THE IDEA TO. AND IT IS ALSO THE GOD WHO GAVE THE CHOSEN GURUS THE INTELLECT TO PROCESS AND IMPLEMENT THE IDEA. SO IN THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF GOD’S IDEA, THE ART OF EDITING THE LANGUAGE AND THE WORDS OVER TIME CANNOT NEGATE THE WHOLE REVELATION. AND LET US NOT FORGET THAT THE WHOLE BANI IS WRITTEN IN POETRY. ASK ANY POET HOW MANY TIME THEY REVISE THE WORDS AND THE LANGUAGE TO CONVEY CORRECTLY THE THOUGHT BEHIND THE VERSES. I DO NOT SEE ANYTHING WRONG IN IT – AS LONG AS WE REMEMBER THAT THE IDEA OF THE WRITING CAME FROM GOD HIMSELF.

    JUST AN IDEA. PLEASE FORGIVE ME IF YOU THINK I AM WRONG. I BELIEVE THE BEST OF GURU NANAK’S TEACHING IS “TRUTH IS GREAT BUT TRUTHFUL LIVING IS GREATER”. SPEAKING THE TRUTH IS LIKE THE “WORDS”. TRUTHFUL LIVING IS AN “IDEA”.
    [Joginder Singh, please refrain from writing in capital letters. Next time it will be deleted. Please check if you left your caps lock button down. Thank you…Admin Singh]

  50. Barbara Ratner says:

    Try this link to find out more about scholarly criticism of Mcleod and his group:
    http://sikhcentre.wordpress.com/category/analytic

  51. Barbara Ratner says:

    Try this link to find out more about scholarly criticism of Mcleod and his group:
    http://sikhcentre.wordpress.com/category/analytical-essays/sikh-studies-in-west/