One of my dearest and most controversial friends ever is Dr. Doris Jakobsh, a Canadian scholar who stumbled into Sikh Studies.
“While I was at Harvard I visited the gurdwara at Millis. It was managed by Gora Sikhs of Yogi Bhajan. I found this ‘marriage’ of East and West fascinating and decided I needed to know more about Sikhism. At that point in time, 1990-1992, Sikhism was not a subject that was often taught at the university level. That has changed somewhat since then. It was a new field of study as a lot of work had already been done on Islam, Hinduism and other Eastern religions. No serious study had been done on gender equality in Sikhism, so I chose this subject for my Ph.D.”
For the whole story read:
How fabulous Dr. Doris must have felt when Oxford Press, no less, published her thesis as a book!
Relocating Gender In Sikh History does not compare Sikhi with other faiths. It simply digs for the real history of Sikh women, and comes up very very short. Sikhs forgot to write down Sikh women’s history. Sadder yet, Sikhs forgot to write down Sikh men’s history too. Things that most every Sikh believes, historically speaking, are not that easy to document and prove.
Yet no one denies that Guru Arjan put together the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, or that he wrote the poems he claims to have written, or that the other poets in the Sikh scripture are also true and authentic historic leaders and artists.
For me, Relocating Gender in Sikh History is simply a look at the available historical source documents and Sikh’s claims of gender equality within Sikhi. It is clear to me that if Sikhs could pop up with historical documentation to combat Dr. Doris’s conclusions, we would. Instead some Sikhs passionately denounce Dr. Doris, slandering her wildly; the universal sign of losing a debate, or discussion.
“In her pathological desire to fit with the ‘Culture of the Fitters’ of the Sikh religion, and to form an ‘ugly gestalt’, she even has shamelessly attempted to demolish the best Khalsacentric work done on Sikh females by Dr. Nikky-Gurinder Kaur Singh documented in her book entitled The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).” *
Dr. Doris and Dr. Nikky-Guninder Kaur are good friends. Dr. Nikky Kaur studies the Sikh scripture and reflects 0n Sikh theology in her book, while Dr. Doris writes about Sikh women’s history.
“Jakobsh feels she has the right to make Sikh female ‘sociological respectable’ by imposing rational efficiency of logical positivism. In the process, if she has to trample over to the sacred writing of the Sikhs in Guru Granth Sahib so it be!”*
Baldev Singh, another critic, is extremely angry with Dr. Doris accusing her of false statements about Sikh Gurus, maligning Jats, spurious anti-Sikh writings, questioning the martyrdom of Guru Arjan and the bravery of Sikhs, echoing of British anti-Sikh propaganda, manipulation of a population census, and absurd, misleading and deceptive statements.
But to nonSikhs, Dr. Doris simply appears to have had the bad karma to have been the first historian to focus on what we know and do not know about Sikh women’s role in Sikh history.
Are Sikh men responding better than Christian males faced with the same forces in the 1970s and since? Dr. Doris assures me that she has not received any death threats. This is good, very very good.