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A Misrepresentation of Sikhism


The Wall Street Journal, New York, Oct. 12, 2001

Photo: The Sikh Salutation: Sat Sri Akal!

Aside from a litany of factual and historical overgeneralizations and errors within this editorial, Mr. Singh's writings simultaneously misrepresent the Sikh perspective and the American way.

His denial of Sikhs' religious identity, by calling them a reformist branch of Hinduism, differs from nearly all renown Sikh theologists. According to a well-known Sikh theologian, Kapur Singh, 'The scientific fact about Sikhism is that it is neither a syncretism, an amalgam and intellectual extraction from other religions and creeds, nor a sect of Hinduism or Islam, as has been variously asserted from time to time by numerous authorities. It is an autonomous, independent religion, complete and whole, with its validity inhering in its own revelations and proclamations such as are repeatedly made in the Sikh Scripture, its pious literature and its historical movement.'

The piece performs a disservice to its audience through its generalizations and reductionism of history by inventing a division between Muslims and Sikhs - an irresponsible action that represents the poorest of American and Sikh values. In this time of national crisis, as the country makes attempts at unity and understanding, his piece stabs at the very heart of both this goodwill and the soul of Sikh doctrine.

Sikhs have throughout history fought against oppression and stood for the downtrodden, regardless of the identity of each. Within this history Sikhs have befriended and suffered at the hands of individuals who belonged to both the Hindu and Muslim faith, yet at no point was such a struggle ever against any faith, but only against oppression.

Today, Sikhs stand with their fellow Americans and seek justice against those who committed the atrocious acts of Sept. 11. We stand ready to serve our country. We also stand in solidarity with Muslims, Arabs, Asians or any people who have suffered as a result of backlash from those events. We stand united with our American brethren.

Throughout his life, the ninth Sikh guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur vehemently condemned the Hindu caste system that separated a society. Yet he stepped forward and sacrificed his life for the rights of those same Hindus to practice that which we so vehemently condemned. Voltaire passionately uttered, 'I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death, your right to say it;' Guru Tegh Bahadur stepped forward and lived and died by this principle.

It is this principle that is the cornerstone of American freedom and the Sikh consciousness. Today Sikhs honor this path and stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans, of all backgrounds, to battle all forms of tyranny against our country.