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Controversial Kashmiri Muslim Performing Kirtan: Tasleema Langoo (Blog of Navdeep Singh Dhillon)

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by spnadmin, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

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    Muslim Performing Kirtan?
    Posted by Navdeep On November - 27 - 2010

    Related thread is http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-...teenager-kashmir-performs-teaches-kirtan.html

    Photos:
    Guru Nanak Dev Ji with Bhai Mardana, Muslim rababi
    Tasleema Langoo teaching performing gurbani kirtan in her hometown of Srinigar

    Ten years ago, there was a lot of talk about Tasleema Langoo, a Muslim who became a mini celebrity amongst the Sikh community in Kashmir for having a beautiful voice and using it to sing and teach Kirtan – recitation of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib – to Sikhs in the Srinagar Valley. People who heard her for the first time at a Gurdwara in Srinagar were mesmerized by the then sixteen-year-old, and initially had no idea she wasn’t Sikh because of the passion she showed, her perfect pronunciation, and detailed attention to the nuances of the raag – a very specific style of singing to convey a particular mood. When they found out she was Muslim, they were duly impressed, one of the old women saying “she takes us nearer to our own religion.”

    All of the internet articles on her focused on the fact that she was a classically trained Kashmiri Muslim singer coming from a long line of musicians and had chosen to perform Kirtan. Her great grandfather used to sing for Maharaja Pratap Singh, while her grandfather, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, was a court singer for Maharaja Hari Singh, the last monarch of Kashmir. She was first introduced to Gurbani by her father, who bought her a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, in Urdu from Amritsar.

    What I liked about the story was not that she was classically trained, although that was a nice touch. I liked the fact that she was embraced by the Sikh community despite being a Muslim. She was invited to Gurudwaras all over Kashmir, including Chatti Padshahi in Srinagar, the biggest Gurudwara in the state. Even the Muslims were down with what she was doing. The Imam at her mosque came to her Kirtan class, blessed her, and told he she was “doing a wonderful job.”

    And then there was the ultimate accolade: she was invited to perform at the Golden Temple, in Amritsar in 2007, which is a really big deal because of the exclusionary amendment passed in the mid to late 1960s by the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee). The amendment restricts the performance of Kirtan to only Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs, who, incidentally are the only Sikhs allowed to be members of the SGPC. Perhaps it was initially designed as a way to make sure Mahants were never again in a position of power at any Gurudwara, but in doing so, it has gone so far against the core principle of Sikhism that I can’t even fathom it still exists. But it does.

    As far as I know, since 1948, there have only been only two exceptions to the amendment declaring only baptised Sikhs be allowed to perform Kirtan at the Golden Temple: Rababi Bhai Laal Ji, a direct descendent of Bhai Mardana, in 1962, and Tasleem Langoo in 2007. Ironically, Bhai Laal Ji, a regular performer at the The Golden Temple before the partition, traveled to India from Pakistan in 2007, the same year Tasleen was invited to perform, in hopes of being able to perform one last time before he died. He was rejected! The descendent of Bhai Mardana! His father was the Hazoori Ragi at Goindwal Sahib in what is now district Tarn-taran, near Amritsar. There is something fundamentally flawed about a rule that does not allow the 17th generation descendent of Bhai Mardana, a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, to perform at the Golden Temple.

    The Guru Granth Sahib has so many powerful hymns composed by people of different castes and other religions, including Muslims and Hindus. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikhs, entrusted the legacy of the Rabab, a bowed instrument, to complement certain raags completely onto his disciple Bhai Mardana, a Muslim Rabab player. And the reason there are four entrances to any Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) is because of its symbolism of the spirit of Sikhism: everyone is equal and welcome. But according to this rule, baptized Sikhs are more equal and welcome than others. Yes, I just made a reference to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

    There aren’t any youtube videos of Tasleema and sadly because of the civil unrest, curfews, and military restrictions in Kashmir, her Kirtan classes took a break. The last I ever heard of her was in an article titled “Special Harmony” by Haroon Mirani published in 2007 where she remained hopeful that her classes would return once “normalcy returns.” I hope normalcy returns to the Golden Temple too.

    I am just glad that the exclusionary rule is not being practiced at most Gurudwaras, and hope people realize the damaging effects of this rule and other silly things that go against the principles of Sikhi. Forcing all children, regardless of their religion, in certain schools in Punjab to wear a turban, for example, is not instilling any respect for the turban? Enough ranting. It’s time to start another revolution.

    I leave you with two excellent videos of non-Sikhs paying homage to hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib. Neither of whom, while this rule is in effect, are allowed to perform at the Golden Temple:

    <object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q8uVkH8oEpA?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q8uVkH8oEpA?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

    http://www.navdeepsinghdhillon.com/featured/muslim-performing-kirtan/

    <object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ldWpJkgOGkI?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ldWpJkgOGkI?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>
     

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  3. Chaan Pardesi

    Chaan Pardesi
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    Is this not an old story; by now?Was this not posted on the SPN sometime ago, or am I mistaken?Perhaps I read it and posted elsewhere.
     
  4. spnadmin

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    Chan Pardesi ji

    Thanks but it is not. The earlierl article, published in September 2010, tells the story of Tasleema Langoo. The link to that story has been provided.

    This story is rather a reaction to a current controversy as covered in the blog of Navdeep Singh Dhillon. He is giving his assessment of the issue - whether one must be a baptized Sikh to perform kirtan in gurdwara. And he is using the example of Tasleema Langoo, and her invitation to perform in Amritsar, as a way of illustrating some of his arguments.
     
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  5. NavdeepSinghDhillon

    NavdeepSinghDhillon
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    Thank you both for your comments. I was surprised and pleased to find my blog on this forum (which I didn't know existed before!). And I am happy that the last commentator really understood what point I was attempting to get across.

    Sikhism, from its onset, was all about questioning practices that didn't make sense. The string Brahmin's wear to signify they are a higher caste, or God can only be found by facing Mecca, for example. And now I find that more and more we are becoming a people embodying everything that Sikhism was created in direct opposition of.

    Many of the "rules" that are in effect today are so clearly in violation of the basic tenets of Sikhi that it is absurd they exist. I see no reason they should even be called a "controversy." I was recently made aware that the rule I mentioned in my blog about Amritdharis being the only ones allowed to perform kirtan at Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) also applies to women, regardless of whether or not they are Amritdhari or not.

    And the irony is that both of these things are clearly going against what every single one of our Gurus fought against. Sikhism is the only religion I can think of that specifically states in its scriptures that women are equal to men in every respect, and there are countless couplets and poetic verses in the Guru Granth Sahib clarifying the many roads to the Almighty, and the clarity of the message of unity.

    We don't discriminate on the basis of religion or caste, and yet this "rule" has created a form of a caste system where Amritdhari Sikhs are seen as more authentic. This rule has leaked into other aspects of society as well where many Amirtdhari Sikhs refuse to eat food prepared by non-Amritdhari sevadars. If that isn't a form of a caste system, I don't know what else you would call it.

    But the most frightening thing is that nobody seems to be questioning the logic behind the membership requirements of the SGPC, the governing body of all designated Sikh Gurudwaras after the Gurudwara Reform Movement in the 1920s. Their membership requirements are restricted to Amritdhari Sikh men. No exceptions. This means no women, amritdhari or not, and sahajdhari (mona) Sikhs have a say in these matters! So my blog was written to at least start a discussion on things that really have no place anywhere in Sikhism, and especially in the Golden Temple.
    Move the Movement. swordfight
     
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  6. spnadmin

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    NavdeepSingh ji

    Thank you for joining us in this thread, and welcome to SPN. You have written a challenging and thoughtful essay that deserves to be pondered and discussed.
     
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  7. davinderdhanjal

    davinderdhanjal United Kingdom
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    Dear Navdeep Singh Ji,
    Well done for your comments. The truth and fairness is not in the realm or perogative of the few who have invented high places in Indian Sikh community. With the migration of Sikhs into other places in the world it now needs a "Commonwealth of Sikhs" to represent voices of all Sikhs truthfully and sincerely, if we want Sikh masses to unite and contribute to the Sikhi that made us Gurus' Sikhs.

    Just as a matter of interest, where did the picture of Guru Nanak and Mardana above with 'Bala?' come from? The source would be useful for sake of Truth.

    I find that sikhs in lands away from India took the sikhism that prevailed in the time those Sikhs migrated. So those values are older and untainted than that prevalent in India today.

    I wonder if the Sikhs in India, who have been persecuted by the Indian Authorities since 1970s (may be some one could correct me on time) are hiding behind some maryadas to save themselves. We being out and away from the threat may not be aware of their plight and difficulties but I think they should be brought out in the open and resolved by Sikhi teachings of seeking the truth!

    However by being on a limb (in the big India), I believe, they have become a protective and close community - they (SPGC) do not, I believe, publish their accounts, I am not sure what they have achieved for the Sikh community at large, who feed SPGC (other than few schools, colleges, hospitals and SRM) to put them in par with other communities like Jews for example.

    There is, for example, no infrastucture to be above board, open to Sikh community to express their views, discuss the Granth Sahib, demand fairness etc. This is a MUST for a soild base from where all sikhs can intutively contribute.
    Lack of this abuses the magnanimity of Sikhs and encourages dissention.
    Let us not forget there is no one above GURU.

    There are so many Sikh gurdwaras razed to the ground in Delhi by the Indian authorities' collusion with lawless communities - that SPGC apparently is not helping.
    Jaswant Singh Khalra was questioning truth about the people killed in Delhi what are SPGC doing to find his killers (if SPGC are the upholders of faith I would think they MAY think it is a worthwhile cause?)

    In UK, Sikhs have realised, leadership of this sort is not revered by majority of Sikhs so they are actively initiating a 'Sikh Council'.
    This council has already done good things and been shown to be above board and I hope it takes off. It sits on the platform of TRUTH and OPENESS for all Sikhs.

    The link to their website is sikhcounciluk.org - I would encouage all Sikhs, especially UK sikhs, to check this out urgently (they have a meeting on 10th Dec 2010 for discussions on the consititution and interested parties are invited) and if they can contribute to influence them for any betterments please do so.

    I encourage this discussion hoping it will induce all followers of Sikhi to provide support for the community and steer the ship in the correct direction.
     
  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Navdeep ji

    If I am not wrong women can do kirtan in Darbar Sahib .The decision was made in 2005.

    The Amritdhari's that refuse to eat from others hand are mainly from AKJ.They are a set in sikhism ,they have their own rules and regulations.

    Hello if women are not allowed to become members then how Bibi Jagir kaur became president?

    Also SGPC control only Gurdwara's in Punjab and few other bordering states .All the other states of India have their own governing bodies.The rule that only Amritdhari can become
    members was made to prevent the intervention of other religions in Sikhism.For example if we allow Hindu's to become members then they may ask in future to have idols of their gods to be their in Gurdwara
     
  9. NavdeepSinghDhillon

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    Thank you Kanwardeep Singh and Davinder Singh for your very constructive comments. And especially Kanwardeep Singh for taking the time to offer counterpoints to some of my points.

    I like the notion of the "Commonwealth of Sikhs," that Davinder Singh brought up, but am not sure how well executed it would be to have just one major organization that would have the same authority as the SGPC has in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh.

    To address the excellent points brought up by Kanwardeep Singh:

    I am curious to know how specific the 2005 "rule" was if you know it. I couldn't find any information on it through newspapers or the internet, so if anyone knows, it would be very helpful. Also, despite this ruling, I have never heard of any Sikh woman performing Kirtan at the Golden Temple, either as an isolated incident or on a continual basis.

    The fact that only ONE WOMAN have ever been elected to the SGPC over the last 100 years speaks volumes as to the rules and enforcement of those rules. The only woman to be elected was Kiranjit Kaur to the position of general secretary where she served for two terms. Bibi Jagir Kaur was never really elected; she was backed by two members of the SGPC and there was strangely no competition for the opening. Even if you want to have that count as an "election," that still only brings the election count to TWO WOMEN. Then there was Bhajan Kaur Dograwala who never held an actual position and has spent the last three years as an "executive member."

    The SGPC had agreed to hold 33% of the positions for women largely due to pressure put on by the Nanhi Chhaan Foundation (link). And what happened this year? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Every SINGLE seat went to men. Not even 1% went to women.
    Just this month, there was an article on Sikhnet titled "SGPC Slips on Women Quota Resolution," where SGPC President, Avtar Singh Makkar,
    actually cited "political compulsions," as a valid reason not to allow even one seat to go towards women. Here is a link to it: http://www.{url not allowed}/news/sgpc-slips-women-quota-resolution

    Interestingly enough,
    the SGPC member before Bibi Jagir Kaur had been in office for 26 consecutive years compared with the measly two terms she served!

    A comment on the last point that Kanwardeep Singh made: "Also SGPC control only Gurdwara's in Punjab and few other bordering states .All the other states of India have their own governing bodies.The rule that only Amritdhari can become members was made to prevent the intervention of other religions in Sikhism.For example if we allow Hindu's to become members then they may ask in future to have idols of their gods to be their in Gurdwara."

    I completely agree that other religions should not be allowed to be a part of the governing body of Sikh Gurudwaras. That would lead to all sorts of obvious problems. But I don't think the SGPC is representing the Sikh nation as it claims by allowing any Sikh to vote, but only allowing them to vote for an Amritdhari Sikh. It would make sense that only Amritdhari Sikhs should vote then.

    According to their official website, "SGPC is directly elected by an electorate of the Sikh Nation, male and female above 18 years of age who are registered as voters under the provisions of Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925." So essentially anyone Sikh, Amritdhari or not, can vote, but they aren't represented by the SGPC.

    This type of logic would never fly in a political election where a president or member of congress/parliament is chosen to represent the people who vote for him/her.

    Again, thank you for your valuable comments. I hope to hear more so we can continue the discussion! And please check out NavdeepSinghDhillon.com to read my original blog on this subject.

    Lastly, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to at least read the
    1996 Hukamnama (with English translation if needed) on allowing women the same rights to morning ishnan, on SikhNet. Their point of contention (and I agree) is that simply having a Hukamnama is not enough; it has to be enforced.

    There is also a link for those inclined to sign an online petition to request the Akal Takhat to enforce this Hukamnama.


    swordfight:boxing::support:
     
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  10. spnadmin

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    Tasleema Langoo was invited to perform kirtan at Darbar Sahib, as stated in more than one article I have read. It was my understanding that a special dispensation was needed from the 2005 sundesh. Other performers have been denied kirtan seva; 'coincidently' women were part of the particular jatha. This comes about because a permit is issued for kirtan seva, and permits can be denied, and are denied.

    Background story
    Religious advisory committee (SGPC) passes resolution on March 9, 1940 to allow baptized Sikh women to perform ‘kirtan’ inside sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple.’

    ‘... five Sikh high priests direct the SGPC to allow baptised Sikh women to perform ‘seva’ in sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple on February 9, 1996.’

    Even after 63 years of the decision of the Religious Advisory Committee the SGPC failed to arrange a jatha of women to perform ‘kirtan’ at the Golden Temple. Signatories to this decision were Sikh leaders Jathedar Mohan Singh, Bhai Labh Singh, Sikh scholar Principal Teja Singh and Prof Ganga Singh.​

    http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030216/main6.htm


    It is also true that Jagir Kaur was appointed, not elected, by Badal, in her first term of office. She was then elected in 2004.

    A recent Secretary of the SGPC was a woman. There is a link to that story here at SPN which may take some doing to find. :)
     
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  11. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    I did find it.


    Bibi Kiranjot Kaur was Secretary to SGPC

    "Bibi Kiranjot Kaur. Kiranjot Kaur is a senior SGPC member and has previously held the position of General Secretary of the SGPC. Kiranjot Kaur has deep personal interest in Sikh material heritage and has championed high profile conservation causes. Kiranjot’s rich family heritage include her mother Bibi (Dr) Rajinder Kaur a member of the Rajya Sabha and editor of Sant Sipahi and her grandfather Master Tara Singh. Kiranjot will blog about heritage issues in addition to wide variety of Sikh political issues."

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/history-of-punjab/27073-new-blog-punjabi-heritage-news-3-a.html

    When she was secretary of SGPC she "locked horns" with Bibi Jagir Kaur

    "Amritsar, April 7
    Even as Bibi Jagir Kaur and Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, president and executive member of the SGPC, respectively, have locked horns over the issue of dossier on Harmander Sahib, the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has clarified that there won’t be any interference in the management of the religious site after the World Heritage Status (WHS) is granted to the holiest place of the Sikhs. "


    http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050408/punjab1.htm
     
  12. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Here is thread on women allowed kirtan in 2005

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-news/5328-atlast-women-can-perform-kirtan-harmandir.html

    Well we all know that theory and practical things are different.The fact is there is no bar
    on Amritdhari bibi to be elected in SGPC election if she can.So one cannot say there is restriction on women.BTW if I apply same logic then people can also say that in India there is restriction on Dalit or Muslim to be a PM as we have not seen a single Dalit PM or Muslim PM of India in last 63 years.
    If I am not wrong officially SGPC do not allow mona sikhs to vote,though one can say that many monay sikhs do vote but official position is only Keshdhari and Amritdhari are allowed to vote
     
  13. spnadmin

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    There are "rules" and then there are "rules." So going back to an earlier comment by Navdeep ji

    Navdeep ji in my opinion is quite astute when noting that a rule has been violated. Is it not interesting that although baptized Sikh women are on paper permitted to perform in Darshan Sahib, they do not. So what facts is the irony based on?

    a. Since 1940 baptized Sikh women are permitted to perform in Darshan Sahib.
    b. A dispensation is granted to a Muslim woman who by definition cannot be a baptized Sikh woman.
    c. The kirtan seva is by invitation only.

    This adds up to some even more ironic reflections on "rules." Several rules are at work here.

    a. An official rule - - the one on paper permitting amritdhari women to perform -- is a rule that is never applied.
    b. The rule that permits exceptions to be granted was applied, and Tasleema, a Muslim and a woman, was able to perform.
    c. The rule that allows that kirtan seva by invitation only is always applied; baptized sikh women are never invited.
    d. Amritdhari men, however, according to the rules are consistently invited.

    All this, and no one has even bent any rules! Basic tenets of Sikhi, as given us by Gurus Nanak 1 through 10, are often championed in word only. So the story of Tasleema should serve as an example of how rules can be followed, and even be exemplars of Guru Nanak's teachings. But there is an imbalance in this 50 year history of kirtan seva. If you map it out, rule a is definitely not working.
     
  14. findingmyway

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    Navdeep Singh Ji,
    welcomekaur
    It is good to have your input here at SPN. I have glanced at your blog which raises some thought provoking issues so I hope to interact with you more here too :happykudi:

    On the whole, I agree with much of what you say. However, there are some thoughts that have crossed my mind as I read your posts.

    - You place much emphasis on the the fact that Bhai Laal Ji is a descendant of Bhai Mardana. Surely this encourages an elitist attitude that you are accusing amritdharis of? My sister and I are very very different people. The fact we are descendants of the same person means nothing when you judge our abilities and personalities. Sikhi places importance on the person and their deeds rather than their descent (hence rejection of the caste system).

    - Bhai Mardana was born into a Muslim family but after becoming Guru Nanak Dev Ji's companion can you really say he was still a Muslim as he was practicing a Sikh way of life? In the same way we don't call Guru Nanak Dev Ji a Hindu even though he was born into a Hindu family.

    - Tasleema Langoo has proved herself to be devoted to Sikh kirtan and I commend her for that. However, can that really be said of other non-Sikh kirtanees? How can you be sure that they aren't there just for the money or to purposefully distort the messages of gurbani?

    - How can you be sure that monay Sikhs aren't Hindus looking to bring Sikhi into the fold (as many Hindus wont accept that Sikhism is a separate belief system)?

    I am not defending the status quo as there are many things I am unhappy about but these are thoughts that I have been mulling over and would be interested on your take.
    Regards,
    Jasleen
     
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