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A Community With An Image Problem

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Aman Singh, May 5, 2010.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Tech Admin SPNer

    Jun 1, 2004
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    The extremist Sikhs who have gone online to threaten the life of Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh are doing their fellow Sikhs an incredible disservice. A recent poll suggests as much.

    The bullying militants are tarnishing all Sikhs with the same violent brush, even though Canada's roughly 350,000 Sikhs come in a wide range of beliefs, attitudes and practices.

    Some, like Dosanjh, are fully secular. Others practise the religion quietly and just occasionally. Some are devout turban-wearing orthodox faithful. And a few are hardline militant fundamentalists who get a thrill out of intimidating moderates.

    The Sikhs who went onto Facebook to call for the shooting of Dosanjh, a federal Liberal who does not support the creation of a separate Sikh homeland in India called Khalistan, are probably from the militant fundamentalist camp, which has consistently made things rough for Sikhs like Dosanjh.

    Whatever the seriousness of the threat against him, Dosanjh made it clear in a recent interview that a person with a Sikh background doesn't have to be a religious fundamentalist to be worthy of respect by other Sikhs.

    "I have a very secular approach to life and that's my right. I'm a Canadian by citizenship, I'm an Indian by heritage and I'm a Punjabi by mother tongue. I'm proud of all of that."

    The former lawyer and one-time New Democratic Party B.C. premier added: "I don't stand for dividing people on religion."

    This is an important thing to remember about Sikhism. It's a little bit like Judaism, in that it's a loose combination of both a religion and a culture.

    Many consider themselves or others Sikh even if they don't really practise the religion, show up at gurdwaras mostly for weddings, follow Sikhism and other spiritual paths at the same time or are atheists.

    Dosanjh deserves credit for taking a risk and declaring Sikhs come in many varieties.

    They are not, by any means, all extremists -- as Dosanjh made clear this year when he agreed during the Olympics to be grilled in front of a mass TV audience by world- famous American political satirist Stephen Colbert.

    An Angus Reid poll released last year suggested Sikhs desperately need such image boosts.

    Something is needed to counteract disturbing polling figures that show only 30 per cent of Canadians have a favourable opinion of Sikhism -- even in B.C., which is home to roughly half the country's Sikh population.

    Metro Vancouver, particularly Surrey, is one of arguably the three largest Sikh centres outside India. The other two major diaspora communities are in Mississauga-Brampton in Ontario and in London, England.

    In contrast to the low approval rating of Sikhism, the Angus Reid survey of more than 1,000 Canadians found 53 per cent expressing a positive view of Judaism and 57 per cent of Buddhism.

    Meanwhile, 72 per cent of Canadians have a favourable opinion of Christians, some of which must have to do with it remaining the largest religion in the country.

    Sikhs, unfortunately, join Muslims in the same uncomfortable boat.

    Islam, whose image has been tarnished by outbreaks of Muslim-related terrorism, was looked upon favourably by only 28 per cent of Canadians, slightly lower than the Sikh figure.

    Like Muslims, many people justifiably believe Sikhs are often unfairly stereotyped by high-profile media coverage of what they call the few overaggressive "bad apples" among them.

    Understandably, Sikhs want the public to pay more attention to the positive successes of Sikh business leaders, professors, politicians, athletes and rising bhangra performers, whose feel-good music is universally infectious.

    By publicly reminding Canadians that Sikhs come in a variety of manifestations, including "very secular," Dosanjh deserves applause for doing his bit to improve the reputation of the rest of the Sikh community.

    Read more: Ottawa Citizen | Latest Breaking News | Business | Sports | Canada Daily News

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