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What Law Would Govern a Hypothetical Sikh State?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Ishna, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Ishna

    Ishna
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    Hi everyone

    So my curiosity got the better of me tonight and I watched an episode of an Islamic da'wah program. It happened to be about women in Islam and was a recording of a Western woman who converted in the late '70s giving a talk at a US uni campus Muslim conference in 2002. Gee, I wish I paid this much attention when my boss was talking to me...! Anyway, this subject and the presenter had me transfixed to the tellie for the duration.

    The presenter talked about her initial exposure to Islam when she was a uni student, talked about how she was lucky to come to Islam through books and not people (who often have their own version of things), how she learned that Islam is often mixed up with cultural practices that are at odds with Islam which you need to separate and she is lucky not to have that kind of cultural heritage because she can separate easily. She spoke about being challenged by American feminists about Islamic women being oppressed and the misconceptions. I could relate to this woman because I've seen some of this myself with Sikhi.

    The second half of her discussion was about her understanding of the Hadiths and Quran with relation to women and the historical context surrounding Islam. She talked about the rights afforded to women in Islam which they didn't have at the time. Rights of inheritance, rights to vote, rights to education. And she spoke about how in America women only got the right to vote in early 1900s and in some states only got rights of inheritance in the '50s.

    She said, the problems come up when people put culture before Islam. And I found myself thinking she's probably right.

    Then I got thinking, if you could take a bunch of Sikhs, remove their cultures (whichever ones they might be), and put them in a brand new stare all of their own, by which laws would they be governed? Islam has hadiths and the Quran tells you how to live. If Muslims were in the place of our hypothetical Sikh community in our example here, they would theoretically have all the instruction they need. But what reference material would our Sikhs use? What would inform their day-to-day lives on a practical level?

    The lack of laws and rules within Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is precisely why I think it is a truly universal, divinely inspired spiritual resource. But I find myself regularly wondering about the mundane, practical aspects of life and by extension what would guide Sikh governance.

    In an ideal world I'm sure our Guru and our common sense would be all we need, but the majority of humans (myself included) are not up to that level of social evolution.

    So I ask my cyber sangat here for your thoughts on this, please.

    Ishna

    sent from my iPod so probably dodgy, sorry!!


    The second half of
     
    #1 Ishna, Jan 30, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
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  3. spnadmin

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    Ishna ji

    Please forgive me! I am interrupting your flow of thought to interject a few contrary ideas and observations.

    What are these rights that Muslim women now enjoy that did not exist before Islam? In the earliest days of Islam, and this is a matter of recorded history, women did have considerable equality, and they served as advocates, doctors, etc. Their freedoms were significantly less curtailed than they are today, and the reasons are cultural. As Islam spread the oppression of women increased ---- because Islam integrated cultural beliefs and practices as it spread in order to assimilate more easily.

    As a side note: The Roman Church did exactly the same thing, which is why movable religious feasts in Christianity coincide with pagan observances. And why some of the Christian saints have counterparts in the folkloric record of pre-Christian times. In the same way, springs sacred to local pre-Christian traditions became holy bodies of water much later on.

    One example of this point from Islam is the "veil," which was imported from conquered and Christian Greece to Turkey. The practice of taking the veil spread under the political domination of Islam and the Mughals. The more horrific example from Islam is the practice of clitoridectomy or female circumcision, where the clitoris and most of the vulva is removed in girls as soon as they reach menstruation, to "protect" their reputation for chastity. After they are mutilated they are then sown up, and then opened up the night of their marriage, only to be sown up again once pregnant. Beyond the danger of infection, the dangers that result during pregnancy are huge. The entire Muslim world does not practice female circumcision. It is however prevalent in Egypt, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where 85 percent of girls are estimated to undergo clitoral removal, in Oman, and in parts of Indonesia and Asian Pacific. The practice pre-dates Islam, and is the result of cultural assimilation.

    My point is that religion absorbs cultural realities over long periods of time.

    So it is really difficult for me to understand how Sikhs would be the group that would or even should "put culture aside," if that is even possible, since cultures are wound tightly into the experience of religion. There is good to be gained too from cultural experience. As Sikhs in the diaspora may find in more democratic societies a match with the democratic traditions of Sikhism itself. Sikhs may want to ensure that a Sikh homeland reflects that.

    My final consideration comes from an article I read just yesterday about conversion experiences in Christianity. What is frequently seen as a kind of "truth strike," where someone is instantly reformed, may actually be the result of a novel religious philosophy finding its match, as it maps onto emotional needs that can sometimes be quite neurotic. Real conversion takes hold later when the salve of religious discovery results in behavioral changes. That is the part that takes time and can be either sublime or scary. Again forgive me.
     
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  4. Ishna

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    Spnadmin ji

    no apology necessary. The examples I gave in my first post re voting and inheritance were the examples the speaker gave of rights women apparently didn't have until Islam. I haven't researched much so I don't know the accuracy of her statements.

    However, I will be honest with myself here when I say I think the phenomenon which is culture is largely a toxic and useless force. So much crap comes out of culture. Pick a culture, any culture, and you will find ideas and practices which are much less than positive. And if people would just quit the herd mentality of the peer group pressure which is their schoolyard culture, and actually follow their religions without their cultural baggage, then we would have fewer instances of female circumcision (this issue caused me to abandon Sikhi and religion in general for most of last year and I think the idiots who engage in this practice should be exterminated because I think they are a mutation of the gene pool and no I will not redact that statement however un politically-correct it may be), less honour killings, fewer killings of female infants, less hair removal, fewer eating disorders, more freedom, more respect and deeper faith.

    I welcome examples of where cultural persistance over religious instruction is positive, if you will indulge my personal psychosis on this subject.

    I guess concurrent to the question of "what law would govern a Sikh state" is "what is the ideal Sikh culture?", if it is even possible ask that question.

    I just think people do so many stupid things because they follow the example of their neighbour and this is what I think culture is the sum of. Hmm, that's good English. Not.

    Apologies for this vicious post, I do not intend to offend, it is more me venting my frustration than attacks on whichever cultural practices you and I might hold dear.

    Assistance welcomed!

    Ishna
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    Ishna ji

    I suppose I can only ask 3 questions, based your statements
    .

    If you really believe that culture is a "toxic and useless force," then how could there be an ideal Sikh state, or any ideal state?
    1. How does anyone extricate oneself from "culture?" It is more than hypothetical as we all belong to more than one culture, when you think about it.

    2. Why does culture exist in the first place?

    3. What is culture, as you define it?

    I teach qualitative research methods and psycholinguistics, and have for more than 30 years, and publish in that area. I use a definition of culture favored by anthropologists and sociologists : The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population. So those 3 questions are really important to think about in my world.
     
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    #4 spnadmin, Jan 31, 2011
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  6. Ishna

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    Spnadmin ji

    Thank you for your patience with me (and my frustration) over this topic. I'm skirting the edge of my knowledge-level so I may become incoherant at any given moment. :grinningkaur:

    Spnadmin said: If you really believe that culture is a "toxic and useless force," then how could there be an ideal Sikh state, or any ideal state?

    Point taken. And with your definition of culture in mind, I think I have misappropriated the word. Furthermore, I think I'm guilty of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".

    Spnadmin said: 1. How does anyone extricate oneself from "culture?" It is more than hypothetical as we all belong to more than one culture, when you think about it. 2. Why does culture exist in the first place? 3. What is culture, as you define it?

    I define culture as being the mainstream/majority behaviour and beliefs of groups of people. It surrounds a person growing up and it becomes behaviour and beliefs which make up that person's psyche and/or perpetuates the behaviour and beliefs.

    These behaviours and beliefs become their own "truths" and people tend to not question or challenge them. They are "just part of life". Some of these behaviours and beliefs are very negative, and are so in-grained to some cultures that even a powerful religious text or religion can't over-ride the cultural belief. So they are picked up and taken as part of the religion.

    I think the two easiest examples we have in this thread are female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa/Middle East/Asia and spreading, and female infanticide in China and Punjab.

    I can't really speak for Islam because I don't know enough about it, but I'm pretty sure FGM isn't mandated in the Quran. Therefore not part of the religion.

    And I fully well know that female infanticide isn't a part of Sikhism. But yet, the majority of Sikhs live in Punjab and I believe it has one of the worlds highest rates of infanticide. Someone looking in might think female infanticide is a part of Sikhism, or that Sikhism condones such practices. It illustrates to me that people are happier following their group-culture than they are in following their religion.

    In my own culture, half-naked pencil thin women are everywhere. The belief is that to be a proper woman you have to remove unwanted hair and be super skinny. These elements go against Sikhi and I find myself guilty of rooting for my own cultural ideas of removing hairs. It's such a deep-seated image in my tiny little Western psyche.

    I think, spnadmin ji, one of the points you're trying to make to me is that you can't have a group of people without a culture. My workplace has a culture. I've been enlisted to help change aspects of the organisational culture by consistently using different terms for things to try and dissolve the "us versus them" mentality of some of our teams. So, this group mentality thing is pervasive. I get it. It's going to exist no matter what.

    I don't know, I just wish people would just be nice and get along. Why people have to be so negative, look for negatives, be violent to others, be totally illogical and cruel (female children shouldn't be any less valuable than boy children, and bodies should be left intact not hacked to pieces -- why can't people see this???)?

    Why can't religion over-power these elements?

    Another good example is caste. So many Sikhs are still worried about caste even when the Gurus said it a million different ways that it's meaningless.

    I'm running myself around in circles now. :whatzpointkudi:

    But I still stand by the presenter's statement that humans get into trouble when they let cultural norms override their religious instruction. There has to be a clear separation between a cultural practice and a religious practice. It is easiest to see when you come from an alien culture and look at another culture's religion in theory. In practice it becomes culturafied. You can't have a universal religion without a universal culture.

    "What could be the Sikh Universal Culture"?

    Ishna
    Off to fix the cultures of the world, starting in her office kitchen! teehee...
     
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    #5 Ishna, Jan 31, 2011
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  7. Ambarsaria

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    United States of Khalsa
    (USK)

    • Governed by the UN Charter for freedoms of speech, religion and pursuit of happiness (may not be accurate just musing in terms of USA constitution elements)
    • Borderless to go with the realities of Sikhs in the world today and future
    • Secular allowing all to flourish
      • Protection for threatened with extinction
        • Sufism
        • Buddhism
    • Supporting Sikhism Pillars but not forcing
      • Punjabi
      • Teachings of Gurus
      • Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji
    • Single civil and criminal legal system
    • Environmental protection
    • A caring society for those in need within and without
    Optional:

    • Nuclear armed
    • Above corruption law enforcement
      • :angryyoungkaur:;:angryyoungsingh:
    • Special status for mothers
      • :motherlylove:motherlylove
    That is all I can think right now. It would be pretty good place.

    Sat Sri Akal.


     
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    #6 Ambarsaria, Jan 31, 2011
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  8. findingmyway

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    I don't think it is positive or possible to remove culture completely. Culture gives the world colour and gives people a sense of who they are. The problem arises when culture overrides all else. Having grown up between 2 cultures I found culture very confusing and I'm sure many people can identify with that. However, I have tried to choose the best of both and combine them to make my own culture! It's great being able to appreciate both despite sometimes there being an incompatibility. A positive example from each; Panjabi culture has awesome hospitality. My friends love to come and stay with me as they know they will be well looked after. My door is always open! English culture teaches me I am equally capable to a man so I am very independent and have achieved a fair amount in my short life (though there is so much more to be done!). One side keeps me connected to my immediate world and the other gives me a wider view of the world. So many other examples but that will suffice for now.

    A lot of people confuse Sikhism with Panjabi culture and this is wrong. There is also no denying that the majority of Sikhs are of Panjabi origin. Negative aspects can be overcome. When my mum was pregnant with my youngest sibling people kept telling us they hoped it was a boy this time as we already have girls. Just to defy them my father told people he hoped to have another daughter (which we did-yeay!).

    If I was to reject Panjabi culture completely I would lose the connection with most of my family. Having said that, I am obviously different from most of my family due to my western way of thinking in many regards. I think it is for each person to strike a balance of cultures that they are happy with and personally I use Sikhi as my guide to a large extent when formulating my values. For me, sharing and understanding other cultures makes life very interesting! Culture can be positive or negative - its all down to how you use it.

    Now what I am about to say about a Sikh state is a very very personal view. I have no problem with people who do not agree as we are all shaped by our experiences. Personally I would not want to live in a Sikh state. I have travelled a lot, I worked in the international office at my 1st university and I have friends from all countries, backgrounds and ethnicities. That is one of the things I love most about the my life-mixing with the world and hearing so many different viewpoints. I love living in countries where culture and religion are not a divide. When my Sikhi allows me to move through such a diverse world with respect and dignity, then I know I am on the right track and not falling into things out of habit or remaining cushioned in my comfort zone. (I do sometimes miss having Sikh sangat around though.) peacesignkaur
     
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  9. Ambarsaria

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    findingmyway ji thanks for your post.

    I have tried to read your post in a different viewpoint to answer Ishna ji's quite thought provoking thread.

    The logic I used is "when you define something that is", you conversely also define "what it is not" and vice versa.

    So from your post your minimum requirements for a Sikh state are the following,

    • Personally I would like a Sikh state to be a place where:

    • I have friends from all countries, backgrounds and ethnicities. mundahug
    • My life-mixing with the world and hearing so many different viewpointsmundahug
    • Where culture and religion are not a dividemundahug
    • Where my Sikhi allows me to move through such a diverse world with respect and dignity peacesign
    So if I go to my post and definition, I see it contains all you are asking for and more without giving anyone less.
    My mundahugand peacesignsmilies are a check that my definition of USK meets if not exceeds your needs.

    Sat Sri Akal.
     
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  10. Tejwant Singh

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    I can understand the frustrations of Ishna ji. It is an interesting paradox to say the least. She dislikes something in her culture and also in the Punjabi culture. She would like to have the perfect harmonious society which is understandable but a bit utopic, if I may add. Culture is about trials and tribulations. It is about overcoming the short comings in one's own value system as a society and improving it bit by bit. One more thing I would like to add is that female infanticide is an Indian phenomena, not a Punjabi nor a Sikhi one because of the dowry system. My mother had 6 girls and 3 sons. In our family this was not a problem or a burden but something very joyful. When we boys got married, we brought the ladies home only with the clothes they were wearing. We refused to get anything else from the girls' families.

    Allow me to share this incidence again which I have done it here many years ago. I went back to India in 1985 after 15 years at the age of 30. My family has a big bunglow in Ferozepore which is almost empty now. The bunglow has some houses at the back which my mum used to rent. In one of the houses, there was a Jatt Sikh family and the lady of the house was like a sister to my mum. Her daughter had gotten married and was expecting. One day, I get up and hear cries from the house. Out of curiosity, I went to check on them if everything was fine. I found out that they were crying because the daughter had a baby girl rather than a boy. I was very shocked because I have 6 sisters and there was no such thing like that in our household. I got upset at them and gave them my piece of mind, especially to the husband and the two brothers. Eventually, I convinced them to go and buy Mithai( indian sweets) and distribute to their friends. Those who are not aware, in Indian culture Mithai is only distributed when a boy is born. Later on, the mother of the beautiful baby girl thanked me for this.

    When my daughter Jaskeerat was born in 1990 in California, we distributed mithai too.

    Spnadmin ji has shared some valuable thoughts about the cultures and from her own teaching experiences. She herself is a product of different cultures.

    Like Jasleen, I am also the product of multi cultures. We are all products of our environments. I can be as Indian/Punjabi, a Brit, a Brazilian and an American depending on which environment I am mingling with and none of these are facades but natural flows. I feel my life being enriched with all these cultures.

    Lastly, I would like to add that we do not need a Sikh State but we need a Sikh state of mind so that no matter where we live, we can make a difference in any culture we may belong to.

    Regards

    Tejwant Singh
     
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  11. Seeker9

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    Wonderful point! Worth stating again!
     
  12. Seeker9

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    I know I shouldn't but here's a short extract from wikipedia:

    Law[4] is a system of rules and guidelines, usually enforced through a set of institutions.[5] It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations

    The article then goes on to talk about common (case set) law and civil law (legal system itself which in the West has Roman origins)

    All of the above usually happens over a considerable period of time...so to answer directly the question of what laws would be applicable to Sikhs in their own bit of land somewhere...I have no idea whatsoever!!!
    :interestedsingh:
     

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