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Do beliefs make a difference in how two faiths adjust to life in the UK?

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Admin Singh, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Do beliefs make a difference in how two faiths adjust to life in the UK? Of course. Hinduism and Sikhism are incredibly different religions. One is polytheistic, the other monotheistic. One needs pages to define its practices and customs, the other a couple sentences. One supports offerings in shrines at the home, the other preaches the importance of meditation. One has a gift shop in a temple, the other a type of soup kitchen. The beliefs of Hinduism are so foreign to the English culture that it seems to attract people by its mystery. It’s something that could go either way; that is, its very noticeable differences could have inspired intense fear or interest in the English people.
    Based on the observations of a person who has limited knowledge on the subject, the English seem to have responded to Hinduism in the latter manner. And who wouldn’t be impressed with the absolutely gorgeous images that are associated with the religion? The figures of their gods, the hand-carved wood that adorns their walls, the bright colors of their dress- Hinduism is without a doubt a very eye-pleasing religion. Sikhism, on the other hand dresses, itself in a quite dull manner in comparison. That’s not to say that both places of worship on the outside are anything less than impressive. But the first thing that greets you at the Hindu temple is a gift shop filled with beautiful figurines that you can’t help but want to have. Conversely, the first thing you see at the Sikh temple is a small closet in which you are to place your shoes. It’s more than a little different. This discrepancy in design is more than a difference in taste. A religion that sees gods in many different forms has more to show off than a religion that recognizes only one. That’s quite understandable.
    What is a little less understandable is how differently the two religions were accepted into Britain. Both found a presence here in the 1950s with the Indian immigrants came over to find safety after the 1947 Partition of India. Members from both the Sikh and Hindu faiths came to England in hopes to get away from the tension and fighting that was occurring in India. This, of course, is not the sole reason for the influx of Sikhs and Hindus to England but it was definitely a major cause of it. Both the Sikhs and Hindus differ from the traditional English appearance immensely. The Sikhs wear turbans, cannot cut their hair, and tote swords. The Hindus wear bright colors and have bright red dots on their foreheads. The English wear grey and black and, while many carry knives, none too many have a sword at the hip. Though both are clearly different from the traditional British appearance, what is important to note is how the two were affected by prejudice towards that different appearance and how they remember that experience. On the BBC website, the Sikhs mention that they changed their appearance in efforts to be employed in London. The Hindus, on a website from the same news source, make no mention of racial prejudice against them whatsoever. No matter how peaceful a new group of people might be, London has never failed to have a prejudice against a group of newcomers. It’s something that would be nice to not be true but alas in my understanding it’s not. So, why this discrepancy? Both Hindus and Sikhs came from the same land around the same time for similar reasons and yet only one actually mentions the ‘dirty’ details: that there was religious turmoil that needed to be fled, and that once a safe place was found, life was less than instantly easy. I don’t really have an answer for this.
    I would argue that there might be certain tendencies that help point to an answer. The Hindu temple tended to be more of a bragging ground to flaunt how grand the religion was. In fact, in the museum, a sign proclaimed that there was absolutely no hypocrisy in the Hindu religion. I applaud them if that’s the case but my observations found this not to be true. Again, I have limited exposure to the religion but one that ignores the huge discrepancy in male and female rights present in the religion might be said to have some hypocrisy lurking around. The Sikh temple by comparison was what it was. It was a huge temple that also made sure to note how much it cost to build; still, it lacked a museum. In place of that and a gift shop, the Sikh gurdwara has a place to feed community members who need a meal. One recognizes the faults with the world while the other seems to cover them up with beautiful decorations. Is that what it takes to fit into British society? Maybe. But even if the Hindu section of the BBC website refuses to recognize that London may have been less than welcoming to them at times, the people who first greeted us when we came to the temple were armed guards. They were quite kind but their smiles couldn’t hide the bulletproof vests they had on. Clearly, both communities have found difficulties in coming to London. How they deal with this prejudice is quite different.
     
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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Acceptance rather than mere "tolerance" is the key word towards a happy togetherness.
    IN MALAYSIA..the minorities are finding out that they were merely "tolerated" for the past 50 years..and Not ACCEPTED as part of the nation at all. And the minorities "ACCEPTED" this "TOLERANCE" !!!! as Natural....until a Tsunami came and woke everybody up....and now we have Severed Cow Heads and severed Pig Heads being dragged about by the "FRINGE MAD CAPS" in order to force a return tot eh old days of tolerance !!:}--}::}--}:
     
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  4. Lee

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    I'm not sure of the motives of Aman Singh in this post, but speaking as a native Londoner, and a man over the age of 40, I can certianly remember a time when there was only two black families in the street where I grew up and the only Asians from the continant of India were the Pakistani cornershop owners and obviously Muslim.

    I remmember too that the issue of racial tension if not downright hatred did not really start to resovle itself untill midway through the 80's, it has only really gotten better these last 20 years or so.

    So Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were all lumped in together, undoubtedly called ****, and derided from all sides. So you see, I refute Aman's claims, there has never been a golden acceptance of Hindus above that of Sikhs in this country, I'm happy to report that those outdatted ideas seem to be dying off with my own perants generation though.
     
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  5. AusDesi

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    I don't know about England but the article certainly makes one mistake. Hindus tend to blend in wherever they go. Unless they really NEED to wear bright colour clothes or have a tilak on their head, they don't do these things. There are some exceptions obviously like Malaysia and Fiji because a large number of a certain Hindu community immigrated there but for the most part hindus blend in well.

    If they don't wear a tilak that is not against the religion as far as I know. Infact, I find it weird when I see a saffron clad brahmin sitting on a train station in Sydney. I feel sorry for the dude because I know that if he was out at the wrong time he's prime target for a bashing.
     
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  6. faujasingh

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    I personally feel language is a problem when it comes to our Gurudwaras. The Hindu temples have many south indian priests who converse in english, conducts the havans and poojas with english translation. I have personally been to a wedding conducted like that.

    We slowly are adapting and we are slowing crawling out of our coccoons of punjabiyat. What I feel is we are making a difference gradually. Our Gatka is going white, we have more whites yearning to learn this sacred martial art.

    I often tell the hindus that the form of Dharma we have is what is less influenced by external powers. We in this age have stuck to the original principles that were once preached however due to other influences got corrupted. We have redifined what would have been negative in this age. However we still have temple music, we still have the martial tradition.
     
  7. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    faujasingh ji

    Your comment shows that you have reflected long and hard on an issue that has been a topic in Sikhi, around the world, in India and the diaspora, for a few generations now. Even the SGPC approved "consensus translation" of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is evidence of the seriousness with which Sikhi has approached some of the issues you raise. At the time there was controversy -- no translations are needed or desirable. Another view prevailed. Now there are controversies over whether the Gurmukhi should return to the larevaar font or remain as pad ched. There are controversies over the translations. Are they worthless and hopelessly flawed? Should we only accept the translation of Bhai Sahib Singh ji? But his translations are into Hindi with an English translation of japji Sahib only. Should Gurdwaras project both the Punjabi and English of kirtan and shabads? Should kathas be given in English?

    The Sunday Gurdwara service from Espanola New Mexico (Western Dharma tradition) has part of the service in English and part in Punjabi, with the hukamnama recited in both languages, kathas given in English (usually a recording of Yogi Bhajan). They have moved in the direction of an accommodation of both languages and cultures. This has been severely criticized in some quarters. Other gurdwaras in the diaspora have addressed this issue more or less in the same way, concerned that their young people will drift away from Sikhism. Some gurdwaras have responded with aggressive efforts at Gurmat education; others have done little to nothing in this regard, leaving things as they were 50 years ago.

    Caught in the web are converts who (I hope) are making personal adjustments and understanding that change takes time. We are not dignified by being obstreperous and insensitive to the deeply felt cultural and theological reasons for tradition's strong hold.

    Apologies for a very long introduction to get to my point. There are two reasons why keeping tradition needs to be nurtured, even when English or other languages are introduced.

    1. Sikhism cannot be easily compared to Hinduism on the subject of "blending in" because Sikhs were not meant to blend in. The irony is that our Not Blending In is what draws others to Sikhism, even as Sikhs do next to nothing to actively attract adherents.

    An entire thread could be devoted to the many ways in which Sikhs don't blend in. If we did we would cease to be Sikhs, in the actual or spiritual sense.

    "I am neither Hindu nor Muslim" has many levels of meaning, one of which is "I am something very different."

    2. Translations of Sri Guru Granth Sahib will continue to be controversial for many reasons -- and the debates about this are the stuff of learning about Sikhism and its history. But this is not "punjabiyat" at its root. Though the language is an old form of punjabi, mixed with several other languages. The Granth Sahib is the Universal Guru because it speaks to everyone. Again, it is the Granth and its shabads that attract converts and that continue to keep those born Sikhs clinging to the Guru like a parent. So the more difficult issue is how to encourage everyone to learn the sacred language of the Guru so that its message is grasped as completely as possible.

    The Roman Catholic faith abandoned the use of Latin because it was a dead language, no longer spoken and therefore leaving congregations lost in the meaning of the church liturgy. Protestant religions, in breaking from Rome, converted their liturgies to local languages to spread understanding of their message.

    We have something very different happening within Sikhism. There already are translations. Sikhism did not wait 1500 years and endure ****** religious wars over the questions that included the question of translation, as did Europeans in the Protestant Reformation. Strides have been made to make the Granth accessible in different languages. The question of relevance today is a different question. Today we can read the Guru's message. Now, how can one make the message of the Guru heard at many levels by all Sikhs, regardless of national origin? The question of translation is: How should it be translated into every day living. This is about examining how a universal message can be delivered universally.
     
  8. faujasingh

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    Punjabiyat is not in our scriptures but in our hearts. I have seen people scorn at other non punjabi sikhs although not all are liek that but yes we have to think beyond Punjab.
     
  9. Lee

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    Heh yes indeed, we Sikhs are after all only people. I went to one Gurdawara which I left after about three months, I didn't mind the wisphers of 'gora gora' but decided to leave it after I found out that it was run along caste lines.

    For me a white English convert to Sikhi, trying to rid the dharma of the chaff of culture to keep only the kernal truth, well that's hard and it makes people angry!:eek:
     
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  10. spnadmin

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    Yes, that is true -- but it is not about Sikhism but about being stuck in lineage and a host of other things like that. To be sure there are sangats who believe that Punjabis own Sikhism. They have IMHO to be forgiven at the same time that they have to be pushed to move beyond this. And change again IMHO is one sangat at a time, from within the sangat. There are many examples where culturally Punjabi sangats have and are moving dramatically away from the stereotypes, in India and elsewhere. I will grant this: From moderating in this forum it does seem that UK has perhaps more than its share of ethnocentric Sikhi, with sangats stuck in the past. I am not sure why. Forgive any offense, but most of the controversial questions about how to practice Sikhi seem to come from UK members.

    P/S Anger is energy that can be used for transformation.
     
  11. faujasingh

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    Lee veerji I still appreciate your understanding level that you did not ditch your belief which happens in most cases.

    Forgiving sounds a good idea but thats not always the case . Not all have a huge heart like our Lee veer ji
     
  12. AusDesi

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    Agreed totally. I think this needs to be taught to the Sikh youth who grow up in western countries.
     
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  13. Lee

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    Hahah well many thanks for your compliment. Huge heart I like the sound of that, alas it may I fear not be quite true. Forgivness comes easy when one realises that it is nigh-on impossible to view anything without viewing through the lens of 'culture', I of course do it, why would I not assume others do too. No that is easy, and of course leaving Sikhi now that I have found it? Ohh I don't think I could do that, purely for selfish reasons though, I desire God, I can do nowt else, this desire has been there from the start, yep I'm a selfish man with a huge heart alright!;)
     
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  14. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Sadh Sangat,

    Guru Fateh.

    This thread has brought me back to the good old days and wonderful memories of Hounslow, London and UK in general. I was about 16 in early 1970 when I left India for London where my eldest brother, now deceased due to the inoperable brain tumour lived and where he had gone in 1964.

    He used to do swap meets to make a living. I joined him in the same venture. On Saturdays at famous Portobello Road in Notting Hill Gate and on Sundays at Petticoat lane in East London. During the week we used to find other swap meets around the country to sell Indian handicrafts and clothes, eg at Canterberry during boxing day, December 25th etc etc.

    Later on we were able to lease a 3 story building at Portobello Road which became our shop and a warehouse and we started importing our own goods rather than buying from the local wholesalers. We opened little stalls in indoor markets at Kensington High Street, Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Kings Road in Chelsa, but at the same time, we still continued our one and a half hour drive from Hounslow to Petticoat Lane on Sundays where we had 5 stalls at different locations at 4 am.

    It was a very hard work, 7 days a week but it was joyful at the same time, perhaps because of my young age, it was more of an adventure. I worked and went out every night and never slept on Fridays and Saturdays, used to come home, take shower and was ready to go to work.

    The hardest day was Sunday to put up 5 stalls which were tables, put the tarps on because of the English weather, unload the van, decorate the stalls with the goodies and be ready for the tourists by 7 am and then dismantle everything at 2 pm.

    We were well liked and by the other people who were mainly cockneys because we were friendly to all and having 5 stalls showed some kind of clout which brought respect.

    On one of these Sundays, a couple of the young lads whom we had hired to manage the 5 stalls were unloading the van when a cockney guy parked his van so close to ours that the lads were not able to unload. They first went to my brother Harbhajan to let him know what was happening. He came to me and told me what had taken place. I went to Mike's ( I still remember his name) stall and asked," Mike what is happening my frien..."? I could not even finish the sentence when he uttered in his typical cockney accent," You Indian bas...." and then he felt a punch on the bridge of his nose by me. People got together, separated us and that was all it needed to sort things out.

    After that, Mike always took permission how far to park from our van and started addressing me as Mr. Malik rather than Teji.

    I must admit that I have never felt any kind of discrimination in the UK where I used to travel from Monday to Thursday to sell clothes to the boutiques and met lots of lovely people. I travelled all around the UK many times and also to many parts of Europe.

    But at the same time I know lots of people who felt discriminated even in business who were not only Sikhs but also Hindus and Muslims.

    Not to keep on tooting my own horn in the fear of being arrogant, there was a fierce competition for the clothes from India mainly cheese cloth at that time. So all importers and wholesalers tried to sell the same goods to the big department stores.

    We all so called salesmen met in the waiting room of the buyers to peddle almost the same clothes. All of them were older than I was. I was only 17 and happy to say that I was able to sell what I had to offer which was not any different than any other people who were there. My very first order with a Department store was worth 20,000 pounds which was a huge order for a small company like ours.

    I thought I would share this interesting part of my young life. One thing I must add which may offend some in here but many Muslim people who I thought were my friends and helped them even with some money turned out to be the worst of all. I have nothing negative to say about any English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish I met during my 6 years there.


    Tejwant Singh
     
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  15. Admin Singh

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    Tejwant ji, was it a left jab or the right handed!! :up: Thanks for sharing this interesting personal experience... :D
     
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  16. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Aman ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    It was the right fist. LOL.
     
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  17. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Tejwant ji

    It was a fantastic story. Almost the feeling of being there, so well told.
     
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