Part 2 – Sikh Book Club – Sikhs in Britain: Between Demography and Gurdwaras

Coblogged by: Jodha and Mewa Singh

After a suggestion from a fellow langa-(w)riter (thanks Reema!), we are trying a more thematic approach this week instead of summation. Lets see how it goes:duleep_singh_2_203.jpg
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Chapter 3 and 4 this week had two very different topics. The third chapter begins by looking at the movements and changes in settlement, demography, and social profiles of the Sikh-British, while the fourth chapter concentrates on institution-building within the community at its chief site, the Gurdwara.

Issues of Settlement:

The story of Sikh settlement in Britain begins with Duleep Singh, the son of Sardar Ranjit Singh. After the defeat of the Sarkar-e Khalsa by the forces of the East India Company, Duleep Singh was separated from his mother, forced to renounce all claims and much state property, and later converted to Christianity, only to later reconvert to his ancestral faith towards the end of his life. While Duleep Singhs story is an epic in and of itself symbolic of Sikh-Anglo relations, his migration to Britain was only to be the beggining of the Sikh presence.

As to be expected, the various settlement patterns have given rise to various demographic patterns. With the inclusion of an optional religious category in the 2001 census, for the first time real data for the community exists. Most shocking was the count of 335,000+ Sikhs, much lower than earlier estimates. Also the census showed that most (56%) were UK born with highest concentrations in descending order (those with 10,000+ Sikhs): Birmingham, Ealing (Southall), Sandwell, Hounslow, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Redbridge, Leicester, Hillingdon, and Slough.

In terms of the social profile, religion is a key marker of Sikh-British identity. However, they are not the most religiously self-identifying community as the order goes Jews (80.3%), Muslims (66.6%), and then Sikhs at 61.3% (with variance between non-UK born Sikhs at 64.3% and UK-born Sikhs at 55.9%).

While most Sikhs are of Indian background, we are beginning on the margins to see those of mixed racial backgrounds that still identify themselves religiously as Sikhs.

Some other distinguishing statistics of the Sikhs is their extremely high rate of private home ownership. The employment profile is rather uneven with overrepresentation in industries such as manufacturing, distribution, hotels and restaurants, and transport and communications, as well as self-employment.

Question on settlement: With the new demography and social profile of the Sikhs as becoming more and more British-born, how will this change the community, practices of the faith, and its relationship to the Sikh diaspora and to the Punjabi homeland?

Issues on the Gurdwara:

The Gurdwara is the principle community institution of the Sikhs. Wherever Sikhs go, they soon build Gurdwaras. The evolution of such building follows a certain set pattern (that we also see in other Sikh diasporic communities): 1)renting houses/halls for communal gatherings, 2)purchase of larger premises, 3) construction or modification of existing premises for all-purpose Gurdwaras, as well as factionalism leading to separate Gurdwaras sometimes by caste, 4) and more recently the grand Darbar Sahib-like super-structures (72).

The authors spend time focusing on the various caste-based Gurdwaras in the UK, but do note that these make up only some 17% of the total number of Gurdwaras. The main reasons for their creation are either linked to discrimination or the desire to maintain a separate sub-identity.

A point of note that I found very interesting was on the topic of management battles. I quote the paragraph in its entirety here:

Sometimes in circumstances of intense conflict the management committee is taken over by women. For example, in three gurdwaras – in Coventry, Leicester, and Birmingham when rival factions, all men, came to blows within the premises, local women seized control.48 Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, was managed by local women dring 1981-2; Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, Leicester, which had no elections for nine years, was also taken over by women. The Shepherds Bush Gurdwara, when faced with a crisis as a result of rivalry between two factions, delegated charge to an all-womens committee in March 1983; another dispute in 2003 required the Charity Commissions arbitration.(85)

I would love to hear more information about these incidents, if any of our readers can share. Sounds like something similar to a previous discussion.

The authors make some interesting assertions that deserve analysis. One of their first was that with the establishment of the Sikh political system, community leadership can only emerge from within the Gurdwara (69-70). So as we see attendance decreasing amongst the Sikh youth, will this still be true? What will be alternative sites for leadership development? What are the dangers and potentials of such possibilities?

Another interesting point related to the youth are the authors forecast that it is quite possible that in the future key prayers will be provided in the Romanic script (as in some mandirs) or some efforts will be made to use and English version of Guru Granth Sahib, though this is likely to be fiercely resisted by the traditionalists (89). Many young Sikhs will continue to turn to cyber gurdwaras to access their tradition [this blog may be seen as part of that movement]. So my question here is what are your thoughts on these observations? And what are the positive and negative affects and repercussions of the shift to the cyber Gurdwara?

Many other topics in this section were not touched upon in this quick synopsis, feel free to raise some of those points as well.

For previous parts see:

Part 1
Introduction


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49 Responses to “Part 2 – Sikh Book Club – Sikhs in Britain: Between Demography and Gurdwaras”

  1. RT says:

    1. Home ownership amongst Sikhs is not that unusual. I can supply stats should anyone consider the census to be wrong.

    2. Sikhs dependency on manufacture and wholesale/retail trade is an outcome of their migration and geography. The most intesting factor for me is the lack of Sikhs employed in the restaurant/hotel sector. I am afraid you have either mis-read the stats or they been quoted incorrectly by the authors. Only Buddhists and Muslims are over-represented in the hotel/restaurant sector and there are strong historical reasons for that.

    3. The idea the Sikhs are more likely to be self-employed is a myth. It was first stated I think in the 1980s by people suggesting the Sikhs and other minority groups take up self-employment to escape poor jobs and discrimination. Census 2001 revealed this to be a myth. I am sure Singh and Tatla make a similar point in their text.

    4. Most of the Sikh temples I have visited in the north of England are empty every day other then Sunday. In London, I have visited Barking and Southall, which are busy every day. Others are empty other than a few pensioners.

  2. RT says:

    1. Home ownership amongst Sikhs is not that unusual. I can supply stats should anyone consider the census to be wrong.

    2. Sikhs dependency on manufacture and wholesale/retail trade is an outcome of their migration and geography. The most intesting factor for me is the lack of Sikhs employed in the restaurant/hotel sector. I am afraid you have either mis-read the stats or they been quoted incorrectly by the authors. Only Buddhists and Muslims are over-represented in the hotel/restaurant sector and there are strong historical reasons for that.

    3. The idea the Sikhs are more likely to be self-employed is a myth. It was first stated I think in the 1980s by people suggesting the Sikhs and other minority groups take up self-employment to escape poor jobs and discrimination. Census 2001 revealed this to be a myth. I am sure Singh and Tatla make a similar point in their text.

    4. Most of the Sikh temples I have visited in the north of England are empty every day other then Sunday. In London, I have visited Barking and Southall, which are busy every day. Others are empty other than a few pensioners.

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    RT,

    First off you just made my day. I finally get to talk about the book with someone other than Jodha, who I find grossly ill-informed, haha jk.

    Anyways your perspective is especially important as you seem to be from the UK. Neither I nor Jodha live there and our knowledge is limited to this book, random anecdotes, and short visits to our family and friends.

    Now to your points:

    1)From the text the authors suggest not that home ownership is unusual, but rather the high percentage of Sikh home owners seems unusual. Sikh have the highest percentage of home ownership in the UK. 82% of Sikhs own their home compared to the national average at 68%, the next highest are Jews at 77% and Hindus at 74%.

    2)You may be right about the lack of Sikhs in restaurants and hotels, but on page 66, it seems to use a category from the Office of National Statistics in their 2003/4 Labour Force Survey. There seems to be a broad category of "Distribution, hotels, and restaurants" with 26% of Sikhs being employed in this sector as opposed to 20% of the national average. So you may be correct that this category needs to be sparsed out. Employment and labour is a focus of the next section so hopefully that will help us re-look at this issue.

    3) With regards to self-employment, again on page 67 and I quote:

    The employment profile of Sikhs remain uneven, owing perhaps to the very low baseline (unskilled wage labour) at which the early migrants entered the employment market. As noted above, there is significant under-representation in particular industries and over-representation in others (manufacturing, distribution, hotels and restaurants, and transport and communications) as well as in self-employment. These variations are important to understand and explain, as we attempt to do in Chapter 7. [emphasis added]

    So it seems that self-employment is high, but I guess we'll wait for Part 3 to read Chapter 7.

    4) Finally, what are your hypothesis for the difference in Gurdwara attendance? Is it only a function of population density? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Well regardless, like I said, you made my day and I hope to continue engaging with you. Now on to your Part 3 comments….

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    RT,

    First off you just made my day. I finally get to talk about the book with someone other than Jodha, who I find grossly ill-informed, haha jk.

    Anyways your perspective is especially important as you seem to be from the UK. Neither I nor Jodha live there and our knowledge is limited to this book, random anecdotes, and short visits to our family and friends.

    Now to your points:

    1)From the text the authors suggest not that home ownership is unusual, but rather the high percentage of Sikh home owners seems unusual. Sikh have the highest percentage of home ownership in the UK. 82% of Sikhs own their home compared to the national average at 68%, the next highest are Jews at 77% and Hindus at 74%.

    2)You may be right about the lack of Sikhs in restaurants and hotels, but on page 66, it seems to use a category from the Office of National Statistics in their 2003/4 Labour Force Survey. There seems to be a broad category of “Distribution, hotels, and restaurants” with 26% of Sikhs being employed in this sector as opposed to 20% of the national average. So you may be correct that this category needs to be sparsed out. Employment and labour is a focus of the next section so hopefully that will help us re-look at this issue.

    3) With regards to self-employment, again on page 67 and I quote:

    The employment profile of Sikhs remain uneven, owing perhaps to the very low baseline (unskilled wage labour) at which the early migrants entered the employment market. As noted above, there is significant under-representation in particular industries and over-representation in others (manufacturing, distribution, hotels and restaurants, and transport and communications) as well as in self-employment. These variations are important to understand and explain, as we attempt to do in Chapter 7. [emphasis added]

    So it seems that self-employment is high, but I guess we’ll wait for Part 3 to read Chapter 7.

    4) Finally, what are your hypothesis for the difference in Gurdwara attendance? Is it only a function of population density? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Well regardless, like I said, you made my day and I hope to continue engaging with you. Now on to your Part 3 comments….

  5. RT says:

    Hi Mewa,

    1. Sikh home ownership is not unusual considering the length of residence in the UK. The figures quoted include outright ownership and mortaged. Jews are more likely to be in outright ownership, followed by Sikhs and Hindus. Buddhists and Muslims are least likey own their own homes. Sikhs are least likely to rent. Sikh ownership is dependent on their migration history, settlemnet patterns, and cultural ideas regarding the importance of home ownership. In some UK cities, such as Sheffield it is unlikely to own, but rather lease, your own home. Sikhs got lucky where they settled. Also, Sikh ownership could be even higher as the census only considers the household reference person, but 20% of Sikhs live in multiple family households – so I would imagine many families are in some form multiple ownership. THere is no way to verify this with any accuracy.

    2. Labour Force Survey is just that – a survey. Census 2001 finds 4.6% Sikhs in hotel/restaurant sector compared to 4.7% national average. There are 12.4% of Muslims and 15% of Buddhists (and 4% of Hindus) employed in this sector. Considering the importance of specialist ethnic markets, I found this figures interesting. It is no point really comparing with the national average, comparison with other recently arrived groups is more revealing. It is interesting how close Sikhs are to Hindus and not to Muslims.

    44% of Sikhs are employed in manufacturing, retail, wholesale. 23% in self-employment. Once again, higher than national average, but if you compare to other recenlty arrived groups – then not unusual and all are around the same mark. Jews are most likely – 38%!

    3. I would imagine gurdwara attendance is the outcome of population density. Recently I have lived in Sheffield and the gurdwara only opened on sunday morning – it was very unusual for me to see this. It was also interesting as all of the Sikhs seemed to know each other. I grew in an area of low density, but a gurdwara was about 8 miles away, which my mum attends every day. i woiuld imagine in the uk as the early migrants leave us, there is a population dispersal, then we will see attendace decline. However, it could also be a catalyst for revival.

  6. RT says:

    Hi Mewa,

    1. Sikh home ownership is not unusual considering the length of residence in the UK. The figures quoted include outright ownership and mortaged. Jews are more likely to be in outright ownership, followed by Sikhs and Hindus. Buddhists and Muslims are least likey own their own homes. Sikhs are least likely to rent. Sikh ownership is dependent on their migration history, settlemnet patterns, and cultural ideas regarding the importance of home ownership. In some UK cities, such as Sheffield it is unlikely to own, but rather lease, your own home. Sikhs got lucky where they settled. Also, Sikh ownership could be even higher as the census only considers the household reference person, but 20% of Sikhs live in multiple family households – so I would imagine many families are in some form multiple ownership. THere is no way to verify this with any accuracy.

    2. Labour Force Survey is just that – a survey. Census 2001 finds 4.6% Sikhs in hotel/restaurant sector compared to 4.7% national average. There are 12.4% of Muslims and 15% of Buddhists (and 4% of Hindus) employed in this sector. Considering the importance of specialist ethnic markets, I found this figures interesting. It is no point really comparing with the national average, comparison with other recently arrived groups is more revealing. It is interesting how close Sikhs are to Hindus and not to Muslims.

    44% of Sikhs are employed in manufacturing, retail, wholesale. 23% in self-employment. Once again, higher than national average, but if you compare to other recenlty arrived groups – then not unusual and all are around the same mark. Jews are most likely – 38%!

    3. I would imagine gurdwara attendance is the outcome of population density. Recently I have lived in Sheffield and the gurdwara only opened on sunday morning – it was very unusual for me to see this. It was also interesting as all of the Sikhs seemed to know each other. I grew in an area of low density, but a gurdwara was about 8 miles away, which my mum attends every day. i woiuld imagine in the uk as the early migrants leave us, there is a population dispersal, then we will see attendace decline. However, it could also be a catalyst for revival.

  7. Mewa Singh says:

    Hey RT,

    So we continue here….

    Well I will have to defer to you and the book with regards to the specific situation in the UK. I am especially receptive of your move to take into regards specific locality into the context. It definitely makes sense to me and Sikhs may have indeed been 'lucky' in terms of specific locales that they settled in (of course, due to where labour opportunities allowed them).

    Also in regards to the labour force survey, I will defer to your position this week. I and Jodha will disucss the upcoming chapter (7) and we will summarize the findings in Part 4, so I may resumed discussion with you then. However, I would be interested to find out the reason why Sikhs and Hindus would be more similar in terms of certain labor statistics as opposed to Sikhs and Muslims – interesting especially from an anthropological perspective as most Sikhs and Muslims tend to come from rural backgrounds, while Hindus in the UK tend to come from more urban backgrounds.

    Finally I get to your point #3 and for many Sikhs I think this may be the most pertinent. Here I will just ask you questions for the time being. Can you describe the Sheffield community in more detail? For those that tend to go to Gurdwara everyday, how would you describe the general profile of such attendees? For that subgroup that is UK-born, how would you describe them? How do you suggest a revival may occur? Under what context and conditions?

  8. Mewa Singh says:

    Hey RT,

    So we continue here….

    Well I will have to defer to you and the book with regards to the specific situation in the UK. I am especially receptive of your move to take into regards specific locality into the context. It definitely makes sense to me and Sikhs may have indeed been ‘lucky’ in terms of specific locales that they settled in (of course, due to where labour opportunities allowed them).

    Also in regards to the labour force survey, I will defer to your position this week. I and Jodha will disucss the upcoming chapter (7) and we will summarize the findings in Part 4, so I may resumed discussion with you then. However, I would be interested to find out the reason why Sikhs and Hindus would be more similar in terms of certain labor statistics as opposed to Sikhs and Muslims – interesting especially from an anthropological perspective as most Sikhs and Muslims tend to come from rural backgrounds, while Hindus in the UK tend to come from more urban backgrounds.

    Finally I get to your point #3 and for many Sikhs I think this may be the most pertinent. Here I will just ask you questions for the time being. Can you describe the Sheffield community in more detail? For those that tend to go to Gurdwara everyday, how would you describe the general profile of such attendees? For that subgroup that is UK-born, how would you describe them? How do you suggest a revival may occur? Under what context and conditions?

  9. RT says:

    Mewa

    It is interesting Sikhs come out closer to Hindus than Muslims when using the Census. I am sure when using survey data they come out closer to Muslims.

    I found the Sikhs in Sheffield unusual compared to Sikhs in London. It is a very small community and reminded me of the Sikhs in East London about 20 yrs ago. For instance, when I visited once there was a birthday party for a child going on and I dont think that would occur in more busier temples.

    I was told most British born Sikhs did not bother with the temple and on the occasions I spoke to British born Sikhs they were intesested in moving away from Sheffield.

  10. RT says:

    Mewa

    It is interesting Sikhs come out closer to Hindus than Muslims when using the Census. I am sure when using survey data they come out closer to Muslims.

    I found the Sikhs in Sheffield unusual compared to Sikhs in London. It is a very small community and reminded me of the Sikhs in East London about 20 yrs ago. For instance, when I visited once there was a birthday party for a child going on and I dont think that would occur in more busier temples.

    I was told most British born Sikhs did not bother with the temple and on the occasions I spoke to British born Sikhs they were intesested in moving away from Sheffield.

  11. Sundari says:

    Yes! I finally caught up on the readings and while I've enjoyed reading the dialogue between you both, RT and Mewa Singh, I will go ahead and impose my thoughts too…

    Sometimes in circumstances of intense conflict the management committee is taken over by women. For example, in three gurdwaras – in Coventry, Leicester, and Birmingham – when rival factions, all men, came to blows within the premises, local women seized control.48 Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, was managed by local women dring 1981-2; Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, Leicester, which had no elections for nine years, was also taken over by women. The Shepherd’s Bush Gurdwara, when faced with a crisis as a result of rivalry between two factions, delegated charge to an all-women’s committee in March 1983; another dispute in 2003 required the Charity Commission’s arbitration.(85)

    I found this observation to be very interesting. The authors noted several times in the book (also mentioned in Chapter 5) that when management failed – it was often women who took over the committees. What I wonder is if this initiative was taken up by women themselves, or if male leaders put women in those positions. What I would like to believe is that these women saw a need for change, and they were the advocates for it. I'm glad the authors took time to mention this in their book because it is an oft undiscussed part of Sikh history in Britian and in fact, it would be nice to know how long these women stayed in power, if they were effective, and whether or not the change in power was sustained.

    It's an interesting conversation, especially in light of the recent news of Sikh Youth group winning the gurdwara election in BC.

  12. Sundari says:

    Yes! I finally caught up on the readings and while I’ve enjoyed reading the dialogue between you both, RT and Mewa Singh, I will go ahead and impose my thoughts too…

    Sometimes in circumstances of intense conflict the management committee is taken over by women. For example, in three gurdwaras – in Coventry, Leicester, and Birmingham when rival factions, all men, came to blows within the premises, local women seized control.48 Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, was managed by local women dring 1981-2; Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, Leicester, which had no elections for nine years, was also taken over by women. The Shepherds Bush Gurdwara, when faced with a crisis as a result of rivalry between two factions, delegated charge to an all-womens committee in March 1983; another dispute in 2003 required the Charity Commissions arbitration.(85)

    I found this observation to be very interesting. The authors noted several times in the book (also mentioned in Chapter 5) that when management failed – it was often women who took over the committees. What I wonder is if this initiative was taken up by women themselves, or if male leaders put women in those positions. What I would like to believe is that these women saw a need for change, and they were the advocates for it. I’m glad the authors took time to mention this in their book because it is an oft undiscussed part of Sikh history in Britian and in fact, it would be nice to know how long these women stayed in power, if they were effective, and whether or not the change in power was sustained.

    It’s an interesting conversation, especially in light of the recent news of Sikh Youth group winning the gurdwara election in BC.

  13. Sundari says:

    RT, you stated,

    I would imagine gurdwara attendance is the outcome of population density. Recently I have lived in Sheffield and the gurdwara only opened on sunday morning – it was very unusual for me to see this. It was also interesting as all of the Sikhs seemed to know each other. I grew in an area of low density, but a gurdwara was about 8 miles away, which my mum attends every day. i woiuld imagine in the uk as the early migrants leave us, there is a population dispersal, then we will see attendace decline. However, it could also be a catalyst for revival.

    I grew up in Huddersfield, close to Sheffield, but with a very different density of Sikhs. I remember the Huddersfield gurdwaras bustling with activity every day. However, friends and family have noted that this isn't the case as much now (ie. now only elderly Sikhs attend the gurdwara daily) and I'm not exactly sure why that is the case – considering Huddersfield's large Sikh community…

  14. Sundari says:

    RT, you stated,

    I would imagine gurdwara attendance is the outcome of population density. Recently I have lived in Sheffield and the gurdwara only opened on sunday morning – it was very unusual for me to see this. It was also interesting as all of the Sikhs seemed to know each other. I grew in an area of low density, but a gurdwara was about 8 miles away, which my mum attends every day. i woiuld imagine in the uk as the early migrants leave us, there is a population dispersal, then we will see attendace decline. However, it could also be a catalyst for revival.

    I grew up in Huddersfield, close to Sheffield, but with a very different density of Sikhs. I remember the Huddersfield gurdwaras bustling with activity every day. However, friends and family have noted that this isn’t the case as much now (ie. now only elderly Sikhs attend the gurdwara daily) and I’m not exactly sure why that is the case – considering Huddersfield’s large Sikh community…

  15. RT says:

    Sundari

    Huddesfield and Sheffield are very different places. I have been in West Yorkshire as well recently. However, I would imagine the same process is occurring, considering your observations. I will take a closer look at Barking Gurdwara (close to where I now live and close to where I grew up) next time I go. What I have been told is that only elderly people and new immigrants now attend during the day. More established and British born attend only when required. Is this important or not?

  16. RT says:

    Sundari

    Huddesfield and Sheffield are very different places. I have been in West Yorkshire as well recently. However, I would imagine the same process is occurring, considering your observations. I will take a closer look at Barking Gurdwara (close to where I now live and close to where I grew up) next time I go. What I have been told is that only elderly people and new immigrants now attend during the day. More established and British born attend only when required. Is this important or not?

  17. Sundari says:

    A large part of why I was involved in the gurdwara, I believe, comes from the fact that my dad played a large role in the gurdwara. Would I feel the same connection to the Huddersfield gurdwara growing up if it wasn't for my dad? Probably not. As you mentioned, Mewa, gurdwaras have more institutionalized activities for Sikh youth – but i would go further and empahsize that these activities are mainly for very young Sikhs. Then we'll see Sikhs of our parents' generation attending gurdwara. But what about the invisble generation inbetween these two groups? Sikhs who are of college-age or new professionals are barely present at the gurdwara. Perhaps it's as RT states, that gurdwaras are unfriendly places and older Sikh youth recognize this and are old enough to decide for themself if they want to attend or not… and basically choose not to.

    What I have been told is that only elderly people and new immigrants now attend during the day. More established and British born attend only when required. Is this important or not?

    I do think it's important to attend gurdwara for reasons that I won't go into here but I don't think it defines you as a Sikh if you choose not attend because you don't feel a connection with the gurdwara.

  18. Mewa Singh says:

    Sundari and RT,

    It seems striking to me that in many ways the Sikh youth have had more institutionalised activities connected to the Gurdwara. Gurdwaras are the centers for Punjabi schools, gatka programs, sometimes bhangra programs, youth sports leagues, kirtan classes, and according to many successful matches even certain type of ‘vichola’ services.

    Yet despite all of these functions that Gurdwaras play, we see attendance (again if we are using this an indicator of ‘connectedness’) suprisingly low. While the most obvious reason may be that the youth have other ‘socialization’ arenas than our parents had, but still in the UK this argument doesn’t seem enough as a ‘pub’ culture has existed side-by-side and in one famous case across the street from the Gurdwara.

    Again as both of you have UK connections and this is the community we are spotlighting, why would you conjecture this is? What are some of the regional differences in terms of Gurdwara? What makes Sheffield Gurdwara different from Southall or Huddlesfield or any other place for that matter in terms of the ‘religious self-identification’ of the youth? Do you see differences in the ‘religious self-identification’ of the youth that come out of those Gurdwaras? Can we come up here with a qualitative/anecdotal list of what makes one more successful than the other?

  19. Mewa Singh says:

    Sundari and RT,

    It seems striking to me that in many ways the Sikh youth have had more institutionalised activities connected to the Gurdwara. Gurdwaras are the centers for Punjabi schools, gatka programs, sometimes bhangra programs, youth sports leagues, kirtan classes, and according to many successful matches even certain type of 'vichola' services.

    Yet despite all of these functions that Gurdwaras play, we see attendance (again if we are using this an indicator of 'connectedness') suprisingly low. While the most obvious reason may be that the youth have other 'socialization' arenas than our parents had, but still in the UK this argument doesn't seem enough as a 'pub' culture has existed side-by-side and in one famous case across the street from the Gurdwara.

    Again as both of you have UK connections and this is the community we are spotlighting, why would you conjecture this is? What are some of the regional differences in terms of Gurdwara? What makes Sheffield Gurdwara different from Southall or Huddlesfield or any other place for that matter in terms of the 'religious self-identification' of the youth? Do you see differences in the 'religious self-identification' of the youth that come out of those Gurdwaras? Can we come up here with a qualitative/anecdotal list of what makes one more successful than the other?

  20. RT says:

    Mewa

    Have you considered

    1. Class position. It is well known middle classes are more likely to participate in activites outside school.

    2. Number of families in which both adults work. For Sikhs, this is high. When I grew up both of my parents worked and all I ever did was play football in the street. A number of Sikhs my age also often comment about this.

    3. You talk about religious identfication. Do Sikhs have attend a gurdwara to think they are Sikhs. look at the work of Eleanor Nesbitt who have worked with Tatla. She finds most Sikhs have an unwavering idenitfication of being Sikh. However, most are clean shaven etc. I am afraid it returns to the classic question asked by H. McLeod – "Who is a Sikh?"!

    4. From my personal experience, I think the gurdwara is largely an unfriendly place. As I have recently lived in the north, I can tell you I found both Sheffield and Leeds unfriendly. The only place I like to attend is where my family is known. As a youngster I found temples alien and again unfriendly. I think also that most people only attend at say weddings, and therefore they get a bit of a culture shock when attending at other times.

  21. RT says:

    Mewa

    Have you considered

    1. Class position. It is well known middle classes are more likely to participate in activites outside school.

    2. Number of families in which both adults work. For Sikhs, this is high. When I grew up both of my parents worked and all I ever did was play football in the street. A number of Sikhs my age also often comment about this.

    3. You talk about religious identfication. Do Sikhs have attend a gurdwara to think they are Sikhs. look at the work of Eleanor Nesbitt who have worked with Tatla. She finds most Sikhs have an unwavering idenitfication of being Sikh. However, most are clean shaven etc. I am afraid it returns to the classic question asked by H. McLeod – “Who is a Sikh?”!
    4. From my personal experience, I think the gurdwara is largely an unfriendly place. As I have recently lived in the north, I can tell you I found both Sheffield and Leeds unfriendly. The only place I like to attend is where my family is known. As a youngster I found temples alien and again unfriendly. I think also that most people only attend at say weddings, and therefore they get a bit of a culture shock when attending at other times.

  22. Sundari says:

    A large part of why I was involved in the gurdwara, I believe, comes from the fact that my dad played a large role in the gurdwara. Would I feel the same connection to the Huddersfield gurdwara growing up if it wasn’t for my dad? Probably not. As you mentioned, Mewa, gurdwaras have more institutionalized activities for Sikh youth – but i would go further and empahsize that these activities are mainly for very young Sikhs. Then we’ll see Sikhs of our parents’ generation attending gurdwara. But what about the invisble generation inbetween these two groups? Sikhs who are of college-age or new professionals are barely present at the gurdwara. Perhaps it’s as RT states, that gurdwaras are unfriendly places and older Sikh youth recognize this and are old enough to decide for themself if they want to attend or not… and basically choose not to.

    What I have been told is that only elderly people and new immigrants now attend during the day. More established and British born attend only when required. Is this important or not?

    I do think it’s important to attend gurdwara for reasons that I won’t go into here but I don’t think it defines you as a Sikh if you choose not attend because you don’t feel a connection with the gurdwara.

  23. Sundari says:

    Mewa

    Have you considered

    1. Class position. It is well known middle classes are more likely to participate in activites outside school.

    2. Number of families in which both adults work. For Sikhs, this is high. When I grew up both of my parents worked and all I ever did was play football in the street. A number of Sikhs my age also often comment about this.

    I would assume that 'class position' and the 'number of families in which both adults work' is the same for areas in the North like Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield with areas in the South like Southall, Ilford etc. So I'm not sure how those regional differences could attest to differences in Gurdwara attendance. I would say that Southall, one of these 'Little Punjabs' that the authors refer to, is much more well established and commercialized in terms of Sikh Punjabi identity – so I would assume that engagement with the gurdwara would be higher in those areas?

  24. Sundari says:

    Mewa

    Have you considered

    1. Class position. It is well known middle classes are more likely to participate in activites outside school.

    2. Number of families in which both adults work. For Sikhs, this is high. When I grew up both of my parents worked and all I ever did was play football in the street. A number of Sikhs my age also often comment about this.

    I would assume that ‘class position’ and the ‘number of families in which both adults work’ is the same for areas in the North like Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield with areas in the South like Southall, Ilford etc. So I’m not sure how those regional differences could attest to differences in Gurdwara attendance. I would say that Southall, one of these ‘Little Punjabs’ that the authors refer to, is much more well established and commercialized in terms of Sikh Punjabi identity – so I would assume that engagement with the gurdwara would be higher in those areas?

  25. Jodha says:

    RT:

    Do Sikhs have attend a gurdwara to think they are Sikhs. look at the work of Eleanor Nesbitt who have worked with Tatla. She finds most Sikhs have an unwavering idenitfication of being Sikh.

    Any particular article or book that you would suggest?

  26. Jodha says:

    RT:

    Do Sikhs have attend a gurdwara to think they are Sikhs. look at the work of Eleanor Nesbitt who have worked with Tatla. She finds most Sikhs have an unwavering idenitfication of being Sikh.

    Any particular article or book that you would suggest?

  27. RT says:

    Sundari

    I was not talking about gurdwara attendance, but the activites that are put on for children at the gurdwara. It is a well known fact that middle class children will attend more activites than working class children. However, if you think the class position of Sikhs or any other group in the north of England compares to the south you are very much mistaken. I work as a geographer for a university in the north and can verify that with census data and from what I have observed. FOr instance, in Leeds where the main bulk of the Sikhs live a house can be purchased for about 170k. THis is expensive, no9t just for thge inner city area I am referring to, but also for the north in areas like Huddesfierld. In Old Southall, which is the worst part of southall and in the top 5% most deprived areas in the UK and home to the largest concentration of Sikhs in England and anywhere outside the Punjab, you will be hard pressed to purchase a house for £230. The north/south divide continues. When i purchased a house in Leeds it was in the most prestigious area and peole think it is posh to live there. I tell them it os no different to any area in the south other than the deprived areas like the inner city areas and the coastal areas. Read the work of Danny Dorling on class and the north/south divide.

  28. RT says:

    Sundari

    I was not talking about gurdwara attendance, but the activites that are put on for children at the gurdwara. It is a well known fact that middle class children will attend more activites than working class children. However, if you think the class position of Sikhs or any other group in the north of England compares to the south you are very much mistaken. I work as a geographer for a university in the north and can verify that with census data and from what I have observed. FOr instance, in Leeds where the main bulk of the Sikhs live a house can be purchased for about 170k. THis is expensive, no9t just for thge inner city area I am referring to, but also for the north in areas like Huddesfierld. In Old Southall, which is the worst part of southall and in the top 5% most deprived areas in the UK and home to the largest concentration of Sikhs in England and anywhere outside the Punjab, you will be hard pressed to purchase a house for 230. The north/south divide continues. When i purchased a house in Leeds it was in the most prestigious area and peole think it is posh to live there. I tell them it os no different to any area in the south other than the deprived areas like the inner city areas and the coastal areas. Read the work of Danny Dorling on class and the north/south divide.

  29. Sundari says:

    RT, Thanks for the clarification because I was not aware of the class differences between Sikhs in the north and south. As a related question – Would you say that there are more self-employed Sikhs in the North or the South? I'm sure that is an element in Gurdwara participation too.

  30. Sundari says:

    RT, Thanks for the clarification because I was not aware of the class differences between Sikhs in the north and south. As a related question – Would you say that there are more self-employed Sikhs in the North or the South? I’m sure that is an element in Gurdwara participation too.

  31. RT says:

    self/ep own/mor rent sikh self own/mor rent

    North East 3.84 65.69 20.12 0.19 22.20 81.80 6.36

    North West 5.11 70.78 12.29 0.10 7.99 67.78 5.86

    Yorkshire 5.21 69.17 15.47 0.38 9.63 86.51 2.80

    East Midlands 5.59 72.97 12.44 0.80 7.44 87.29 2.39

    West Midlands 5.31 70.73 13.06 1.97 6.62 88.80 2.84

    East of England 6.66 73.26 10.60 0.25 8.89 85.66 2.82

    London 6.63 56.68 16.44 1.45 5.97 81.67 5.46

    South East 6.90 73.13 6.87 0.47 7.69 86.88 2.74

    South West 7.23 72.44 7.35 0.09 8.26 77.33 6.96

    Sundari

    these are the official figures. reading from the left we have national average of self-employed people, then national ave of people who own outright/mortage home, then national average people renting from council. the next coloumn = percentage of sikhs, then self-employed, own/mortgage, then rent from council.

    hope this has gone onto the page well enough for you to read it. there are differencs as you can see. the north east has very few sikhs and an incredible high number of sikhs in self-employment, i can onl,yh think racism is the reason.

    interested to hear your thoughts on these figures. also, why does self-employment make a difference to gurdwara attendene – not all sikhs own shops who are self-employed

  32. RT says:

    self/ep own/mor rent sikh self own/mor rent
    North East 3.84 65.69 20.12 0.19 22.20 81.80 6.36
    North West 5.11 70.78 12.29 0.10 7.99 67.78 5.86
    Yorkshire 5.21 69.17 15.47 0.38 9.63 86.51 2.80
    East Midlands 5.59 72.97 12.44 0.80 7.44 87.29 2.39
    West Midlands 5.31 70.73 13.06 1.97 6.62 88.80 2.84
    East of England 6.66 73.26 10.60 0.25 8.89 85.66 2.82
    London 6.63 56.68 16.44 1.45 5.97 81.67 5.46
    South East 6.90 73.13 6.87 0.47 7.69 86.88 2.74
    South West 7.23 72.44 7.35 0.09 8.26 77.33 6.96

    Sundari

    these are the official figures. reading from the left we have national average of self-employed people, then national ave of people who own outright/mortage home, then national average people renting from council. the next coloumn = percentage of sikhs, then self-employed, own/mortgage, then rent from council.

    hope this has gone onto the page well enough for you to read it. there are differencs as you can see. the north east has very few sikhs and an incredible high number of sikhs in self-employment, i can onl,yh think racism is the reason.

    interested to hear your thoughts on these figures. also, why does self-employment make a difference to gurdwara attendene – not all sikhs own shops who are self-employed

  33. Mewa Singh says:

    RT and Sundari,

    Sorry to return to this late – granted I am speaking from an American position, but I do notice that class is not the critical issue in terms of religious self-identification from my own experiences. Especially in those Sikhs that most overtly identify themselves as Sikhs – those that engage in activities such as gatka or belong to specific jathas, class does not seem to be the most critical factor.

    Finally with returning to the Gurdwaras not being a 'welcoming' place, this argument is often made, but can we think of concrete solutions and concrete programs to make it more 'welcoming.' Would this change attendance too?

  34. Mewa Singh says:

    RT and Sundari,

    Sorry to return to this late – granted I am speaking from an American position, but I do notice that class is not the critical issue in terms of religious self-identification from my own experiences. Especially in those Sikhs that most overtly identify themselves as Sikhs – those that engage in activities such as gatka or belong to specific jathas, class does not seem to be the most critical factor.

    Finally with returning to the Gurdwaras not being a ‘welcoming’ place, this argument is often made, but can we think of concrete solutions and concrete programs to make it more ‘welcoming.’ Would this change attendance too?

  35. RT says:

    Mewa

    In due course class will make a difference in the UK. Class is difficult to determine as there is a wide variety of factors and people normally just use occupational class.

    Sikhs are expected to assimiliate once they have reached higher classes and appear to be dong so. Singh and Tatla sort of make this point in their book as well. Problem with Singh and Tatla book is they do not prove any point – just make observations.

  36. RT says:

    Mewa

    In due course class will make a difference in the UK. Class is difficult to determine as there is a wide variety of factors and people normally just use occupational class.

    Sikhs are expected to assimiliate once they have reached higher classes and appear to be dong so. Singh and Tatla sort of make this point in their book as well. Problem with Singh and Tatla book is they do not prove any point – just make observations.

  37. Sundari says:

    RT, apologies for the delay in my response…

    there are differencs as you can see. the north east has very few sikhs and an incredible high number of sikhs in self-employment, i can onl,yh think racism is the reason.

    perhaps due to these circumstances (ie. self-employment, increased racism) – gurdwara attendance would be higher in the north east? my argument would be that people are coming together as a community to deal with these adversities and thus, gurdwara attendance would be increased.

    interested to hear your thoughts on these figures. also, why does self-employment make a difference to gurdwara attendene – not all sikhs own shops who are self-employed

    my argument as to why self-employment would make a difference in gurdwara attendance (ie. in some cases pushing the numbers down) would be because to be self-employed often times means you're working on the weekends and at times the work you're doing ends up being a 'family business' with all individuals contributing. perhaps i'm simply speaking from personal experience and noting issues that may have affected gurdwara attendance for my family at various times – but to be self-employed is often a job that continues on the weekends and evenings too…

  38. Sundari says:

    RT, apologies for the delay in my response…

    there are differencs as you can see. the north east has very few sikhs and an incredible high number of sikhs in self-employment, i can onl,yh think racism is the reason.

    perhaps due to these circumstances (ie. self-employment, increased racism) – gurdwara attendance would be higher in the north east? my argument would be that people are coming together as a community to deal with these adversities and thus, gurdwara attendance would be increased.

    interested to hear your thoughts on these figures. also, why does self-employment make a difference to gurdwara attendene – not all sikhs own shops who are self-employed

    my argument as to why self-employment would make a difference in gurdwara attendance (ie. in some cases pushing the numbers down) would be because to be self-employed often times means you’re working on the weekends and at times the work you’re doing ends up being a ‘family business’ with all individuals contributing. perhaps i’m simply speaking from personal experience and noting issues that may have affected gurdwara attendance for my family at various times – but to be self-employed is often a job that continues on the weekends and evenings too…

  39. Sundari says:

    Mewa,

    Finally with returning to the Gurdwaras not being a ‘welcoming’ place, this argument is often made, but can we think of concrete solutions and concrete programs to make it more ‘welcoming.’ Would this change attendance too?

    Agreed. Making gurdwaras more 'welcoming' would definitely help, but it's only part of the solution. What's going to happen when gurdwaras are seen as more welcoming and we're still not seeing an increase in participation. What we need is for individuals to feel connected with their gurdwaras, to actively participate, to want to gain something back from it and finally, to want to see it succeed.

  40. Sundari says:

    Mewa,

    Finally with returning to the Gurdwaras not being a welcoming place, this argument is often made, but can we think of concrete solutions and concrete programs to make it more welcoming. Would this change attendance too?

    Agreed. Making gurdwaras more ‘welcoming’ would definitely help, but it’s only part of the solution. What’s going to happen when gurdwaras are seen as more welcoming and we’re still not seeing an increase in participation. What we need is for individuals to feel connected with their gurdwaras, to actively participate, to want to gain something back from it and finally, to want to see it succeed.

  41. Mewa Singh says:

    Sundari,

    So what do you suggest we do so all those things occur?

  42. Mewa Singh says:

    Sundari,

    So what do you suggest we do so all those things occur?

  43. Surjit singh says:

    Hello,

    There was a question raised in a gurdwara, to which there were several answers but I am not sure to who is correct. The question is: Can a gurdwara building be rented to a muslim running a business with a muslim name, on a building with the Sikh Khanda? Shouls we sikhs not give priority to sikhs? At what point does money (rent) become more important than the "religion"?

    I would appreciate if anyone has a clear-cut answer to these questions.

    Thank you.

  44. Surjit singh says:

    Hello,
    There was a question raised in a gurdwara, to which there were several answers but I am not sure to who is correct. The question is: Can a gurdwara building be rented to a muslim running a business with a muslim name, on a building with the Sikh Khanda? Shouls we sikhs not give priority to sikhs? At what point does money (rent) become more important than the “religion”?
    I would appreciate if anyone has a clear-cut answer to these questions.
    Thank you.

  45. Roop Dhillon says:

    If that muslim is not insulting the relogion and is respecting the GGS et cetra, than morally it is difficult to say no to him, as the 4 doors are open to all…depends upon what that Muslim is selling and how he is behavioing towards the Gurdwara and Sikhs? After all you could get a Sikh pedaling things that disrespect Sikhi or who is a clear sinner…so who is worst?

    Judge not the man for being a Muslim, judge him in context of how he behaves towards Sikhs

  46. Roop Dhillon says:

    If that muslim is not insulting the relogion and is respecting the GGS et cetra, than morally it is difficult to say no to him, as the 4 doors are open to all…depends upon what that Muslim is selling and how he is behavioing towards the Gurdwara and Sikhs? After all you could get a Sikh pedaling things that disrespect Sikhi or who is a clear sinner…so who is worst?

    Judge not the man for being a Muslim, judge him in context of how he behaves towards Sikhs

  47. Margie says:

    I found this interesting. I am doing an M.A. in Theology at Liverpool Hope Uni. Keep up the good work!

  48. Margie says:

    I found this interesting. I am doing an M.A. in Theology at Liverpool Hope Uni. Keep up the good work!