Recently there’s been some concern over the portrayal of Sikhs on the television show “Glee” which serves the high school crowd. It’s summed up by the image below:
What’s funny is this Glee episode has some discussion about faith and religions (from the few seconds of it that I watched). Unfortunately the quote above and the following dialog characterizes all Sikhs as acupuncturists, something that’s not part of the Sikh tradition. The in-passing references to Sikhism are the most demeaning, because they leave no room for discussion or dimension. Anyway I could see how this was an innocent error by a scriptwriter eager to make reference to our cool faith — they might know a Sikh who does acupuncture. If that were the case perhaps they could’ve referred to him by name instead of saying “My Sikh.” It’s like saying “My Jew”. That sounds offensive, doesn’t it?
Here’s a note from Kanwalroop Kaur on this issue:
I wanted to call your attention to a particular show called Glee that comes on Tuesday evenings on Fox. There was an episode last week, Season 2 Episode 3, that was focused on religion and referenced Sikhism in a demeaning way. My friends and I have started an emailing campaign to get the producers of the show to apologize for the misrepresentation. The show portrayed Sikhs as acupuncturists and one character even says, “My Sikh.” I was outraged by this and so were many of the Sikhs I know. If you would like to watch the episode, you can watch it here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/181761/glee-grilled-cheesus
The offensive part occurs at 35:12.
We have devised a sample email to send to the producers of the show and I will copy and paste it below. It would be great if you could help us spread the word and send it yourself as well. Here is the sample message:
Subject: Serious Misrepresentation of the Sikh Community on Glee
Content of Message:
Dear Ms. Tracey Raftery,
In the third episode of Season 2 (”Grilled Cheesus”), there was a serious misrepresentation of the Sikh religion and community. Seeing as Sikhs are a minority and not often covered in mainstream media, each and every time that we are referenced by a mainstream media organization makes a great impact on our perception in American culture. Thus, we believe that unknowingly you created a perception of the Sikh community that you had no idea you were creating. It is ironic that in this episode the writers were trying to convey a sense of interfaith unity and general religious acceptance, and yet seriously misrepresented the 5th largest religion in the world–Sikhism.
In the episode, the Sikh woman that was portrayed as Kurt’s acupuncturist, was referred to as “My Sikh” by Kurt. Firstly, acupuncture has no place in our religion. This is more of an oriental tradition, and the simple act of googling the world, “acupuncture” would tell you this. Secondly, referring to someone as “my Sikh”–is quite frankly, demeaning. It gives off the air that Sikhs are servants, or people that can be owned and forced to do service for others. Sikhism is centered on the tenets of self-empowerment, equality, and brotherhood–so Glee clearly missed the point.
It is quite depressing that the writers of Glee did not put in the effort to perform a simple google search of our religion to learn more about it. This lack of concern and apathy is shameful and disrespectful. Not only myself, but many other Sikhs and even non-Sikhs found the scenes of this episode to be offensive. It was especially upsetting, because this episode was so centered on religion, so it was truly sad to see our faith so misrepresented by a show that was meant to promote learning and acceptance. If you do not wish to alienate the Sikh viewers of this show, I strongly recommend that you issue a correction of some kind.
Write Name Here
Yeah I’m busy, but this came across my desk, it’s pretty awesome, had to post it! From Sikh Coalition update message:
(New York, New York) September 24, 2010 - The Sikh Coalition is pleased to announce that Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s co-founder and Director of Programs, was appointed by President Barack Obama to his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) last week. The Sikh Coalition believes this is the first appointment of a Sikh American to such a post.
“Our nation will be well-served by the skill and dedication these men and women bring to their new roles. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead,” President Obama said last week in a news release issued by the White House.
Here’s the embed from YouTube:
September 21st is the UN Day for Peace. At noon on the 21st, there will be a coordinated worldwide minute for peace — sign the pledge and learn more here: a million minutes for peace. It’s a noble effort and the Princeton, NJ interfaith community is also taking part, through an event organized by Fellowship In Prayer. Here are the details: [ Tiger Park Event Flyer ]. Basically, it’s in Tiger Park on Sept 21st at 11:40a in downtown Princeton.
You can also check out these PSAs which were recorded for the event and are currently being broadcast on local television channels, you might recognize a few people.
And I’ve chosen to embed a few, just for fun:
Screenshots from The Daily Show:
In the August 10th Episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you did an outstanding report satirizing the uproar about the proposed mosque near the ground zero site. Yes, America is about freedom of religion, and yes, we should promote understanding and respect for all.
In your report, you included shots of Sikh Americans — folks who practice a distinct faith that originated in the 15th century in North India. But you never mentioned they were Sikhs. Your report strongly implied that they were Muslims, which is factually incorrect. Though this is a common error (I’m often mistaken for a Muslim American, but they’re cool too) you should be aware of this, because your media influences millions of people.
The turban is a religiously-mandated article of faith for Sikhs. It’s not the case for Muslims. Which is why 99% of people wearing turbans in the United States are Sikhs — I mean, who’d be crazy enough to wear a turban in America if it weren’t a strict requirement of their faith?
I’m not making this up, here’s a video produced by the US DOJ on just this topic. Yes that’s right, it’s produced by the United States Department of Justice, and all TSA agents are required to watch it every six months. It basically explains to TSA agents who Sikhs are and how they are different, unique, and shouldn’t be profiled so obviously!
As a Sikh from central New Jersey (went to high school in Lawrenceville) that religiously watches the Daily Show, I just wanted to make you aware of this. I was traveling for work last week and was catching up today, so I saw your report. Again, it’s excellent. I love your work and I will also point out that Jason Jones has correctly characterized Sikhs as a distinct faith on the Daily Show, so I figured I’d write to you directly.
Thanks for reading!
EDIT FYI: Mailed this to firstname.lastname@example.org, feel free to write your own and link in comments
Friend of Sikhswim, and now founder and COO of bullioninternational.com, Savneet Singh was recently noted as a mover and shaker:
Savneet Singh is a founder and chief operating officer of GBI. He was an investment analyst at Chilton Investment Co., covering technology, alternative energy and infrastructure investments. Prior to that, Singh was at Morgan Stanley in the investment banking division, working on financial sponsor and strategic company transactions. The advisory board includes retired U.S. Army general Wesley Clark, former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, Tocqueville Gold Fund portfolio manager John Hathaway and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt.
The full story is here: http://www.thedeal.com/newsweekly/pipeline/movers-shakers-baz-hiralal-062810.php
We haven’t heard anything terribly new or exciting from good old pal of Sikhswim, Waris Singh, but it looks like he’s still repping the Sikhs on the street in NYC while he builds the house of waris jewelry empire. Here’s a nice photo of him from the Sartorialist:
Thanks Karaminder Singh for the tip! I would also like to note that Waris is my celebrity Doppelganger.
See this PDF! lawrence-gazette-sikhs-faith-schools The title sounds all demanding, but it just means that Sikhs would like their faith mentioned alongside all the other faiths, that’s all.
So I had the opportunity to present this poem at Lahir 2009. I’ve included the full text of it below. Please let me know if you reprint it anywhere. Thanks!
By Savraj Singh. November 2009.
Let’s get in the time machine and rewind
to a time just after 1469.
We find ourselves in Punjab before it existed,
A time and place where darkness and drudgery persisted,
But in this environment two men traveled, sang, and brought light,
Guru Nanak and Mardana were here to fight the good fight,
People thought they were crazy to question the social norms,
But their message of equality meant monumental reforms,
With divine poetry and music, they cracked into closed minds,
They pounded at the social structure, and began to unify humankind.
Now the followers of Nanak, let’s call them Sikhs,
Quickly filled with ideas that put the ruling class in a fix.
They snapped the once-unbreakable bonds of caste,
They understood equality and that the cruel social system wouldn’t last,
They began to read, write, and be all they could be,
All the while remembering God, sharing and living honestly.
The feeling of empowerment, the passion, the energy grew,
Sikhi began to swell as more and more adopted Nanak’s world view.
Fast forward about 100 years, where we meet the Fifth Guru,
Arjan Dev Ji compiled the scripture, lived the message and stayed True.
Then came the oppressors, to them faith didn’t matter,
They just wanted to stop people from climbing the social ladder.
They liked their control of the masses, and saw Sikhi as a threat,
So they tortured and killed Guru Arjan, may we never forget.
The oppressors knew that they were testing our mettle,
What ensued over the coming century leaves many peaceniks unsettled.
The rulers held the power, they wanted to keep the people down,
The Sikhs would have none of it, and we took this message to town.
They attacked us with blunt tools and big threats, you know, things like money and death,
Of course they found that Sikhs fought to the last breath.
They kept trying to cut down the tree of Sikhi, but they could never cut the root,
With each cut it grew back, faster, bigger, and stronger to boot.
Now we find ourselves on Vaisakhi Day in 1699,
Flags are waving, the crowd is gathering, people are enjoying the sunshine.
The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh caught his followers by surprise,
And decided to make this the day that the Khalsa would rise.
Nanak’s original message, so simple and profound,
Was now carried forth by soldier-saints known the world round.
The Khalsa marched forward with both serving bowl and sword,
On a mission to help the oppressed, without an expectation of reward.
The Singhs and Kaurs, the lions and princesses, kept Nanak’s message alive,
Even if it meant that they themselves would never survive.
They did it for their children, and for future generations, like us,
They made the ultimate sacrifice, in Waheguru they placed their trust.
Fast forward to now, and here we find ourselves today,
A noble and gallant people, wait, what did I just say?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, I think we’ve slipped a bit,
Instead of holding fast to Nanak’s pure ideals, we’ve sized them down to fit.
A once principled and proud people ready to die to preserve the Guru’s blessed vision,
Now we struggle with our identity and seem to suffer from indecision and division.
We’re good at turning words and justifying our own self-centered positions,
Drawing targets where we shoot our wayward arrows, we lack True purpose or mission.
You see, at some point the oppressors got smart,
The events of 1984, well, they were just the start.
Instead of coming after us openly and threatening our lives,
The oppressors come in new forms that help us eliminate our own drive.
“Give them bread and circuses, let the masses be entertained,”
And so we spend our time watching movies and playing video games.
When we look at the world we find that our community is not so unique,
Languages are rapidly disappearing and the future for many looks bleak.
As many of us try to approach Sikhi, we’re like kids in the cockpit of a 747,
Forget about flying, we don’t even know how to start an engine.
In fact, it seems like we might be accelerating our own oppression.
Is there hope, you ask? It all starts with your own mind.
If you want the message to survive, start to seek Truth and you shall find.
This effort requires little resources or time,
Merely a commitment to the pursuit of the Divine.
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the message, is in a room in your house somewhere,
Realize that a lot of blood was spilled to get it there.
Open the pages and sit behind it,
If you have a question, the answer you’ll find it.
You’ll discover a poetic manual to cross the deep world-ocean,
Effectively a guide to swimming through Simran, dedication, and devotion.
Awaken your inner warrior-saint, that Singh or Kaur is within you,
You’ll find that the world comes into focus and into clear view.
But nothing’s going to happen without your mind onboard,
So it is this, I implore, and nothing more.
Lahir 2009 was a smashing success. There was an incredible turnout — a great show of support for the cause in this day and age. There must have been at least 500 people there. I am proud to be part of such a talented and diverse sangat. I just got a bunch of media from the Lahir press office, I’ve attached some of it below. Here’s the post-Lahir press release: