Hi Pew Forum!
I’m very impressed by the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Interviewing 35,000+ people is quite a feat.
But I’m suprised to see not even a brief mention of Sikh Americans–the most visible religious minority in America.
Please take a look at this recently released US Department of Justice video titled “On Common Ground” for some detailed info on Sikhs:
quotes: “…world’s fifth largest religion…there are over half a million Sikhs in the United States…distinctly separate from Hinduism and Islam”
Is there anything we can do to be included–in an appendix or a revision? It seems that you’ve produced some historic research, and we would love for Sikhs to be part of it–is there anything we can do going forward? What do you recommend?
Thanks for your help!
- Savraj Singh
So a friend of mine forwarded me a link to an outstanding site, the Daily Hukamnama. The site is nothing short of excellent: a complete catalog of hukamnamas with audio and knowledgeable English translation. But what really stands out is the profile of Sukha Singh, the guy that translates and records the hukam each day. It’s great to have people like Sukha Singh, and I hope he inspires many others. The work he’s doing is super valuable. I also noticed his profile was taken down recently, so I’ve included a copy of it, found in Google’s cache.
For those of you wondering what a Hukamnama is: it’s the “order of the day.” It’s a hymn read from the Sikh sacred text, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, at random. It’s usually read at the height of a Sikh service. Yes, the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at random, and the first hymn that starts on the top left page is read. (If it’s split between pages, you can turn back a page.) The site mentioned above records the daily hukams as taken at Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar, India. The translation is absolutely amazing–this is some really great content and I look forward to following it. If possible, all North American Gurdwaras should take hukam like this–it really helps everyone get a better understanding of their Guru.
|March 2, 2008|
|11:00 am||to||3:00 pm|
Remember I gave a talk on Japji Sahib at the Philly gurdwara? Well there’s another seminar coming up–this time it’s the concept of Langar. Good friend of Sikhswim Sukhwant Singh will be a speaker there. I was planning to go skiing that day–but I may change those plans. These seminars are the perfect thing for any gurdwara seeking to engage its sangat. Sometimes you have to wonder: How many people are showing up at the gurdwara just for the langar? Too many I think.
Seminar #16 “Concept of Langar”
You are cordially invited, with family and friends, to participate in our 16th seminar “Concept of Langar” in the Sikh Heritage Seminar Series.
Date: March 2, 2008 (Sunday) 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Discussion Session: 3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Philadelphia Sikh Society Gurudwara Sahib, 6708 Garden Court, Millbourne, (near Philadelphia, PA) PA 19082. Phone: 610-352-4733
Moderator: Manjit Kaur, Southampton PA
Speaker: Amarjeet Singh, Philadelphia, PA
Harpreet Kaur, Philadelphia, PA
Sukhwant Singh, Lawrenceville, NJ
Dr. Navjeet Kaur, Huntingdon Valley, PA
This seminar is about “Concept of Langar”in the Sikh faith. Let us join together and remind ourselves of the true message behind this great tradition started by our Guru Sahibs. This Seminar will give us an opportunity to reflect on how closely we are following the values of this tradition and also it will give us today’s health perspective.
Please join us and participate in the discussion session after Langer. These sessions are a very important part of our seminars; we can discuss, learn, and have a chance to share our views with each others.
Looking forward to seeing you.
Thank you and Guru Fateh.
Circa 1990 (anyone know the exact date?) a Sikh was featured on the Richard Bey show, a local New York City program. This charismatic young fellow (who is a few years my senior and now a well-respected doctor that organizes Health Fairs at gurdwaras) won the #1 fan competition. It’s an interesting clip, because Richard says a few things that may be considered a bit “off” today. At the same time, Varinder Singh shines through as the ultimate fan–his tenacity, dedication, and sheer entertainment value made him an easy first choice. He says, “I don’t smoke dope, I don’t drink bourbon, all I want to do is shake my turban.” I think I first heard that line from the Sikh Elvis impersonator–but that’s a different story. Anyway, with all the recent hoopla around Kenneth Cole Singh, what do you think of Richard Bey Singh?
The benefit of the Kenneth Cole campaign is that the focus is on Sonny the Sikh Entrepreneur. (I think that’s the title of a children’s book–Sonny the Sikh). Richard does make a joke about “Sikh”, but that’s not the focus of the program anyway. It’s just entertainment. I guess after watching this video again, it just makes me feel really glad that we have things like Kenneth Cole Singh, Waris Singh, and other prominent, positive representations in the American media.
So today about 30 people from a local Jewish congregation visited the gurdwara I attend. They were one of the best groups I’ve seen in a long time–lots of detailed questions and insights. One question threw me for a bit of a loop, though.
So you just told me that Sikhism is about 100% gender equality, and I get that, but why do men and women sit separately in the Gurdwara?
So a novice and dismissive answer to this question is, “yeah, it’s separate but equal,” but this ignores the fact that the phrase separate but equal carries a lot of weight in the mind of anyone that’s read about the American Civil Rights movement. In fact, someone in the visiting crowd offered this answer with a chuckle before I even started my response, indicating to me they knew the loaded history of the term. So I didn’t go there.
Instead, I answered with a story I’ve heard that explains the historic origin of the situation: When Guru Nanak was addressing the Sikhs, men would crowd right up to the front, leaving the women to settle for the back of the congregation. Sensing the inherent inequality, Guru Ji said, “Ok, guys, you get this half of the audience, and ladies, you get this half, so everyone has equal access to me.” Now I don’t know how true this story is, but a wise Gursikh told it to me and it does make logical sense.
Another answer I’ve heard but didn’t give this time is that it’s merely a protocol issue. If you start sitting girls next to guys, their minds begin to stray from the kirtan. By keeping genders separate we mitigate the issue. This response is hokey at best, so I didn’t even give it as a secondary explanation. Also of note, Gurdwaras in India are apparently so crowded there are no “sides” to the gurdwara.
My question to you is–do you like my story? Does it have any historical backing or did someone make it up? How would you answer this question?
Check out Sonny’s Video Interview. I like what he says and he did a great job speaking from the heart.
I too remember watching the events of 9/11 unfold on a big screen in the Frist campus center. When members of the Taliban were shown on television, I could feel everyone look at the screen, and look at me, and then look back at the screen, and look at me again. I wanted to jump in front of the screen and say, “Hey friends, look, that’s not me, see my turban’s actually much neater, I match the color with my clothes, it’s worn for religious purposes, and 97% of all turban wearing folks in the US are Sikhs–not the blatant stereotype that’s forming in your head as you watch CNN in these key formative moments.” Of course I would follow it by saying we should never make assumptions about people just by the way they look, and that even if their stereotype were true I’m still my own person and the actions of a few do not represent a whole group. Anyway check out Sonny’s video. Update: Added the youtube clip. Update: Sonny Singh made the Front Page of the Times of India as well.