Opinion Alcohol: A Social Disease That Many Malaysian Sikhs Find Irresistable

Chaan Pardesi

Gurcharan Singh

Alcohol-a Sikh Social problem in Malaysia

Alcoholism is a social illness and disease very peculiar to only the SIKHS, especially in Malaysia.When this matter is raised, they go into denial, refusal to acknowledge and refute any ownership.

Every trick is used to justify and deny that there is a problem. However such denial are water off the duck's back when newspaper headlines in the world press about 9 years ago, about Melaka town running dry during the so called barsi of Sohan Singh is the proof in the pudding.

The hundereds of bottles of alcohol at wedding receptions is another proof in the pudding, that all participate in but will never admit, nor accept that they are victims of this social illness that has blighted thousands of Sikh families across Malaysia.

It is rather apathetic that the success of the community is measured in terms of the ability to drink alcohol like a horse.

It is underscoring and destroying it's own youth by such practices.Look at the evening gatherings in clubs in KL , Ipoh, and Penang large numbers of alcoholic Sikhs,the so called professionals of the community lingering about, including many who claim to Gurduara parbandhaKs in bars, clubs, and corner shops with bottles of alcohol spread out before them.

It is a rather big problem that the little community of Sikhs has hidden under their denials for many many years.Denial is to start with, the beginning of the disease;many homes, many females have been abandoned.Many sisters have lost brothers,many wives have lost their husbandss, many children their father.Yet, this problem never abates for the better.Quite the contrary it is getting worst.

Many children see their father drink, take to follow in their foot step..., many families are torn apart, yet the Gurduaras, parcharaks and Sikh societies do NOT see this degenerating illness or attempt to address it at all.

What is really the image of Sikhs in the minds sof the non Sikhs, can be gauged from the following episode I had during my recent vist to Malaysia in August,2013.

I was pulled along quite reluctantly, by a doctor nephew of mine, to a top club.As soon as I sat down in the company of a dozen or so Sikhs, who had been drinking already!

The waiter came running!He asked , "Sir, beer or whisky"I replied none, just get me a glass of water or Orange if you have one!"Sir, no beer , no whisky"I say "no I don't drink, get me a glass of cold water...Thank you".

"Sir, you don't drink???"He said looking rather puzzled!But all Singh drink mah!Where got Singh that don't drink"

"NO, I don't drink, please get me a glass of cold water"Yes, Sir, ..he said as he walked...he said,"Sir,..wahhh ...First time I see Singh no drink, all Singh drink alcohol number 1!

Those words cut straight through me.That was the image a non Sikh had of Sikhs!

I talk of the rampant spread of alcoholism among the Sikhs.I specifically singled out the Sikh community in Malaysia.There were two reasons for this.

The first was that it is a smaller community than others, yet the problem of alcoholism is almost as large as the other communities,if not more.

Second reason was, that this problem is mostly now among the so called educated elements of the community- who should be setting the role model and holding the realms of leadership for the coming generations.Thus it is very concerning-Ki banu ga kaum da- what will happen to the community with such large educated section of the community being under the spell of alcohol.But still in a state of denial!

Just look around at our own extended families and we witness the extreme binge drinking which occurs on weekends, weddings, family functions, and many times, the baratis cannot wait to finish the lavan , so that they can start binge drinking, more than often because it is FREE, at the expense of others.

Quote from an article

"It seems that Sikhs are particularly susceptibility to alcoholism. Sikh men tend to drink more spirits than beer. Spirits are stronger than other alcohols and cause more damage. Drinking culture is common in Sikh population in the world , possibly due to the acceptance of drinking in working men's culture and military culture, and the need to prove thay have achived a western standard, higher then their co****er parts in India!

The above article may relate to the Sikhs in UK, but it describes the alcoholic state of the Sikhs in Malaysia no lesser!

I see very little responsible action from our Parbhandak committees of Gurduaras, Sikh societies, and Organsitions to work towards this plague which is destroying, nay, has destroyed the character of our community. Yet Prabhandaks from Gurdwaras to name just a few will go in the complete opposite direction and set up community centres/ clubs, sports promoting the consumption of alcohol in the Sikh Community.

Many Sikh sports events have ended disgracefully,in Malaysia, hitting newspapaer headlines... when groups of drunken Sikhs have initiated fights and quarrels based upon frivolous issues....to teri bhen; teri maa..;.tera baap ...to be countered with greater profanties...tera vi baap; teri vi maa....teri vi bhen!Decency prevents me elaborating further, or completing the sentences.

I bet 100- 1, most of those uttering these profanities are ....Doctors, Dentists,Lawyers...and even Policeman, who probably has been used to pulling a cyclist or driver ....for a ringgit or two!There also exposition of their real education and maturity which comes to light!

It's absolutely disgraceful that there is no investment in the dangers of "patit-pauna" yet plenty of investment in creating "patit pauna" by these committees or committee walas as they spend a hugh fortune...as the "pardhan sahib" holding the daughters or sons wedding!

I know of one pardhan sahib, who was so drunk that when he gossiped about me , he only told half the story, because he forgot the other half!

Now imagine, this drinking pardhan sahib, who has already told umpteen lies....is going to be an example to the younger Sikhs in the hometown!

Men, especially of Sikh origin, are more susceptible to alcohol-related problems than white British males, according to a scientific study.This is very true of Sikh Malaysian men!

Alcohol use and alcoholism has been on the rise in the Sikh populations all over the world. Alcohol related harm in Sikhs is costing the NHS and Social Services in UK too much. For every 100 white men dying from alcohol related causes there are 160 Asian[largely Sikh] men dying. These are some of the facts published in a report in the British Medical Journal.

Dr Gurpreet Pannu, author of the study and consultant psychiatrist, says that there are disproportionately high numbers of Indian[largely Sikh] men being admitted with alcohol related problems.

There has always been alcohol use in Asian populations but the problem was not recognised, nor accepted. This study highlights the rise in alcohol use in Asian population. The figures are out there now and the Government has to act on these figures. Dr Pannu adds that we know that there is a high incidence of alcohol use but we don't know what is underlying this rise.

Dr Pannu explains that alcohol use and celebration of drinks culture has become more accepted in Asian populations and now equals the rise in British white populations. Both first generation and second generation have high intake of alcohol. This could reflect a rise in alcohol levels in the British white population as a whole.

Majority of alcohol admissions are with mental health problem -this is only one aspect. Social harm is also common – domestic violence, self harm and road traffic accidents.

It is a myth that Indians drink less. Alcohol use in Indians now equal that of white populations. Drinks culture has become increasingly acceptable in Indian populations. However there is an equally large abstinence culture, with many stating religion as a reason for not drinking.

Drinking is not associated with 'being social' in Asian communities. High alcohol consumption and drunken behaviour is frowned upon. Asians have restraints on behaviour from their close knit, often conservative community. Overall South Asian populations show a low level of alcohol consumption. However, there is a rise in consumption in British Indian men.

Men born in India have lower rates of drinking than white men, however, the rate of admission with alcoholism is higher for Asian men in the UK. Hospital admissions for alcohol related conditions among Asians are rising. A Southall psychiatric hospital admitted more Asian patients for alcohol dependency than white patients. Almost double the number of Asians were admitted. Southall, which has a large South Asian population, have high levels of alcoholism in Asians – a trend seen around the country. Most of these patients are Sikh men

It seems that Sikhs are particularly susceptibility to alcoholism. Sikh men tend to drink more spirits than beer. Spirits are stronger than other alcohols and cause more damage. Drinking culture is common in Sikh population in the UK, possible due to the acceptance of drinking in working men's culture and military culture. Many Sikh families migrated here during the Second World War when they were recruited to fight in the army.

Further studies have found that Asian heavy drinking lasts 7.4 years causing pain and suffering in Asian families. Alcoholism can break apart a family as the man becomes more and more dependent on drinking. Asians consume 383 grams of alcohol on average.

The alcoholic is unable to work or bring home an income to support their families. Alcohol abuse is often associated with anti social behaviour and domestic violence. Children grow up without the support of a parent. The cost of alcoholism in social terms is high.

The next step is to promote knowledge of the problem. Now that the Asian population is aware of the problem they are doing something about it. For example, there is a campaign in Sikh Gurudwaras in Southall to raise awareness of the issue of binge drinking.

Indian men in the UK and even in Malaysia are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol use than their white counterpart. There are biological and cultural reasons for Asian vulnerability to the risk of alcohol. The immigrant experience contributes to the drinking habit. Immigrants experience isolation, cultural alienation, poverty and deprivation. This is a difficult experience for many to cope with and they resort to drinking to solve their problems.

Alcoholism tends to hit those who don't have a supportive network and find it difficult to confide in people. Alcohol use and ethnicity surveys show a low level of uptake of supportive services among Asians. More effective outreach services need to be provided. These need to be culturally sensitive to Asians to encourage more people going through this experience alone to seek help.

A significant portion of the Asian population has become victims of alcohol. Our culture is not one that encourages drinking. It's those who are going through troubled times alone who are most vulnerable. We need to reach out to these people and let then know that help is available.

However in Malaysia, it is not those who are alone, who take to drinking.It is those who have successful careers, it those who want to flaunt their status.They want to show others just how clever they are to be able to drink and operate in the theatre , argue cases in court and beat up the wife!

While the poor Gurduaras pardhans, often those who have failed SPM or SPR, want to impress their status with drinking for the next election!

It is very sad,these alcoholics then dies young, diseased with liver cancer or something lese, become a heavy burden not onbly on the famailies, but break the hearts of those who love them and cause aburden upon the states' medical expenses.

Look, around, tell me...do you more than often see the SIKH professionals drinking or abstaining from alcohol?

The numbers do not lie. A shocking state of affairs possibly not helped by the music industry glorifying the drinking of alcohol amongst Panjabis. Although that could be a gross oversimplification of the issue, but one that I'm sure does have some kind of affect on the alcohol abuse amongst Sikhs, especially when youngsters hear their favourite artists singing about "pegs" and "bottla'n" in such a positive and jovial manner.

We see very little proactive steps within our prabhandak establishment to counter this reputation, with anti-alcohol parchaar on Gurdwara stages usually watered down or tightly controlled by the prabhandaks. In the last 30 years I have personally not seen any projects directly funded or set up by any Gurdwara committee to deal with alcohol abuse in the Sikh Community. What I have regretfully seen is the Golak money being used to fund halls/sports which encourage the consumption of alcohol!

I get the impression that the speakers on our Gurudwara stages are hoping that if they don't give the alcohol issue any "publicity", it might just go away. Or they are often hoping, that if they do not talk; then chances are they may not themselves get exposed about their own drinking ...when they are not playing Pardhan sahib or secretary sahib!

OR could it be... any criticism of sharaab/alcohol on the Gurduara stage may negatively affect the profit margin of associated cultural centres, etc.

NOT a single Sikh organisation in Malaysia has arisen to address this problem among the Sikhs.The Chinese know the Sikhs have a problem.The Malays know.The Sikhs know themselves.But ..sadly none of our Sikh organisations know about it!

Amazingly, none of the Sikh granthis know, non of the Sikh organsitions know--or is it the same" drinking kaki "[drinking partners]people are parbandhaks in these organsiation-and they dont want to loose their income genrated by these "drinking kakis" for their causes or hash runs!

Even our kirtani jathas imported from India ...will not say anything against shraab because...they may get beaten up by the drunk "sikh", like the vice pardhan of a Gurduara in Penang beat up the granthi not too long ago!.This is the real state of affairs among the Sikh community!

It is more to do with pleasing the target audience. The parchaar from the stages is often packaged towards satifying the punters and not over challenging their lifestyles. Buzz words like "Gurmukh" or "Gursikh" are used to describe any family that books a programme in the Gurdawara. The stages do not challenge the activities of sharab drinking which will take place directly after the Anand Karaj, instead they announce the venue where the sharab will be served.

The ignorance of discussing high alcohol consumption in Sikhs has lead to the problem compounding over the years. We are not admitting we have the problem and simply watch our Uncles/brothers pass away one by one from liver failures.

We need to stop this problem among our community.The government will not help.No one else will.Only WE oursleves can confront this problem in our community and help put a stop to it.

The alcoholics in our community need our sangat and help, we should'nt shun them away. we need to inspire them to give up the alcohol. we've all heard of AA (alcoholics anonymous) its an alcohol support group in the UK. It has a 12 step programme which is very closely linked to having faith in God/a higher power. Perhaps we could adopt this 12 step strategy at set up our own alcohol support groups where we can promote sikhi.

If you really want to help the community, dont wait for the useless pardhans who are always busy inviting the jathas,or promoting their self importance, or their own ego, even though most times the pardhans cannot even speak Punjabi from stage...to put a stop to this evil disease among our community.

Seeing their males drink, even Sikh ladies, women are taking to drink!One can see them at weddings trying to hide their little glasses in napkins or handerchiefs!Now they think a drink or two is not harmful...but that day will be not far when young children will be neglected and crying, while the mother who has now formed a habit is having her one or two drinks tries impress her socail class has gone up....as she drops down!

YOU can spread THIS message Alcohol is SIKH disease that Kills!
Refuse to accompany those who go drinking.Refuse to buy any one any "belanja" [celebration]in drink.There is NO "belanja" in the alcohol.

Kamuning Hills, Kuala Lumpur

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"


The British Medical Journal reports:

"34% of Irish men drink above the weekly recommended limit of 21 units of alcohol, compared with 29% of the general Irish population and 27% of the general British population. A similar problem exists in south Asian (Sikh) male migrants to the UK, where problem drinking is higher than in the Sikh population in South Asia and similar to that of the UK general population."

"Numerous studies have shown that Sikh men are more likely to drink alcohol, consume alcohol more frequently and in greater amounts than any other South Asian group."

"Consumption is higher in Sikhs than in Hindus or Muslims, and heavy spirit drinking appears to be especially common among Sikh men. Alcohol-related psychiatric admission rates for South Asians have risen since 1971, and appear to be especially high in Sikh men. The high alcohol-related morbidity rates in this group are a priority for further research and efforts at prevention."

"Sikhs were most likely to be regular drinkers followed by whites and Hindus."

"Among regular drinkers Sikhs had higher average Alcohol Problem Scale Scores than did white men or Hindus."

"Sikh girls drinking frequently increased in the 1990s"

"Sikh men, have high prevalence of alcohol-related liver damage and liver cirrhosis"


When this matter is raised, they go into denial, refusal to acknowledge and refute any ownership.

Same with casteism, grooming of girls, loss of religious and linguistic knowledge in younger generation, our general hypocrisy and all our other problems.

We do the old 'ostrich stance', i.e. bury our heads in the ground and pretend it isn't happening.

My GP once told me that white men and Sikh men had the highest rate of alcohol related illnesses than any other community in the area.

Stupid Panjabi songs glorifying drinking and drunkeness like 'Jatt hogaya sharabi' and whatnot don't help either.

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
The so called "Great Mann Sahab" was one of the first to glorify.this EVIL ......GHAR DEE SHERAAB HOVEH....as if ALCOHOL is inseparable characterisic of a PUNJABI...
Then the others followed..and today its a fastest flowing RIVER in Punjab which is in perpetual FLOOD...and Sikhs in Diaspora are also DROWNING...UK, Canada, USA etc..

How is that the BEAS guys..who ABHOR ALCOHOL..have such a VAST FOLLOWING esp "sikhs"...what magic trick is he using ?? Radha Soamis dont drink and dont eat meat....and their sikh follwoing is very big...whereas while the DERAS actually encourage and DEAL in such..as a way of extra income..and control over ladies whose hubbys drink and they think the neighbourly SAADH can "cure" the hubby of this..little knowing that the Sadh is also the supplier and dealer..and in this way he has one leg in the "drunkards HOUSE" and the hand in his pocket..what they call DOHEEN HATHEEN LADDOO..Laddos in BOTH Hands !!