Category Archives: Sikh Women’s Movement

Authority in the Virtual Sangat by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

doris-2

Authority in the Virtual Sangat

Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century

by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

In her paper Authority in the Virtual Sangat. Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century, Doris Jakobsh analyses the change of authority based on her research on Sikhs on the Internet. She stresses the Web as a ‘third place’ of communication among the Sikhs as well as the phenomenon of new authorities online. However, this does not imply the replacement of the traditional seats of authority, the Akal Takht, SGPC, or gurdwara managements, but one can recognize a significant shift away from these traditional sites of authority toward the ‘new authorities’, the intermediaries of cyberspace. Her analysis shows that this aspect of the Sikh experience brings with it the most profound challenges and, most importantly, a need to bridge the post-modern individual, i.e. ‘Sikh tradition’ intertwined and legitimated by the metanarrative, and the proliferation of new authorities who have become intermediaries of Sikhism online by virtue of their expertise within the digital domain.

CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE

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Sikh Women Gain Voting Rights at Bristol Gurdwara

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Fateh
This is a great story that I really enjoyed writing up, now published in The Sikh Times.
Sikh Women Gain Voting Rights at Bristol Gurdwara

By KAMALLA ROSE KAUR

The Sikh Times, Aug. 31, 2008


Photo: Bristol Gurdwara

Come join with me, my sisters,
And sing songs of joy and delight.
My true friends have arrived in my home!
–Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture), p. 764

The Sikh religion preaches and promotes equal rights for women. Female subordination, the practice of taking a father’s or a husband’s last name, practicing rituals that imply dependence are all alien to Sikh principles. Yet in the last 400 years, most Sikh institutions have been run by Sikh men. In the West, it is often elderly men whose concerns and politics are back in India.
–Walayti Singh Chauhan, current President of the Bristol Gurdwara

Background

On October 14 2007, the management committee of the Sikh gurdwara (temple) at Fishponds Road, Bristol, U.K. voted seven to one for women’s suffrage. The lone opposing vote was cast by the then General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti.

In the following weeks and months no confirmation of the historic reform was announced to the Sikh sangat (congregation). In response to this silence, several Sikh women met with the Gurdwara President Walayti Singh Chauhan. He agreed that the decision would be announced and confirmed in a letter to the Sikh community.

‘Walayti Singh took the brave step and put the committee’s agreement of October 2007 onto paper, knowing that he may face resentment.’ Gurdip Kaur, a member and women’s rights activist in her 60s, said, ‘He is responsible for ensuring that the basic tenets of Sikhi (Sikhism) were enforced; to treat all humankind as equals. He stood up for what is right.’

Sikh women from Bristol have been demanding their right to vote in gurdwara elections for decades. According to Gurdip Kaur, ‘Over seventy-five letters were sent to gurdwara committees over the last twenty-five years regarding total equality for Sikh women. These letters have all been disregarded.’

Conflict

President Walayti Singh also supported the women’s plans to celebrate their success at an upcoming event. Six female Sikh speakers were contacted and several notable non-Sikhs were asked to speak including Dave Chapple, the national chair of the U.K. National Shop Stewards Network.

However, General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti refused to allow more than two women speakers and would not approve any non-Sikh speakers.

The president and the women activists complied with the general secretary’s wishes and only two Sikh women spoke on Sunday, May 4. The outside speakers were cancelled. The activists felt that the most important part was that Sikh women had gotten the vote.

After the women spoke, General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti took to the podium and strongly urged against women’s suffrage. He did not acknowledge that the management committee had already approved the reform.

From the perspective of the congregation, the general secretary stood on the right side of the podium and the president stood on the left. While General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh was attempting to persuade the congregation to reverse the women’s victory, Gurudip Kaur approached President Walayti Singh and asked if she might speak. He agreed and she was handed the microphone when he concluded his own speech. Seeing this, the general secretary crossed the podium and took the microphone from Gurudip Kaur despite her resistance. The following uproar resulted in a ten-minute shouting match.

Javinder Singh, who would soon be elected the new general secretary of the committee, noted, ‘Seeing an insult against an elderly woman of this sort was unbelievable; this act was totally deplorable and extremely sad.’

In response to this incident, President Walayti Singh Chauhan suspended Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti from the role of general secretary, asking him to return gurdwara documents in his possession until the incident could be investigated. The gurdwara election, scheduled for May 11, 2008, was postponed so that women members had time to register to vote and to let things cool down.

But in the days after the incident Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti failed to return the gurdwara documents. After three formal requests, legal counsel was sought by President Walayti Singh and legal proceedings were launched to retrieve the documents. The documents contained minutes of committee meetings and records of decisions made.

Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti ceased attending gurdwara services and so did the vice president and vice treasurer of the committee. His backers now included three out of the eight members of the gurdwara’s management committee, although they had originally voted for women’s suffrage in October 2007.

Mediation

Seeking a quick election before the women could register, Mohinderjit Singh’s group went to the Bristol police. They explained that Walayti Singh’s term as gurdwara president was already up and they felt he had no right to postpone the election. The police agreed to mediate the dispute using five representatives from each side. Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side was composed of older men, all born in the Punjab. The women’s suffrage group included a wide range of ages, with both sexes represented, four born in the U.K. and one in India. They met with the police once.

Over two weeks, plus a few extra days’ extension, Sikh women registered. By the end of this period, 170 Sikh women were ready to vote. With suffrage established, three women, Narindar Kaur, Anita Kaur and Sheila Kaur, pursued management committee positions. They became part of the pro-suffrage team, with Walayti Singh Chauhan running for another term as gurdwara president.

On election day, Sikh voters would cast only one vote, choosing one management committee team or the other. Although Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti was not on the ballot, his brother ran for the position of general secretary. On the other side, Walayti Singh’s team offered the Sikh community a revolutionary new committee with men and women, and adults of all ages.

The pro-women’s-suffrage slate was comprised of Walayti Singh Chauhan (president), Shamsher Singh Patel (vice president), Javinder Singh (general secretary), Satchet Singh (vice general secretary), Kuldip Singh (treasurer), Narindar Kaur (vice treasurer), Anita Kaur (langar jathedar), and Sheila Kaur (vice langar jathedar).

The anti-women’s-suffrage slate was comprised of Raghir Singh Nirman (president), Baldev Singh (vice president), Mohanjit Singh Bhatti (general secretary), Jaswant Singh (vice general secretary), Mohan Singh (treasurer), Satnam Singh Amritsaria (vice treasurer), Harpal Singh (langar jathedar), and Raju Singh (vice langar jathedar).

Mohinderjit Singh hired an attorney and requested that the attorney be allowed to be present during the negotiations. When the police firmly declined this request, Mohinderjit Singh’s group decided to stop attending the meetings. Instead, they informed the police that the election would be held on July 6, 2008. They added that they were hiring a private security firm to keep the peace on election day.

However, Bhatti’s team did not inform the Sikh congregation adequately about the election. Many Sikhs worshiping that Sunday did not know that it was an election day.

Fearing an outbreak in violence the Bristol police interceded and dismissed the hired security guards. They insisted that proper voting procedures be in place prior to the election. They asked for two members from each side to meet with them immediately. Over the next few weeks the two sides successfully negotiated the details of the upcoming election and signed a contract.

Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side was asked by the police to stop sending out letters to the sangat, as this was confusing the members. It was agreed that an independent voting company should be brought in. The Association of Electoral Administrators agreed to conduct the election. Voting registration was again extended to allow the traditionally-minded Sikh women, who do not believe in their right to vote, to register to vote. The voting company insisted that the registration be complete a week before the election and that the final voting list be just that, the final voting list.

For the next two weeks Sikh women were encouraged to register to vote and on the last day they extended the registration by a few hours so that the latecomers standing in line could finish registering.

Yet on July 27, 2008, two days after registration had closed and the voting list had been finalized, Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s team insisted that they had seventy-nine more women they needed to register. The voting company refused, citing the contracts in place.

‘The anti-women’s-suffrage side were in fear that their power would be cut off forever. So they were doing everything possible to win,’ Javinder Singh, the new general secretary, commented. ‘They knew if they lost it would be the end for their sort.’

Election Day

On Sunday morning, August 3, 2008, many Sikhs from both sides arrived at the gurdwara at 8 A.M. Voting would begin at 10 A.M. Tensions were running high. The seventy-nine Sikh women who had not made the registration deadline – women who were angry that they were denied their right to vote against their right to vote – were vocal. The police blockaded the street and the media arrived. One Sikh man was arrested but later released. Some of the seventy-nine women and their supporters surrounded the voting company manager’s car in protest.

‘The Association of Electoral Administrators was very patient during the negotiation leading up to the elections,’ reported Javinder Singh. ‘They were understanding, firm and fair throughout the election process. They ensured the elections were conducted independently and professionally.’

Fifteen minutes before the election was due to start the police called a meeting of both sides, which delayed the election for two hours. The pro-women’s-suffrage side offered to let 80% of the unregistered women register and the voting company agreed. This offer was angrily dismissed and Mohinderjit Singh and his supporters boycotted the election.

The election, although delayed, went forward. 93% of the votes went to the pro-women’s-suffrage team with Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side receiving only 4% of the vote. Seemingly, even if the anti-women’s-suffrage side had voted – including all seventy-nine late registering Sikh women – Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side would have lost.

‘We commend the Avon & Somerset police for their understanding of the situation that we found ourselves in,’ said newly-re-elected President Walayti Singh Chauhan. ‘It was a great job done. They were sensitive and respectful of the Sikh principles at all times.’

Javinder Singh, the new general secretary added, ‘When the women bowed to our holy Sikh scripture (Guru Granth Sahib), our Guruji, to accept their official duties, they glowed with a happiness and joy that seemed almost transcendent to me. I realized I had never seen that look on the faces of those Sikh women before and that made me determined to keep fighting for the rights of Sikh sisters and women everywhere.’

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The Start Humble Gurdwaras Movement

Sikhs in the West tend to build very large hard to heat and cool Gurdwaras. Here are some examples of typical big Gurdwaras in the USA.
I think Sikhs need to start more Gurdwaras. They should be humble halls.
Many/most Gurdwaras are presently run by men whose hearts, minds and politics are back in India. Many Gurdwaras are corrupt and it is against Khalsa Knighthood vows to hang out in corrupt organizations.

Sikhs are already split and it is not going to help anyone to have Holy Wars. Sikhs who wish to see women on the boards of directors and up front during services need to create that. We will come.

The Protestants have done very well endlessly schisming and starting new Faiths. They are extreme. But all the world’s top religions have their two or three threads, or vehicles as the Buddhists say.

Orthodox, Moderate and Reform for Jews. Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant for Christians. Sunni, Shi’ite and so forth.

Far as I can see a great many Sikhs follow Jathedars, Deras, Sants. Babas and Yogis and that is their right. It is a free universe. They claim the SGGS as their scripture but it is my opinion that Guruji is not awake and alive for them. They do not appear to be reading the SGGS. If Guruji wishes to awaken them, that will be great but in the meantime, why not just call them a distinct group. A big group of all sorts of little groups.

Then there are the Dasam Granth over the SGGS folks. War is not practical. So I feel they can go do whatever they want to.

In the West it is EASY to schism and start over again. Fresh and clean. Small humble Gurdwaras. Let the bad guys keep those huge gaudy Indian Raj architecture monsters heated and cooled.

Do not participate in sexist, racist, institutions. Why would Khalsa Knights participate in corrupt Gurdwaras? Tranformation is fast when we simply vote with our feet and wallets.

FROM GURMIT SINGH:

I have observed very good solution – to start a small Gurduara
Sahib, which could be managed in the light of Guru’s Teachings, like the concept
of “Begumpura” where all participate as equals – None high, none low, none stranger.
It should be free from paid Bhais/Raagis/socalled Jathedaars or any cult like baba /
organization. Perhaps some Young Sikhs – females and males would set up such
a Congregation Hall. I will try in this direction provided there are ten more mates.

Gurmit Singh – Australia

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Aborting Sikhi by Kamalla Rose Kaur

(After eight years of studying and writing about Sikhi via the internet, I have returned to university, age 53. I am finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and will soon enter the Masters program, also in Creative Writing. This article was written for a university class I just completed on Global Women.)

ABORTING SIKHI

Kamalla Rose Kaur

I am very upset this morning and need to cry.

Statistics today reveal the genocide/abortion of female feotus continues.

1500 amongst British Indian born women over last 15 years or so.

7 Million on the subcontinant. Most highest number ??

Punjab and Gujrati communities

Amongst the most prosperous!! Sikhs and Jain communities

Jaswinder Kaur, Sikh woman posting on Sikh internet forum.

Why are so many Sikhs of Northern India participating in female foeticide and why can’t Sikhs seem to stop it? Down through humanity female infanticide is usually linked with hopeless poverty. But Sikhs in India- and not low income, uneducated Sikhs either – are aborting their futures, depriving their o so precious and valued sons of wives. This is especially sad and horrifying because the Sikh religion promotes womens equal rights. Sikh dogma and doctrine specifically forbids female infanticide; also the Hindu practice of sati and the Islamic practice of veiling women. Sikhs have been trying to keep their culture against amazing odds since the very conception of their religion, 500+ years ago. Now in one generation, due to one bad sad sin, there are no longer enough Sikh women being born.

Infanticide, Abortion Responsible for 60 Million Girls Missing in Asia
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
By Sherry Karabin

…In India, where the child sex ratio is calculated as the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years age group, the problem is severe. The 2001 Census shows there are only 927 girls per 1,000 boys, representing a sharp decline from 1961 when that number was 976. In certain parts of the country there are now fewer than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys.

“The problem is more prevalent in the northern and western states, where prosperity, rapid fertility decline and patriarchal (male heads the family) mindsets combine to put girls at risk,” said Ena Singh, the assistant representative at UNFPA.

My intention is to communicate, to the best of my abilities, why Sikhs have this horrible problem, how Sikhs are responding to it and why it is hard for Sikhs to get anything done at this point in their history.

SIKHS VS. SIKHI

Hear my prayer, my Only Master; all beings and creatures were created by You. You preserve the honor of Your Name, O Beloved One, Cause of causes.

Dear Creator/Creation, Beloved, please, make me Your own. Whether good or bad, I am Yours.

(Pause and reflect)

The Almighty heard my prayer; cutting away my bonds, my Beloved has adorned me. The Beloved One has dressed me in robes of honor, and blended this humble servant with the One True Master.

Now Nanak is revealed in glory throughout the world.

The Siri Guru Granth Sahib

Scripture and Only Guide and Guru of the Sikhs

Page 653 Guru Arjan

“Kamalla!” A Western academic confronts me, “North India is one of the most macho places on earth! Sikhi is male dominated from one end to the other.”

“Not Sikhi.” I argue. “Sikhs! Particularly those still living in India. There is hope for Sikhs in the West. The younger generation practices gender equality much better than the older folks.”

“Kamalla, they are losing their younger generation in the West and in India too.” my friend insists. “Hard as it is for you to believe, the fact that Sikhi is so progressive theologically didn’t matter. When we study Sikhs we have to study what they do, not just what they say they ought to be doing.”

“No. Wrong. What you say is true in some obvious Western sense, but I am a Sikh. Academics need to get it through your heads that what a Sikh is and what a Sikh is not is defined by our scripture and Only Guide, by the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. According to the Sikh Guru/scripture, those who practice gender inequality are not True Sikhs. They are phoney.”

“So the majority of Sikhs down through history and in present times are not really Sikhs? Is that what you are saying?”

“That is correct. They are all phoney Sikhs at the level that they do not follow Sikh teachings as set out in the Sikh scripture. But of course, only God and Guru can judge who is a good Sikh – Sikh just means ’student’ as you well know.” I retort and then add, “Sikhs don’t even believe that you have to be Sikh to be one of the Almighty’s best beloveds either. The Sikh Guru/scripture reminds readers all the time that good honest, loving and humble people everywhere, irregardless of beliefs or culture are better ‘Sikhs’ than people claiming to be Sikhs who fail to follow Sikh teachings.”

Sikhs will argue about all sorts of things but we almost unanimously, across all schisms and sects, agree that it is our scripture, our Holy Book – our Guruji – who defines what it is the be a True Sikh.

For our purposes here I will make a distinction between Sikhs and True Sikhs. True Sikhs follow the teachings of the Sikh Guru/scripture. Sikhs, on the other hand, are simply born into Sikh families.

WHO ARE THE SIKHS?

Here is a very brief history of Sikhi from the UNITED SIKHS website. UNITED SIKHS is a global Sikh charity organization.

Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji founded the Sikh way of life in the fifteenth century as an ideology to reconcile the Human Race. Guru Nanak was a revolutionary teacher- his teachings that women and men were equal, that caste was unimportant, and that there are many paths to the One God- were ahead of their time. The title “Guru,” or enlightener, was passed onwards to 9 more individuals throughout Sikh history, who shared the light of Truth of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji. These 9 Gurus also shaped the legendary Sikh traditions. In 1708 CE, the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, bestowed the title of Guru upon the holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is recognized as the eternal enlightener.

Some Sikh men and women join the Khalsa, the defense only Knighthood established by Guru Gobind Singh (the last embodied Sikh Guru/Teacher) in 1699. They are required to keep the five symbols of the five Khalsa vows on their bodies. The symbols are uncut hair (Kesh), a comb (Kanga) a dagger (Kirpan), a steel bracelet (Kara) and underwear (Kacheras). These symbols remind members of the Khalsa Khighthood of their vows, which include being clean, free of intoxicants, and vowing to fight oppression and abuse, racism, sexism, caste and classism, on behalf of the weak against corruption and tyranny. They must never attack. Again the Khalsa is a defense-only Knighthood. Khalsa men wear turbans and many Khalsa women wear turbans as well.

But only a fraction of all Sikhs join the Khalsa Knighthood.

Confusingly, quite a number of Sikhs, especially Sikh men, who do not belong to the Khalsa, also do not cut their hair and they wear turbans. This is often an indication that a Sikh is “practicing” being Khalsa and plans to take his/her vows in the future. Or often as not, Sikhs feel it is a good thing for Sikhs who have not joined the Khalsa to wear turbans and beards because it supports Sikh cultural identity, which many Sikhs feel is at risk.

The downside, of course, is that there are thousands and thousands of Sikhs who wear the “uniform” of the Khalsa Knighthood who are not keeping the Khalsa vows. For instance, it is common to witness Sikh men in turbans drinking alcohol in public or smoking cigarettes. This of course greatly errodes the effectiveness and harms the image and reputation of the Khalsa Knighthood worldwide.

There are 20 million people on earth who call themselves Sikhs. Yet like other religions, many or most Sikhs are secular. They come from Sikh families and visit Gurdwaras for weddings and funerals and as social centers, but they are not devout nor do they claim to be.

Since aborting female foetuses is strictly and heavily banned by the Sikh religion, the middle and professional class Sikhs in India who are choosing sons over daughters are secular Sikhs by definition.

SIKH SCHISMS AND SECTS

Sikhs have always considered themselves to be a separate and distinct religion from Hinduism. Yet from the point of view of most Hindus, Sikhi is just another sect of Hinduism. Hinduism is inclusive like that. Any and all beliefs and practices that have arisen in India are part of the whole brew and called Hinduism.

However, the founder of Sikhi, Guru Nanak, taught a Way that is quite distinct from both Islam and Hinduism, though he was affected deeply by both religions of course. In the West there is no dispute over whether Sikhs are distinct from Hindus. Sikhs are allowed to define themselves just like all the Western religions and sects do.

Approximately half of all Sikhs follow various “leaders” past or present – Sants, Babas, Yogis, Jathedars, Deras.

Another large percentage of Sikhs holds the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, as their one and only Guide and Guru. They do not believe in avatars and they wire direct, as individuals, with “Guruji”, their source of Sikh teachings. This second group, to which I belong, has at times been called “fundamentalists” by Western scholars because we take the SGGS as literal truth. But the SGGS is a very very different scripture from the Bible. There is no history or stories in the SGGS, rather it is the hymns/poetry/teachings of Nanak. Nanak’s approach to religion is distinctly not woo-woo and no faith in miracles is required in Sikhi.

The first and foremost belief of all Sikhs is that “The Creator and the Creation are One”. Sikhs seek to experience nondualistic perception, to experience and rejoice in the One Reality all around them. So called “fundamentalist” Sikhs are more like Humanists or scientically oriented agnostics than they are like Christians, Hindus, or Muslims.

A third large subset of all those who call themselves Sikhs promote the Dasam Granth – the writings of Guru Gobind Singh- as equal canon with the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

From a Westerner’s perspective these three types of Sikhs are distinct enough in practice and theology to be considered different religions or sects.

For a detailed geneology of Sikh sects: http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/sikhism/index.html

SIKH CENTRAL

For a very short time Sikhs had their own country in Northern India, and then the Brits invaded. The British fought a war against the Sikhs and won, but they fell in love with the Sikhs. Thus the British helped the Sikhs and they also hindered the Sikhs.

Sikh Central is presently in India but Sikhs in diaspora have no representation in the present (British established) Sikh religion administration. Some/many accuse Sikh Central of being infiltrated by nonSikhs or taking bribes, or corporate lobby money. Some/many disagree!

Gyani Jarnail Singh, a Sikh scholar from Malaysia explains:

Yes the SGPC – elected by the million or so eligible “SIKHS” (according to SRM – Sikh Code of Conduct) every five years according to the British Govt sponsored Gurdwara Act 1925..is a sort of Sikh Central.

Its authority is confined to old Punjab – now divided into Punjab/Himachal/Haryana. Efforts are underway to take away Haryana out of its spehre by forming a Haryana SGPC. Delhi already has a DGPC for Delhi gurdawras and the Patna Takhat as well as Hazoor Sahib Deccan are independently controlled by their states.

So not only are the few MILLION Disapora Sikhs not reprsented in the SGPC….so are a few million Sikhs in the rest of INDIA ( those outside Punajb/Haryana/himachal).

So in a way the Sikh Central is a very MINORITY sort of “Sikh central”…similar to if the few citizens of Vatican were to be Christian Central on behalf of the 1 billion or so christians…

The point to note is that the Govt of India holds the “Elections”… so it decides when and when… For example during the tenure of Jathedar GS Tohra…he was defacto President ( together with his assembly) for a total of FIVE TERMS..25 years ++ as the Govt decided to have NO ELECTIONS. Thus it is a Sikh Central over which the SIKHS have absolutley NO CONTROL. GS Tohra was kept in power for a quarter century….for reasons known/unknown ?? and the SIKHS coundnt do a damn thing about it.

Due to the SGPC being a “Financial Powerhouse” Goluck money from all historicl shrines runs into hundreds of millions yearly…anyone in control of it is in POWER. Inspite of the Indian govt using all sorts of “proxies”….newly set up Gurdwar Boards and such…the SGPC has traditionally been won by the Akali DAL…now the personal fiefdom of the BADAL Family/Dynasty…since the 1970’s !!

Thus when “POLITICS” rules the roost..invariably shady chraacters stand and win…through money laundering/vote buying/alcohol flows freely, hoodlums roam freely and drugs etc..every weapon in the arsenal is used to retain the status quo…95% of the SGPC members are TAINTED heavily. The one or two “religious” ones get voted out subsequently or turn over a “old” leaf and join the rascals.


SIKHS IN DIASPORA

Sikhs in diaspora also have no central unified means of governance or headquarters. Every Gurdwara is independent and control of Gurdwaras by one sect or another is common. Sikhs who follow various Sants and Babas or embrace the teachings of other leaders, and “fundamentalist” Sikhs, who hold the SGGS as our only Guru, often end up worshipping in the same Gurdwaras, as do the more militant Guru Gobind Singh followers. Add to this the generation gap caused by Sikh youth embracing Western culture, and it is not so surprising that Sikh Gurdwaras can at times become political, hot and heavy.

Harmander Singh from the Sikhs in England organization explains some of the problems Sikhs in diaspora have. He believes that the main issue is:

The elders’ die-hard attitude and desire in seeking answers from their peers in the Punjab to problems they face in the West,

Also:

1. Factionalism based on ‘Jathebandis’ , the anti-Sikh practices such as ‘caste’ based groupings, gender discrimination and taking advantage of the deference to age by those who are younger than them.

2. The abject failure in accepting that age alone does not qualify one to be a ‘leader’ but it only helps if some wisdom was gained along the way in getting to their age. It is assumed that competency is automatic and only comes with age. The fact that many who hold positions of ‘power’ within the Sikh community somehow are unable to divorce their personal ego nurturing actions from the responsibility that comes with the positions they hold. As a result, when something good has happened, people who were once thought to be dead suddenly come out of nowhere for the photo opportunity but are nowhere to be seen when things are not so good or very bad – in such instances, it is always someone else’s fault and communication skills are suddenly ‘missing’ – an opportunity lost in promoting links with the media.

A PREFERENCE FOR SONS

As shocking and also self defeating as it is, the reasons Sikhs abort female foetusses is that they want to have sons. It is greed in some sense.

Despite Sikh teachings, Sikhi worldwide is tremendously male dominated. In India sons are thought to be breadwinners while daughters are expensive. Births of sons are celebrated and births of daughters are often greeted with regrets, condolences and silence. In the traditional India family, when a daughter marries she moves into her husband’s family home, under the direction of her mother-in-law. One day, if you have a son, he will marry and his new wife will be under you. This is the height of woman’s power. Being a mother and ultimately the family matriarch is what life offers to women in traditional India families.

The United Nations website on Women and Violence reports::


Son preference affects women in many countries, particularly in Asia. Its consequences can be anything from foetal or female infanticide to neglect of the girl child over her brother in terms of such essential needs as nutrition, basic health care and education.

In China and India, some women choose to terminate their pregnancies when expecting daughters but carry their pregnancies to term when expecting sons.

According to reports from India, genetic testing for sex selection has become a booming business, especially in the country’s northern regions. Indian gender-detection clinics drew protests from women’s groups after the appearance of advertisements suggesting that it was better to spend $38 now to terminate a female foetus than $3,800 later on her dowry.

A study of amniocentesis procedures conducted in a large Bombay hospital found that 95.5 per cent of foetuses identified as female were aborted, compared with a far smaller percentage of male foetuses.

The problem of son preference is present in many other countries as well. Asked how many children he had fathered, the former United States boxing champion Muhammad Ali told an interviewer: “One boy and seven mistakes.”

Though it is only Sikhs in India who are engaged in widespread abortion of female foetuses, studies in the UK also indicate that UK Sikhs prefer sons and that is that.

From: Demography of immigrants and minority groups in the United Kingdom. London, England, Academic Press, 1982. :169-92.

The data were obtained in a questionaire survey of about 3000 married Asian Sikh women, living in West London. The main reason for the study was to find out whether Asian immigrants had any difficulties in adopting modern methods of birth control. Another reason was an interest in the nature of cultural influences on fertility and birth control practice. Sikhs were chosen because they were the largest of the Indian religious groups in Britain according to a national survey in 1974. The ideal family size for most Sikhs was 2 or 3, and they resembled the general population in the practice of birth control. Most survey respondents maintained their family size by modern methods of birth control, which were adopted early in marriage. Whatever methods used, they seemed to be effective, since fertility among Sikhs and other Asians is declining. Where Sikhs do differ from the general population is in their very strong preference for sons (84%). Some of the evidence on achieved fertility, contraceptive practice, and reasons for having or not having a 3rd child suggests a stronger bias towards a family of 2 children than is revealed by the preference scores. The Sikhs emphatic preference for sons may prompt some parents to produce at least 1 more child than they would have otherwise had.

I asked Harmander Singh from Sikhs in England for his thoughts on male domination within Sikhi:

An instrumental element of succession of goods/assets in the laws of many countries, where the West has had or continues to have an influence, is along male heirs. Sikhs, as opposed to Sikhi, have fallen prey to these prevalent legal precedences.

The ‘little prince’ syndrome is also linked to the difference of treatment between the genders.

Paradoxically, younger generations are driven away from all religions by the continued outdated and inconsistent application of sexist values – sadly this also has had an influence on the Sikh community which is run by ‘politically’ motivated and backed (mis)leaders. The ultimate effect will be the devaluing of the faith by those who are meant to be preserving it.

The balance of Miri-Piri has swung too far towards Miri under the invisible hand of the anti-Panthic elements. (Sikhi teaches that the mundane or temporal plane – Miri – and the spiritual plane – Piri – are One and need to work together)

Although there is the Christian ethos of ‘blame the sin, not the sinner’ , I feel that time has come to stop the rot, and to blame the sinners too for they should know better and pay for their sins – driving these hypocrites away from positions of power should be the start of the clean up process.

SIKH WOMEN’S RESPONSE

Lacking any direct political way for Sikhs to stop the abortion of Sikh baby girls in India Sikh women activists use the internet. They attempt to use the dogma of the Sikh religion to convert fellow Sikhs away from its male dominated worldview.

“Our Gurus did their utmost to make Sikh women equal partners. Guru Amar Das Ji sent out Sikh women to spread Sikhi. Alas, we have lost trace of those women. The worst situation now is that some of the Sikh women have lost their right to accept Will of the Creator when they are forced to abort female fetuses. The Sikh women need to come forward and express themselves as they did in our Guru’s days and become mentors to the Global women.”

Satnam Kaur, politician, London UK

From Sikh Women.com website:

Sikhism is unique in recognizing unequivocal equality for all human beings and specifically for both men and women. Among equality of all human beings, fundamental aspects of Sikh theology include implicit gender equality and independence for women. The spiritual beliefs of Sikhism (revealed to Guru Nanak in 1469) propose social reform of women’s roles in society. Sikhism advocates active and equal participation in congregation, academics, healthcare, military among other aspects of society. Female subordination, the practice of taking father’s or husband’s last name, practicing rituals that imply dependence or subordination are all alien to the Sikh principles. The universal principles of Sikhism and the spiritual beliefs are to be practiced daily and incorporated in day to day living.

Ideally, if each of us truly incorporated the Guru’s teachings in our daily lives, this would be a perfect world to live in. There would be no bickering over dowry, there would be less excuses to perpetuate violence. Equality of Women in Sikh Ideology and Practice would render moot the issues such as, “What Rights do Sikh Women Have? or What is a Women’s Identity?

The Guru’s defended our freedom and taught us to live free of bondage and tyranny. If Guru Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh were living amongst us, they would be terribly disappointed. Although some outdated traditions are still practiced, they are certainly not a reflection of Sikhi in our lives.

Sikhism equal rights extend to all beings. Acceptance and incorporation of those with special Needs, the disadvantaged, the poor or those without a gender designation are no exception to the rule.

From the Sikhs.org website:

At the time of the Gurus women were considered very low in society. Both Hindus and Muslims regarded women as inferior and a man’s property. Women were treated as mere property whose only value was as a servant or for entertainment. They were considered seducers and distractions from man’s spiritual path. Men were allowed polygamy but widows were not allowed to remarry but encouraged to burn themselves on their husbands funeral pyre (sati). Child marriage and female infanticide were prevalent and purdah (veils) were popular for women. Women were also not allowed to inherit any property. Many Hindu women were captured and sold as slaves in foreign Islamic countries.

In such a climate Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism shocked the entire society by preaching that women were worthy of praise and equal to men. Five hundred years later, the rest of mankind is only now waking up to this fundamental truth. The Gurus actively encouraged the participation of women as equals in worship, in society, and on the battlefield. They encouraged freedom of speech and women were allowed to participate in any and all religious activities including reading of the Guru Granth Sahib.

WILL SIKHS CONVERT TO SIKHI?

It is both sad and fascinating to watch and hope that Sikhs will be able to convert fellow Sikhs to Sikhi. Still, Sikh men appear much more concerned about the schisms within Sikhi and the politics in India than about fighting for women’s rights. Sikh men, even the “fundamentalist” ones, have not risen up or bankrolled Sikh women’s efforts to establish Sikh gender equality in Sikh families, communities and Gurdwaras. Sikh women activists have few male allies.

On the other hand Sikh women are welcomed into the Khalsa Knighthood and more and more young Sikh women are becoming Khalsa. Khalsa women are theologically encouraged to be leaders who can initiate others into the Khalsa as well, yet no woman in truth has ever done so (except in a couple Sant/Baba groups).

Meanwhile, the Indian government has outlawed the use of technology to discern the gender of unborn children. Here is a PBS video about the gendercide problem in India.

Karabin Sherry. “Infanticide, Abortion Responsible for 60 Million Girls Missing in Asia.” Fox News.June 2007 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,281722,00.html

“About Sikhs.” UNITED SIKHS. http://www.unitedsikhs.org/aboutsikhs.php

Singh, Jarnail “Quick Guide To Sikh Politics” Soulbride’s Kitchen https://kamallarosekaur.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/sikh-politics/

Singh, Harmander, “State of Sikh Relations” Soulbride’s Kitchen https://kamallarosekaur.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/harmander-singhs-state-of-union-address/

“Women and Violence” United Nations Department of Public Information February 1996
http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1772e.htm

Coleman, D, ed. Demography of immigrants and minority groups in the United Kingdom. London, England, Academic Press, 1982. :169-92.

Singh, Vishavjit. Sikhtoons.com http://www.sikhtoons.com

“Equality”. Sikh Women.Com
http://www.sikhwomen.com/equality/index.htm

“Women in Sikhi” The Sikhism Homepage
http://www.sikhs.org/women.htm

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Filed under Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Seva - Helping Others, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi, VIDEOS, World Women's News

Why God Is Often a ‘She’ by Elizabeth Johnson

Theologically Sikhi is so far ahead of Christianity when it comes to teaching that Creator/Creation, the All-That-Is, includes female and male and everything else.

Meanwhile Christians are so far ahead of Sikhs in actually practicing gender equality and dropping the feudal, crazy, scary, authoritarian use of He, Him, King, Lord, Highest Lord, Lordy Lord Lord when speaking about the Beloved One. Wonder if there is a Khalsa Knight, or other Sikh, brave enough to call God “She” – outloud in public and inside -for a mere 6 months and report back to us what they experience? I rather doubt it.

Why God Is Often a ‘She’
The Scriptures abound with female imagery for the Deity. There’s no reason we can’t use it ourselves when thinking about God
Elizabeth A. Johnson, SCJ

Excerpted from Commonweal Magazine.

Today, both women and men are questioning our reliance on male language for God. They are rediscovering female imagery for the divine long hidden in Scripture and tradition. Feminist artists, poets, composers, and theologians are fashioning new images for God out of women’s experience. Language about God is expanding gender-wise, even to the point of referring to the divine mystery as “She.” I believe that there is a strong theological argument in favor of such language.

Numerous biblical texts offer potent female images of God. God as childbearer: giving birth, midwifing, nursing, and holding an infant. God as an angry mother bear robbed of her cubs. God as homemaker: knitting, baking, washing up, searching for her money. God as the female figure of Wisdom: creating, ordering, and saving the world.

In fact, the personification of God as Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs and elsewhere provides one of the earliest interpretive frameworks for Christology. Jesus is even called the Wisdom of God in the New Testament. Furthermore, the spirit is often presented in female metaphors.

For some literal-minded believers, however, the we are not free to expand our God-language in this way. They argue that Jesus himself spoke to and about God as father (abba) and that He taught His disciples to do likewise. Such an argument sets its sights too narrowly. Jesus’ language about God, far from being gender-exclusive, is diverse and colorful in its reference to the sexes, as can be seen in the imaginative parables He created: the woman searching for her lost coin (female), the shepherd looking for his lost sheep (male), the baker kneading her dough (female), the traveling businessman (male), the employer offending some his workers by his generosity to others (male). Jesus used these and many other human and cosmic metaphors (such as blowing wind), in addition to the good and loving things that fathers do.

A final argument for using female symbols for God arises from the practical effects of God-language on the church. Imagery for God helps us understand the world. The way a faith community talks about God indicates what it considers the highest good, the profoundest truth. This language, in turn, molds the community’s behavior, as well as its members’ self-understanding.

The fact that Christians ordinarily speak about God in the image of a male ruler is problematic. For feminist theology, the difficulty does not lie with the male metaphors. Men as well as women are created in the image of God. The problem lies in the fact that the specific male images reflect a patriarchal arrangement of the world, casting God into the mold of an omnipotent, even if benevolent, monarch. God’s maternal relation to the world is eclipsed.

Incorporating female-centered divine images reverses this. She is the giver of life who pervades the cosmos like a mother bird hovering over the primordial chaos (Genesis 1:2). She shelters those in difficulty under Her wings (Psalm 17:8) and bears up the enslaved on Her great wings toward freedom (Exodus 19:4). Like a mother, She knits new life together in the womb (Psalm 139:13); like a midwife, She works deftly to bring about the new creation (Psalm. 22:9-10); like a washerwoman, She scrubs away bloody stains of sin (Psalm. 51:7). These and other such symbols invoke the exuberant, life-giving power of women.

Such symbols are but modest starting points for a more inclusive God-talk. Developing these symbols today is a theologically central task for the whole church. But the living God and the vitality of the faith community require that a more inclusive way of speaking about divine mystery be developed. God reimagined in female terms can breathe new life into religious language and symbols that bear the ancient responsibility of conveying what is most holy, loving, merciful, just, and wise.

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Filed under Fighting Authoritarian Groups, Inspiring, Multicultural, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

The COOP de LOVE – or Love Cooperative

menofquality.jpg

It was Halloween 2006 and the Irish witch rose up in me. I was bored with reading and participating in all male Sikh egroups, when suddenly my friend and forum moderated Harjinder Singh (husband of Satnam Kaur – the UK politician) up and asked me how to get more Sikh women to participate! Or at least it sounded as if he might well be asking!

So, with the help of his wife, Satnam Kaur, and soon other Sikh women, we SHOWED Harjinder Singh and our other Sikh brothers on three UK egroup forums how to attract Sikh women posters! We were very successful! I called it “The Coop de Love!” (like coup de love, and Love Cooperative combined) and I shared this Reality Play widely, especially among Religious Studies and Women Studies friends.

Did the forums manage to keep the women posting? No, sadly. Despite our clear instructions, we did not have great male participation – or so it seemed to me.

Tips To Help Men Be More Successful With Women
1. Don’t use silence as a weapon. Don’t ignore women posters. Don’t shun us.
2.Don’t talk about women in the third person when we are in the same room with you.
3. Don’t call women by affectionate titles (diminutives) if you aren’t calling fellow men by affectionate titles. If you call every Sikh man “Bhai”, then calling a woman “Bibi”, is appropriate,. Though frankly, I feel being “Bhai Kamalla Rose Kaur” has more clout than being a Bibi.
4. Ask more questions of women. Listen to women. Avoid lecturing women.
5. Take women’s lead.

In May 2007 I reran the Coop de Love on the forums and some good discussion happened, but we still failed to inspire the bulk of our Sikh brothers to practice activism and promote the many projects we Sikh women were wishing to promote.

Still I feel it was a wonderful success that, as well as being an extremely fun and delightful read, “The Coop de Love” proved once again that if we authentically wish something of others, we should first try simply asking nicely!

THE COOP de LOVE!
SIKH WOMEN TAKE OVER UK E-GROUPS
WITH HELP FROM SIKH MEN

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

“How can we have more Sikh women participating on all levels is a question to which I have no answer. There are some good and active Sikh women / girls in the UK, but most just do not feel confident to take part, or maybe are just not interested.” – Harjinder Singh/forum moderator

Hi Harjinder Singh,

Are you simply sharing or are you asking my advice? My advice, when men actually ask it, is to tell you to go ask women for advice on this subject and everything else. But you must sincerely be asking for our advice you understand.

I used to tell the editor at Sikhe.Com that though I understood that Sikhs don’t, as a rule, beg, that Sikh editors stuck with too many male writers should try it anyway. I was joking. Yet expect to have to work to achieve gender equality in these groups. Also multi-racial groups take effort to create. You must go INVITE people to participate. You must truthfully NEED them to participate and let them know you need them. Which you do, otherwise you don’t have gender equality in your forums.

I am blind copying this post to several articulate Sikh women (and some professors who may know interesting Sikh women university students and graduates) who might volunteer to help us fill these UK forums with interesting Sikh women – for a short spell at least? Just to see if Sikh women respond well to sincere invitations from humble Sikh brothers like you.

Again, my best advice to you is try begging…I mean, try sincerely ASKING Sikh women to participate. Then don’t forget to ask their advice on how to get more Sikh women to post.

Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARJINDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur,

Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh

There are women members of all three e-groups, but I would very much like to hear more from them. Many men, even those that are not very knowledgeable about Sikhí, do not hesitate to send their contributions.

Sikh women and girls should feel safe on the forums ! Of course people will disagree, and even disagree strongly, and some Sikh men will not contradict a man but will feel no such restraints when women are concerned. Do not let them intimidate you !

There are some excellent role models in Sikh history of women who fully took part in the panth. Sometimes I think that instead of going forward and becoming better followers of Guru’s teachings on equality, we are going backwards.

All Sikhs, male and female, young and old, ‘western’ Sikhs or ‘eastern’ Sikhs have a right and a duty to take part !

Hope to hear from you,

Gurfateh,

Harjinder Singh
Heston UK

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

“Sikh women and girls should feel safe on the forums ! Of course people will disagree, and even disagree strongly, and some Sikh men will not contradict a man but will feel no such restraints when women are concerned. Do not let them intimidate you !” – Harjinder Singh

Dear Harjinder Singh,

Usually and universally this approach is not going to work with women. Almost all men, including my own husband, use this strange approach. It leads women everywhere to conclude that it must be very hard for people with more testosterone and less estrogen to stop assuming you already know the answer, and stop throwing the “should” word at people. Sincerely, why do men do that? Women everywhere want to know!

Meanwhile, how many Sikh woman have you emailed or phoned to tell them that you NEED women to post? Have you asked them to post? Have you asked them why women don’t post? Do you KNOW that Sikh men intimidate them? I would be more likely to guess that Sikh men bore them myself, but then, truly, I DON’T KNOW.

However, I have received an email this morning from one professor who tells me s/he will be teaching a class on Sikhi in January and s/he will work to help us out here!

I saw a USA comic once share about being in “a testosterone recovery group”. He joked that the men had to sit around and repeat things like:

1. “I don’t know, what do you think?”
2. “I can’t fix that.”
3. “I am lost, let’s stop and ask for directions!”

No getting around it, my brother(s). If you want to know why Sikh women don’t post, you are going to have to ask them sincerely enough for them to feel deeply ASKED. Then you must listen to what they say, and act on it. No arguing with the sisters about what sisters feel or how we “should” feel.

Again, why do men DO that? All men seemingly! Men “should” stop that right now, it is vastly annoying! 🙂

Love and light to you Harjinder Singh and thanks for asking….or almost asking….you are a truly superior Brother!

Kamalla Rose Kaur

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Dear Satnam Kaur,

Can we talk about this? May I ask you some questions?

When I scan what I want from a Sikh forum, what I desire is activism.

But I don’t enjoy battling about gender equality. I don’t live in a world where I have to tell men how to treat women as equals. I work hard to be around men who love and support women. Where are the Khalsa men who back the Khalsa Women’s Movement? Harjinder Singh is one such and X-Bhajanite men are devoted to supporting Sikh women. I love the freedom of expression and the love we siblings share at “The Wacko World of Yogi Bhajan” (http://forums.delphiforums.com/KamallaRose/start).

I wrote “Prem Ki Jit!” 7 years ago now, and I have been lobbying for the Sikh Women’s Agenda ever since, Yet I have not met a full Punj Piare of Sikh men of Punjabi descent working on the Sikh Women’s Agenda. Where are they?

Obviously I think the first step is to create a forum that has a team of men and women happily working together. This isn’t magic, it takes activism. We need to all go recruit a bunch of great women to come do some Sikh activism with us. We also need to recruit men who like to do activism with women. The debates over hair, the Dasam Granth, news from the Punjab, and so forth will continue – who can stop it?

That is what I am looking for. What are your thoughts and feelings? Is this the appropriate venue? What do you want from participation in Sikh internet forums?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

SATMAN KAUR:

Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa
Vahiguru ji ki Fateh

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur

The truth is there are not many active Sikh women. Sikhi is fairly young and has a long way to go before it shines again. Women have to come forward and they will when they a bit more independence. In the UK the scene is changing but slowly.

You are right we have to ask women personally to make contributions on specific subjects.

The main problem is you come across brick walls and the head starts bleeding. We are going to have to keep at it. If you can talk to the women you know in your area and will speak to the women here perhaps we can empower them and talk Sikhi with them. We have applied for funding to run capacity building workshops and we have keep fit class on Fridays this is one of the ways to energergise women.

Lets give our selves target of one month and if we can encourage more women names on the egroups.

What suitable topics could we use? Perhaps some ladies could dig into the lives of the women Guru Amardas had sent out to “preach” and compile a paper. Another lady Bibi “Rope” known as Rope Kaur, the daughter of Guru Harrowing, she was a writer.

And hopefully our Sikh brothers will ask their mothers/sisters/daughters to do this research on behalf of the Sikh Nation, especially living in Panjab where the history was made.

There are many widows from Delhi 1984 riots who are fighting for justice lets see if we can do something for them with the help of Sikh women in India.

What do you think?

There is so much to do beside the gender war as you say!

Satnam Kaur

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Thanks for the information SatNam Kaur. I think it is a good thing to start easy. I am eager to “prove” that we can attract Sikh women posters into these three UK forums – Sikh News Discussion, The Man In Blue Group, and the British Sikh Women organization forum, simply by WANTING them. Here on-line we can draw from the whole world of Sikh women

Personally I am as interested in who everyone is, where and how we all live, as I am in poltical discussion and debate.

When was the first time you ever made Prasad? Who taught you?
Any genuine humble Sikh Sants in your family? Anyone with the gift of the Naam?

I am hungry for Sikh stories myself. I am also interested in being educated without judgement or competition.

What a great idea to do research into historic Sikh heroines. Here are some thoughts I have on recruitment. Whacha think/feel?

1. Let’s continue to ask interesting Sikh women we know if they will to join our forums – because we really want them too. They need not stay but we need their advice and imput, please!

sikh_news_discussion-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

themaninbluediscussiongroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

2. Also it is fun to comb the internet for interesting Sikh women writers and repost their articles to these sites. Let the authors know that we are discussing their writings and invite them to come visit us.

3. We can read books or share book reviews by Sikh women and see if the author will visit, or allow one of us to interview her.

4. Engage with the women university professors who are lurking in these groups. How can Sikh Studies professors help Sikh women and vice versa? Historical research of Sikh women for one thing.

5. Can we greet and welcome every new poster?

I intend to ask every Sikh woman I meet what would be her ideal Sikh forum experience, whether short term or long. What do women WANT to experience in internet community, and also in Gurdwara community?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARMANDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur,

Even though I may never attain the credentials to be considered for inclusion in the Panj Piare, women (Sikh or not) can count on my unfettered support for equality – it is so easy to tackle the male bigots for other men – if only they stood to be counted.

Harmander Singh
UK

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Great to meet you Harmander Singh. Where are you from? Are you a Papa? Thanks for volunteering to help us out in our egroup women’s activism. We really appreciate it.

Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARMANDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur,

I am proud to be a British Sikh with immediate roots in Singapore but with unfortunate links to a country I try not to name – some people mistakenly think it is because I am against that country but that is not true.

I do not know what a Papa is other than a term of endearment to a father, in which case I am a father of four children – two of each, a grandfather to one (Diya Kaur).
together with another British Sikh (male) am the co-founder of Sikhs In England (SIE) which has a policy of only allowing a woman to be its Chair – until May this year it was Balvinder Kaur Saund JP, but upon her election to political office she was obliged to step down as SIE wishes to retain its apolitical status. The current (Interim) chair is Jasbir Kaur Panesar.

Regards

Harmander Singh

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Again, great to meet you, Harmander Singh! You first made an impression on me when you noted that support of Sikh women splits the good guys from the bad guys. True Sikhs stand for the full human rights of all beings, including women, where Hindus and Muslims, and fake Sikhs etc. often do not.

Kamalla Rose Kaur

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Hi Harjinder Singh,

Am I threatening your power and upstaging you? (Insert evil cackle) I am the Alpha Dudette now and these forums will never be the same again.You have just lost to a bunch of silly, witchy women (group cackle cackle!!!!).

Which is to say, Happy Halloween! As you know I come from long line of Irish witches – redheads.

Hope we have caught your attention and we are tickling you with the idea that you might write a Man in Blue column about this experience!Obviously we are going to lose Sikh men who do not support the practice of gender equality yet, but with luck we will attract Sikh brothers who enjoy working with women as well as men. Ken claims that he prefers working with women. He thinks women are nicer and more fun.

Of course, as Sikhs, we are all soulbrides.

Even so, there is “chemistry” between the genders. Sikh men greeting women, welcoming us here, asking us questions and soliciting our advice is a breath-taking experience for women. It is an exotic and foreign experience, which tends to light us up and make us feel wonderful.

Women observe that men really enjoy this sort of treatment as well!

Question for men: Why aren’t men nicer to each other? What are men competing FOR? Obviously not for women because women avoid men who are fighting. Women have this big weakness. We almost universally HATE fighting, especially with men. Push come to shove, men can usually beat us up, so women avoid arguing with men and we tend to avoid men who argue.

Thanks for being!

Kamalla Rose Kaur

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Inderjit Kaur,

I notice that you are copying some of my posts into another forum. You are secretary of women’s affairs there? Can you tell me a little about that and about yourself? Why do you think so few women participate on these forums? What are you personally looking for in your ideal Sikh forum experience?

How can we increase the number of Sikh women participants?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

INDERJIT KAUR

Kamalla Rose Kaur:

Yes, have been forwarding your important messages in our egroup, in which I work as secretary and look after its women affairs, besides other assigned duties, such as, these days, I am Project Co-ordinator of the ‘Clean Budda Nullah’ (a dirty drain passing through Ludhiana).

As a woman activist, I would like to say that we can use, nay, put into service this group for pleading and promoting the cause of women, respective of caste and creed. Now I am 37, doing my law decree (final year) along with Master Diploma in Human Rights, alongside. I am based in Ludhiana, Punjab, India.

You are right, very few women, especially Sikh, work in these types of groups (except for jobs). I think the problem is with women, not with the work or with the other gender. We need to know this and uplift ourselves to that level, I mean the level of man responsible, so as to advance the cause of humanity or thence of the women folk.

Let us start so that others may follow us should be the theme of our efforts. Number will increase with the grace almighty Waheguru.

Friendly yours,
Inderjit Kaur

SURINDERJIT KAUR:

Satnam Kaur and Kamala Rose Kaur,

Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa,
Wahiguru ji ki Fateh.

That is what I am advocating for. But not much support from sangat
especially males. There are a few hard working women who stand with me, but
don’t say much. Women work so hard (doing seva) at gurudwaras, but when it
comes to decision making, they are hardly ever asked. And if they try to say
something, mostly they are ignored. I will keep on speaking up for the
betterment of our religious places. My heart cries when guru maryada is not
followed. I can’t keep quiet anymore. God will give us courage to move
forward.

Guru Fateh, Surinderjit Kaur

GURPREET KAUR:

Dear Kamalla:

I dont know about Inderjeet but I have been a very silent spectator for long…I am looking for self discovery, I think I dont know enough and hence may seem foolish in the eyes of other more knowledgable sikhs around.

Gurpreet

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Blessing Gurpreet!

I feel the same way – except I have a big mouth, of course. So what kind of forum would you want to participate in? I understand that it wouldn’t be so competitive and judgemental. What else?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

GURUZ:

It is thought of this one that to be free of gender bias means also to have no focus on gender of one posting. Male or female is fine – why to make a big deal of ones gender? Guru has given kaur and singh to elevate status. We should be confident in this.

guruz

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Gur Ji Ki Fateh

Greetings guruz,

Sure, some women write like men and some men write like women, and who cares anyway. I enjoy people who manage to write in a way that readers can’t tell what gender they are – though I admit that I actually prefer it when folks share more fully about themselves.

I’m not sure why Sikh men (and maybe a couple of Sikh women who are passing as Sikh men) seem to dominate these forums but, soon as balance is established, then gender is no longer a big issue anymore.

Again fighting over gender equality is depressing, annoying and stupid for me. I try to avoid hanging out in places where it is an issue. How about you?

If Sikh women had more confidence of the kind you describe, how would that effect Sikh forum sangat? How about if Sikh men had more of the confidence you speak about? How would that effect them?

What are you personally wanting from participation in Sikh internet forums?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

GURUCHARAN SINGH:

Shabaash, If one will recall, I have said this long long time ago.Women must step into their rightful place themselves.They must assert their rightful demands.
No one is going to offer that on a platter, not even in thsi modern age religion of Sikhism.

-Gurcharan Singh kuliM

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Hello Gurucharan Singh,

I have much higher faith in True Sikh men. I actually believe that Sikh men will help Sikh women. We have 6 women posters already, in no time, just by asking – and raging men aren’t loudly protesting. No one is saying Sikh women should not participate here. On the contrary, you and Harjinder Singh have come out strongly, advising women to get in here and fight for our rights.

But, so far, no fight is needed!

Rather, we are all witnessing that when Sikh men ASK (or at least communicate that you would like to ask -if only asking for help from women weren’t so strangely difficult for human males on this planet…), then Sikh women are happy to help.

I assume in faith that when Sikh women ask Sikh men for help, Sikh men will do the right thing too.

REALITY CHECK: I am a theater director and when I am producing a show, I make sure we understand our roles in case of emergencies. We imagine various possible situations, and we have a plan, and we define the needed roles, in case of fire, or a sniper, or a heart attack or accident etc.

I ask for volunteers for each role.

But if a 4’11”, 100lb person wants the role of “bouncer” then s/he will have to prove to me that s/he can throw someone twice as big out of the building. However, even if s/he can prove this, a little person might not be intimidating enough to scare a wild-eyed, drug crazed, intruder.The “insurgent” might feel over-confident, attack and win.

Conclusion, we want a BIG HEAVY MAN, as a bouncer. I’ll call the cops, while Mucho Macho Singh asks the armed maniac politely to leave. Teamwork, aka True Sangat, is bliss.

The same applies here..

Many women visiting us, on our invitation, may not wish to hang out with some of the men who post in these places. Men who would attack women’s right to be here are “icky” and “creepzoid” to many of us. I don’t go to bars, or explore alleys downtown at night for the same reasons. I am not afraid. Rather I am picky about the company I keep.

Therefore I would like to ask you and Harjinder Singh and Harmander Singh, and all the other men here who WANT women to post, to handle any angry men on the attack. Will you debate them for us? Will you do that?

Women here are expressing our dislike of gender debating and we wish to not engage in it. Will you help us as the need arises?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

GURUCHARAN SINGH:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji ki fateh

Neither is there a need to fight.The Guru ji has already fought fought over this issue centuries ago,and issued clear guidelines about womens rights,there is a need for women to claim that rights.Not CREATE A FIGHT.That would make women No better than the macho anti women individuals we have.I dont even believe there is a antii women brigade, it is the ignorance of the faith like many other issues, and the cultural role conflicts that has made these individuals to think like the very macho men you are seeking ! –
Gurcharan Singh Kulim

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Hi Gurcharan Singh Kulim,

Yes, you are correct. We are proving right here that all we need to do is simply ask Sikh women and they are happy to post here and happy to share why they usually don’t post.

And again, it turns out that one reason Sikh women don’t post, seemingly, is that we do not wish to work in environments where we are likely to be attacked. We wish to be welcomed and contribute same as everyone else. We do not wish to CREATE A FIGHT, as you so elegantly put it.

But I don’t understand what you are saying about “the anti women brigade” being like the “macho men you are seeking”. Members of the “anti-women brigade” are not out to impress women nor are they attractive to decent Sikh women. They are not hero figures for women. They wish to impress men.

Meanwhile True Sikhs we are all soulbrides. So next time Khalsa women wish to do Seva at Darbar Sahib, why not have the biggest and strongest soulbrides, as many of them as possible, politely holding the peace for the physically smaller soulbrides? Afterall the “anti-women brigade” do not care about women. They have already shown that they will physically attack women who dare do Seva at Darbar Sahib. They don’t listen to women. They wish to be “macho” so they can impress men, not women.

All activism is best accomplished when men and women work together. Teamwork and all that! I understand, however, that you may personally not wish to debate gender rights either and that is perfectly fine. .

So what role would you like to play in helping Sikh women know they are welcome here? Would you be willing to invite some of your women friends here so we can enjoy their imput and participation too?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARJINDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur, Dear All,

Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh

I am running behind in this debate, and as I have been quite busy recently, and am going to be even more busy in the next two weeks (and then away for 8 days to Belgium and the Netherlands), I am not even going to try to catch up.

Prem Ki Jit ! Indeed, or as the Beatles sang way-back-when : love is all you need !

So let us not fall into the trap that some of the women activists in the past (understandably) fell into to : Men are the not the enemies. Just like women are my mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters (and one of you is my wife), we are your fathers, uncles, brothers and sons (and I am the husband of one of you).

Men are as much the victim of a society where they only get power when they have already one foot on the grave. We want to ’empower’ all, the youngsters, the young adults, the middle aged, and those with grey hair and wrinkles (like me), to be fully part of the panth.

With us it should not be that one decides for all, and also not that 51% decides for 49%. We should be selected as members of the panj piaré not because we are men or women, because we are young or old, but because we are people who are seriously on Guru’s path.

Last night we were at a small function where people on various stages of the Guru’s path, and of different ethnicity enjoyed doing kirtan together. No paid for ‘jathas’ from a far away country, and full audience participation. Some who took the lead in the kirtan were accomplished kirtanís, and some did kirtan on a more simple level, but all were doing kirtan from the heart.

Women did kirtan, women did the ardas, women read the vaak and men did all these things too. Not a pardhan in sight, and the only Baba-Ji present was the eternal Guru.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and in spite of the fact that London Transport made our journey home twice as long as is normal, we came home in a very relaxed and happy mood. Being a Sikh makes you happy, puts a smile on your face !

Gurfateh,

Harjinder Singh
Old Man in Blue with Grey Beard
Heston UK

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

<<With us it should not be that one decides for all, and also not that 51% decides for 49%. We should be selected as members of the panj piaré not because we are men or women, because we are young or old, but because we are people who are seriously on Guru’s path.-Harjinder Singh>>

Dear Harjinder Singh,

Yes, of course you are right, and I know I agree with you…and actually, you know I agree with you too. I imagine all the women here agree with you, and I imagine that you know that all the women here agree with you too.

You are running behind so you wouldn’t know but everything is going fine. We are attracting women posters, simply by asking them here, which I know pleases you.

And you know I am praying you will express your welcome to each of our visiting women as soon as you return.

Our only very very minor problem, so far, is that even when asked to refrain, Sikh men posters still seem to want to lecture women instead of actually inviting Sikh women over here and asking our opinions on how to increase Sikh women’s particpation in egroups.

Amused and frustrated by this, I asked Ken, and other non-Sikh men friends, “Why do men appear to need to lecture women instead of asking for our help when you need it?”

“Because men are stupid.”
“Men don’t listen to WOMEN, are you nuts?”
“There, there, Kamalla, don’t worry your little head, next life you might be lucky and reincarnate a man so you can lecture everyone you meet too!”
“Surely you overreact, not ALL men have a problem with lecturing women. Why do women generalize so much? You should….blah blah blah.”

Then I asked various non-Sikh women friends, “Why do men appear to need to lecture women instead of asking for our help?”

“I have no idea! Why do they DO that?”
“They care about power more than being attractive? Or…? Hmm….you know, I really don’t have a clue.”
“They are egotists and psychic rapists. They don’t ask because they don’t wish to know what we think or feel.”

Any ideas here? I know many Sikh men here really WANT gender equality within Sikhi and Sikh institutions. Why do men appear to need to lecture women instead of asking for our help and suggestions?

Is it possible for men to refrain from telling women what you think we should do, and how you believe we should think, long enough for us to attract women posters here?”

I am wondering if posing this issue as a competition might work? First man here to actively show that he is interested in what women think and feel about the issue of women’s participation on Sikh egroups, and resists telling women how we “should” behave, gets a big cyber hug and kiss from Sikh sisters, and fawned over for a week?

What does everyone feel and think about this issue?

Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARJINDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur,

Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh

Being from some kind of Presbyterian background I follow the old tradition of lecturing to everyone, including the Jathedar in Amritsar, the pardhans of the Gurdwaré, and so on and so forth. That I am afraid includes lecturing to women. Nasty habit I know …

Gurfateh,

Harjinder Singh

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

<<That I am afraid includes lecturing to women. Nasty habit I know …Harjinder Singh>>

Dear Harjinder Singh,

You are forgiven! Not that you asked to be forgiven, but “apologizing” is WAY advanced and beyond my needs or expectations from men at this time in history. I bet other women feel the same. Easily admitting error and reforming is so very very appreciated. Thank you. You are great, a humble GurSikh.

I also observe that you are a natural born scholar and yes, a good lecturer too. Public speaking and writing are needful skills for Sikhs. That feels like an understatement.

That said, it is good to remember that there have been many studies showing that humans learn better in experiencial and participatory classrooms. Lecturing doesn’t work as well as other approaches. And activism needs teamwork. So team building skills are extremely important too.

I am going to stop posting for a spell and see if women arrive here and if anyone talks to them.

Love and light to you,

Kamalla Rose Kaur

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

Dear Sikh Sisters,

When I was a 13-year-old “flowerchild”, back during the USA 60s Rebellion, protesting the war in Vietnam and the military-industrial-complex, the great guitar player and rock star Eric Clapton came out with the song “Bell Bottom Blues” and my little heart burst open. It was as if all men everywhere were singing to all women everywhere.

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it
Because I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I want to stay.

Just recently, I am now age 51, Ken played this old old song one evening and I burst into giggles because the song is so OTT (over the top!) and I realized that back when I was 13, I answered, “YES! YES! YES!” to every question!

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you? (YES! O Please! YES!)

Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back? (ABSOLUTELY! YES! YES! Thanks ERIC! Thanks so much for ASKING! YES!)

Now as a grown woman, I notice that Eric Clapton didn’t actually apologize. He just asked if I wanted him to.

“uh…don’t bother, my brother. I don’t NEED you to bloody your knees for me, truly. Or (gasp) actually apologize or act mushy or vulnerable in public. But, hey, Eric. Thanks so much for asking. I really appreciate it.”

Here is what Guruji just told me when I asked, “Guruji talk to women about men” :

Page 161:

The sinner is unfaithful to himself; he is ignorant, with shallow understanding. He does not know the essence of all, the One who gave him body, soul and peace. For the sake of personal profit and Maya, he goes out, searching in the ten directions. He does not enshrine the Generous God, the Great Giver, in his mind, even for an instant. Greed, falsehood, corruption and emotional attachment – these are what he collects within his mind. The worst perverts, thieves and slanderers – he passes his time with them.

But if it pleases You, then You forgive the counterfeit along with the genuine. O Nanak, if it pleases the Supreme God, then even a stone will float on water.

But if it pleases You, then You forgive the counterfeit along with the genuine. O Nanak, if it pleases the Supreme God, then even a stone will float on water. (YES! O Please, YES!)

Keep the Faith!
Kamalla Rose Kaur

HARMANDER SINGH:

I do not want a cyber or any other kiss/hug etc, from anyone – man or woman. I do not have problem being led by a woman , seeing the men who think they have led Sikhs (in my lifetime ) have made such a mess of it.

KAMALLA ROSE KAUR:

<<I do not want a cyber or any other kiss/hug etc, from anyone – man or woman – Harmander Singh.>>

Dear Harmander Singh,

I am SO sorry. It is too late. These things happen so spontaneously…forgive us if we overstepped.But, you DID win.

Admit it, healthy hugs are gooooood.

However, my dearest brother, PLEASE, can you refrain from telling women how we should feel? We Can Fawn Over Anyone We Want Thank You Very Much!

I mean it. Thank you very much.

<<I do not have problem being led by a woman , seeing the men who think they have led Sikhs (in my lifetime ) have made such a mess of it.- Harmander Singh>>

How about we all just be the most creative humble artists and scientists we can be? All at once! We will deal with conflicts as they arise; if they arise.

However, here is a review of requests:

1. Ask Sikh women to come post here, and ask Sikh women to tell us what women want from cyber and also Gurdwara Sangat.

2. Please men, ask questions and listen to women for a spell. Please do not lecture or presume you know what women think or feel, or how we should behave.

Personally, I am not worried about men who actively attack women arriving here. It is absurd to me that I would have to ASK Sikh men to defend women (or children) against attack and oppression. What is the Khalsa Knighthood FOR? Hello?Beyond that Harjinder Singh moderates against personal attack, slander and libel.

That said, I DO ask True Sikh men here to teach other men how to work with women. If male-bashing is needful, that is men’s department. Sikh women here are requesting this, I perceive

Bloody knees and romantic gallantry are not required, nor are public apologies. And PLEASE, forget about any grand displays where GurSikh men beg GurSikh women for forgiveness for how you have embarrassed us in public. Many may feel Sikh women deserve this, but we would like to drop this whole matter and move on. Lets us put Sikhi first!

HARMANDER SINGH:

Dear Kamalla Rose Kaur,

Please don’t stop posting, it will mean the anti-women brigade will come out from under the rocks again and start posting their rubbish.

up the (women’s) revolution

Harmander Singh
UK

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Filed under Comedy, Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

The Sikh Hair Debates – zzzzzzzzz!

charlescamillaafp203ok.jpg
Kamalla Rose Kaur

I have observed closely for several years now and I have found that Sikh men love to debate on 2 topics, the Dasam Granth and hair. The Dasam Granth is a non-canonical text written by Guru Gobind Singh, which Guru Gobind Singh absolutely did NOT wish to be made part of the Sikh/Guru/Scripture. Guru Gobind Singh declared that anyone who worships him is going straight to hell. He told Sikhs to worship the scripture only (The Siri Guru Granth Sahib), and to follow the voice of Guruji found there. The Dasam Granth is beloved too, but more oriented to those who are called to become part of the Khalsa Knighthood.But many would argue with me, and they do! Other than that, Sikh men love to talk about their hair. My opinion is that many Sikh men use hair, of all things, to jockey for power. I know that they use Sikh scriptual disputes to jockey for power among themselves.

Sikh women, those who speak out, seem as fed up with these endless debates as I am.

Why debate about hair? It makes sense to Sikhs, I understand all about it, but to outsiders it is strange. It is about who is an insider and who is an outsider; who is good and who is bad, and it is about cultural identity but mostly it is about keeping the Sikh culture in the face of genocide, and it is about almost having Sikh culture wiped out. Sikhs don’t read their own scripture or follow Guruji’s instruction.

I have every sympathy in truth. And I like long hair. I enjoy growing mine out.

Yet after years and years of reading the Sikh hair debates on Sikh internet forums I admit that I no longer care about hair or anything else, just shoot me. I am that bored.

So here is my take on the Sikh women’s side of the Sikh Hair Debates:

Though hair certainly is a big issue for Sikhs (it is, it is) one thing is very clear; people with purple hair in pig-tails are welcome to come to the Gurdwara and langar (food, beautiful vegetarian food). Bald men are welcome and so are little girls with Shirley Temple curls. Crew cuts are acceptable fashion for visiting a Gurdwara and tatoos.

Even Margaret Thatcher is welcome to come sit on the floor with the rest of us, as long as she takes off her shoes and covers her helmet – I mean hair. We understand that Margaret Thatcher not only cuts her hair but she hairsprays her face each day as well. Still she is welcome to come to the Sikh Guru’s house. We will feed her.

Most of the world has cut hair including many people from Punjabi families. Come on over to the Gurdwara and sing God’s praises and eat!

Frankly, I am clear that the only Sikh capable of getting me, or my children, or my friends, or your friends, or any of us, to discover, much less keep, the 5Ks, is the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture and only Teacher) and the Sadh Sangat (Good Company). And how are we suppose to form any kind of relationship with Guruji and how are we suppose to experience Sangat, if we are being shunned, preached to in foreign languages and publically shamed for being bad Sikhs, or not Sikhs at all?

Lighten up Khalsa. Nanak doesn’t need your help in showing the way, rather it is your job to help Nanak welcome everyone over for Gurdwara and langar – yes? Well, what are you waiting for?

Everybody is welcome at the Guru’s House. Even my old Aunt Agatha who grew to be quite deaf and she didn’t have a hearing aid, so she had a tendency to shout out things in church; things she probably thought she was mumbling, like:

“Stop preaching, you old bore. Or just shoot me dead now. I’m ready.”

Truly I think Guru Nanak would have welcomed my Aunt Ag to come on over to the Sikh Gurdwara – recruited her even!

Seriously Singhs, concerning the Sikh hair debates, and the Dasam Granth debates, can we table them (oops! I mention tables….), I mean can we wait a while to talk about our hair some more until after we have all had a big langar feast together?

And maybe, uh maybe, you men might like to watch some football on TV, or hammer some nails, or talk real estate together instead of debating about your hair, and other boring dry stuff, again, and again?

No?

Oh well…..whatever…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Filed under Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi