Jews and Sikhs as a race


by Sunny
31st August, 2007 at 4:18 pm    

On the earlier cartoons controversy thread someone said it was ok to insult Muslims and not Jews because the former were not a race. The point being that while you cannot change your race, you can change religion. And thus insulting a set of beliefs is fine.

Insulting a set of beliefs is fine – people should have the freedom of speech to do that. But the above argument is based on a false presumption. I pointed out that:

Judaism is a religion like Islam. It was people like Hitler who saw them as a “race” and wanted them wiped out. Of course, he wasn’t alone in seeing them as a race, as did many anti-semites in the UK and Europe.

The government designation of Jews as a race is predicated on that anti-semitism and is a technical measure more than anything. Otherwise the 1976 Race Relations Act made it illegal to disciminate against Blacks and Asians but not Jewish people. That doesn’t mean you can’t make fun of Judaism or Jews by the way – you still can.

Similarly Sikhs are designated as an ethnic group. This is not because they are, but to get around the legislative difficulties of allowing them concessions (like wearing a Turban at work). But you can still make fun of Sikhs and of Sikhism. As the case should be.

Katy agrees with that later:

Jews are a very loosely related people, or a nation – sort of like a very very loosely connected extended family. But they are not a race. I am not the same race as bananabrain, for example, although we’re both Jewish, and neither of us is the same race as Jews of African descent.

Bananabrain posts a comment somewhat agrees:

this is, of course, because previously european anti-jewish feeling was something that could be mitigated by converting to christianity. of course, when jews started doing that after the enlightenment, people had to find another reason not to like us, hence the “scientific” antisemitism of renan and others. we could change our religion, but we couldn’t change our “race”. nowadays this fine distinction is rarely understood. the thing also is that there are large numbers of jews who maintain that they are “secular” jews or “ethnic” jews without any vestige of the religious beliefs or practice (the aforementioned stephen fry for one) so is he still a jew, then?

I think the last point is particularly important and worth exploring. My view is that because Jews have been a religious minority throughout most of their history, they have developed a tradition of ‘a community’ that embraces their flock even if they are not practicing. That way the diaspora retains some semblance of togetherness. People are welcome to disagree or correct me if they think this is wrong.

Eventually the same will (or should) develop with Sikhs. British Sikh representation is still dominanted by religious fundamentalists who will push anyone not wearing a turban out of the conversation. According to them we don’t exist, even though their chums are busy claiming that Britain has nearly half a million Sikhs that need to be represented, with the aim of installing themselves in power. There aren’t any major issues that require British Sikh political representation anyway. That is the way it should be, given the faith (I use the word loosely) is extremely non-hierarchical.

But culturally, within the communities, the non-practicing are effectively shunned because they are not seen as proper Sikhs. My point is that though Sikhs are legislatively regarded as an ethnic group along with Jews, what actually needs to happen is that they need to see themselves culturally as an ethnic group, as the Jews do. That seems the only way to ensure all voices are heard.


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  1. Anas — on 31st August, 2007 at 4:36 pm  

    From Robert Anton Wilson, http://www.rawilson.com/prethought.shtml:

    Schrödinger’s Jew

    97 years ago today Leopold Bloom, a fictitious man, wandered the streets of Dublin, a real city; and Joyce scholars still argue about his odd odyssey. I would like to add to the confusion with a note about Bloom’s “Jewishness.”

    “Is” Leopold Bloom a Jew?

    Not according to Orthodox Rabbinical law, which defines a Jew as the child of a Jewish mother. Bloom as the child of a Protestant mother “is not” a Jew.

    According to Nazi law, however, a Jew “is” a person with a known Jewish ancestor. Bloom as the son of Rudolph Bloom [born Rudolph Virag], “is” a Jew.

    See how easily a person can “be” and “not be” a Jew at the same time?

    On the third hand, most humanists define a Jew as one who believes in and practices the Judaic religion. By this definition, Bloom who neither believes in nor practices any religion “is not” a Jew. But Marilyn Monroe, who practiced and probably tried to believe in Judaism while married to Arthur Miller, “was” a Jew by that definition– for those few years, if not before or after.

    Extensionally or phenomenologically, a Jew “is” somebody considered Jewish by all or most of the people he meets. By this standard the multi-ordinal Bloom “is” a Jew again.

    Once more: in terms of pure existentialism a Jew “is” somebody who chooses to consider themselves Jewish. Bloom obviously doesn’t consider himself Jewish but Irish, most of the time. Only when under verbal assault by the anti-semitic Citizen in Barney Kiernan’s pub does Bloom define himself as Jewish ["And Jesus was a Jew too. Your god. He was a Jew like me."] Here he obviously has in mind the “known Jewish ancestor” rule, because he adds “And so was his father,” to which the Citizen replies, as a correct Catholic, “He had no father,” and Bloom, unfamiliar with that theology — logic played with deuces, eights and one-eyed jacks wild — can only pragmatically reply, “Well, his uncle then.”

    But recalling the incident later, Bloom says “And he called me a Jew, which as a matter of fact I’m not.” Here he returns to his customary “believer in Judaic religion” definition.

    I suppose Joyce made Bloom such a tangled genetic and cultural mixture to expose the absurdities of anti-semitism; but I also suspect that he wanted to undermine that neurolinguistic habit which postmodernists call “essentialism” and which Korzybski claimed invades our brains and causes hallucinations or delusions every time we use the word “is.”

  2. j0nz — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:04 pm  

    I wonder how many people have got comments saved in notepad after the comments were closed on the cartoon thread

  3. Bleh — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

    Not really, J0nz. It had run its course. The True Believers had shown they were immune to mere reason.

  4. Sid — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:31 pm  

    yeah, and then they tugged the hem of Dawkin’s garment for the salvation of “Reason”.

  5. Don — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:38 pm  

    OK, Sid, that’s about enough. I have a pretty good sense of humour, but disrespectful comments about Dawkins are just offensive.

    I have instructed a menial to make an effigy of you.

  6. lone star — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:43 pm  

    I’m sorry but Jew was and is a race, it just wasnt called “jew”.
    Hitler is brought into everything!why?
    you know….. he had more on his list than jews in his ethnic purification plan which pretty much included anyone who didnt meet his “arian” standards.
    So from this theory offered I gather…… a “gangster” life style can be called a belief system and though it originates from – dare I say – black community – any race can join as long as they follow the rules and laws of thug life….. dressing alike, listening to the same music, wanting to bring down the “man” etc …. and even though today (add various other races) gansters or wanna be’s can join but they arent really excepted, over time colour will become irrelevent and the world we be one big gangster paridise…..

  7. j0nz — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:46 pm  

    hehe @ Bleh

    Don, very good :)

  8. Sid — on 31st August, 2007 at 5:47 pm  

    He’s a knob. Did you se Enemies of Reason? He was at an homeopathic hospital where he was surrounded by patients who had been cured by “non-scientific” remedies. And there he was in full Rationalist Fundamentalist mode ranting his face off:
    “But it’s not scientifically tested. These people are are believing in pseudo science. Science! Tests! Reason!”

    But for whatever reason, the sight of cured patients didn’t seem to count as evidence! But then to True Believers, evidence never counts does it. ;-)

  9. Soso — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:03 pm  

    I seem to remember a religious documentary about Sikhism, and in the background of certain shots one could see a few European converts.

    Are there western converts to Sikhism?

    Judaism is mostly about religion. It many not have nearly as many adherents as other world religions buts its adepts are so widespread and represent so many different phenotypes, that its diffcult to see it as a race.

    Swedish Jews like Liv Ullman don’t look anything like Ethiopian Jews, even though both may share distant common ancestors.

    The Jewish community, then, is cemented by a shared set of beliefs, and not some uniform racial/cultural type…..although that may have been the case THOUSANDS of years ago.

  10. Don — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:13 pm  

    ‘the sight of cured patients didn’t seem to count as evidence! ‘

    Obviously not, seeing people who claim to feel better is not evidence, you would need to check that an actual cure had taken place. Above and beyond the placebo effect. And the evidence is that homeopathy does not do that.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4183916.stm

  11. Sunny — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:14 pm  

    Are there western converts to Sikhism?

    Yes, in the US.

  12. Sid — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:19 pm  

    Don, but the patients were obviously were benefitting from a cure of their previous symptoms. That isn’t evidence? Pharmceutical drugs. sScientifically manufactured, which are tested but do nothing, not even placebo, are superior as cures in Dawkins’ world. Its laughable.

  13. Don — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:57 pm  

    I would love to get into a homeopathy debate, Sid. I can bore for England on the topic, but it would be way OT.

    So I’ll limit myself.

    ‘…the patients were obviously were benefitting from a cure of their previous symptoms.’

    No. They were apparently experiencing a perceived reduction in symptoms. Placebo. If there was a genuine medical condition which had been ‘cured’ then there would be clinical evidence. The Lancet says no, as does every significant trial.

    If I had lived 150 years ago I would certainly have chosen homeopathic treatment. Who wouldn’t take a glass of water in pleasant surroundings over cupping, leaching, bleeding and purging? But ‘allopathy’ has moved on. If you want to choose water which remembers valerian over anti-biotics go right ahead, but funded by the NHS? I think not.

    The best I can say for it is that it is probably ideal for psychosomatic disorders (which can cause real suffering)but the negative effects of delay in seeking treatment, eschewing treatments that actually work or rejecting vaccinations outweigh that.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/programmes/newsnight/5178122.stm

  14. Rumbold — on 31st August, 2007 at 6:58 pm  

    Has anyone seen the two-part South Park episode with Dawkins? Bloody funny.

    Sunny:

    “My view is that because Jews have been a religious minority throughout most of their history, they have developed a tradition of ‘a community’ that embraces their flock even if they are not practicing. That way the diaspora retains some semblance of togetherness. People are welcome to disagree or correct me if they think this is wrong.”

    That sense of community was developed much earlier then when Jews were scattered. Traditionally, conquered peoples would usually take on their conquerors’ gods, because their gods had been defeated. However, even when the Jews were taken off to Babylon, they kept their own religion. Look at Leviticus- no attempt to merge other cultures with their own.

    The sense of community prevailed when Jews were scattered, for a number of reasons; in the Islamic world they had to pay the jizya and had their own representatives to lobby Muslim rulers; in the Christian world Jews were barred from most jobs so some turned to lending money for interest, meaning that they built up a financial network across Europe.

  15. Natty — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:00 pm  

    Do the majority of Jewish people regard themselves as a religous or ethnic group?

    If the ethnic banding has been developed by Europeans who are not Jewish then who says that the Jewish people accept this?

    Is there a split in Judaism on this issue.

    There is a perception that Jews are very united but this isn’t true as there is great difference on almost all issues.

    Also do Jewish people themselves feell they are represented in this model or do they believe their leadership is going in the wrong direction.

    I hope Bleh doesn’t answer any of my questions – Please.

  16. Natty — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:07 pm  

    -However, even when the Jews were taken off to
    -Babylon, they kept their own religion. Look at
    -Leviticus- no attempt to merge other cultures with
    -their own.

    But they have merged culture into theirs. For example the Jews in Yemen who were cut off from the rest of the diaspora had a different writing style of the Torah than the Sephardi and Askernarsi. Didn’t some of the Jews in Yemen write letters without crowns on their Torahs? Yemen Torahs are regarded by some as closer to the original style than African or European as they retained their style. So I am told by some Jewish people.

    Equally Spehardi and European Jewry have different customs.

    For example Jews in the Muslim world adopted some customs that Muslims had such as decorating some Torahs.

  17. Rumbold — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:10 pm  

    Not complete cultural isolation Natty. But it is fair to say that throughout their history many Jews have made a conscious effort to avoid altering their culutre too much- not a criticism of them, merely an observation.

  18. Natty — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:11 pm  

    Again Reform Jews for example have mixed congregation and Orthodox have seperate places for men and women. So the reform have taken on the latter day Church model.

    Possibly I may be wrong – but it would be interesting to know.

    Also Culture is a changing thing so Jewish Culture has also come into European Culture.

  19. Natty — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:15 pm  

    -Not complete cultural isolation Natty. But it is fair
    -to say that throughout their history many Jews have
    -made a conscious effort to avoid altering their
    -culutre too much- not a criticism of them, merely an
    -observation.

    Again like you I think that is a good thing. It is what makes them what they are. But equally there is a variety of Jewish people and culture as the Jewish people were spread from Europe to China. So in Medieval times keeping the same uniform culture is practically impossible.

    Even the Hindu’s and Sikhs in India have a cultural variety throughout the country.

  20. Rumbold — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:17 pm  

    Because Israel has been refounded and Jews are not officially persecuted in Europe anymore there is less pressure to protect ‘Jewish’ culture. I think that my historical analysis remains correct though you are right to point out that things are changing.

  21. Rumbold — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:26 pm  

    Jai:

    Sorry, I did not get a chance to respond on the other thread. Would it be fair to say that, with a few exceptions, from Gobind Singh and beyond, the Sikh ‘nation’ did not try and convert others, or even encourage conversions? That was what I was getting at.

    Even by Guru Arjan’s time, it was still not clear that the Sikhs were a seperate faith- Jahangir refers to Arjan as a Hindu whom Muslims and Hindus were following.

  22. Bleh — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:40 pm  

    I hope Bleh doesn’t answer any of my questions – Please.

    The fact that you managed to get through an entire post without resorting to wild fantasies about “Neocons” is progress, I guess.

    But what would have happened if I had answered your questions here about the various streams of Jewish culture instead of Rumbold?

  23. Clairwil — on 31st August, 2007 at 7:56 pm  

    Anas,
    Marilyn Monroe described herself as an ‘athiest Jew’ following her marriage to Miller.

  24. Sofia — on 31st August, 2007 at 8:42 pm  

    I’ve only seen one non asian Sikh…I see him pop up around southall every now and then

  25. j0nz — on 31st August, 2007 at 10:23 pm  

    Sofia, have you heard him speak? I have met white a paskistani before which kind of shocked me! …Just wandering if the guy was brought up to be Sikh or converted…?

  26. Clairwil — on 31st August, 2007 at 11:39 pm  

    Oddly enough I wanted to convert to Sikhism a while back but I couldn’t find out how one goes about it. To that end I started going out with a Sikh fellow who assured me that the whole thing would be a formality when we got married. Imagine my dismay when I discovered he was already married. Not only that he wasn’t really a restaurant owner but a waiter. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

  27. David T — on 1st September, 2007 at 12:16 am  

    I don’t think that ethicity is necessarily to be something to be aspired to. Let me explain what I mean. The best associations are those that are freely sought. You are friendly with the people you work with and you may genuinely like many of them, but only some will be your friends, whose influence makes you what you are.

    Being claimed by a religious or cultural group is a different thing. You are instilled with a sense of
    avuncular familiarity which is simply assumed. You are expected to engage in religious practices which range from the objectionable to the pointless. You find you autonomy challeneged. You may be coerced into group solidarity. You may simply be bored.

    Far better to live a life in which you engage with, and explore your identity, and follow those things, autonomously, which will give the shape you choose to your life.

    Oh, and Homeopathy is rubbish.

  28. Sukhi — on 1st September, 2007 at 3:40 am  

    This is an important subject. At grassroots level, the pluralistic religio-cultural Sikh identity is a reality. However, the marginalisation of non Orthodox Sikhs is par for the course for those headline organisations and representatives whose seek to form a politics of identity purely around issues like asserting that only those who follow Khalsa Rahit are Sikhs.

    A form of hypocrisy becomes clear when you observe that only a small percentage of Sikhs follow this path, and then claim that there are half a million Sikhs in Britain in order to bolster your ‘importance’ by numbers, whilst yourself marginalising the majority of those people from the conversation of the Sikh people in Britain in order to project only one agenda which is often based on political concerns and is manically divisive and intolerant in its schema.

    Once again, it’s important to note that this only fructifies when we get to the level of headline scenarios — at the grassroots level Sikhism in Britain is distinguished by the looseness of various affiliation and observance.

    Some people have asked if you can convert — once again I think the Jewish comparison is similar. Sikhs will never actively try to convert people because Sikhs don’t believe that Sikhism is the only true religious path. However if you want to convert you can do so. The Khalsa Rahit, which is the orthodox path of Sikhism is a very rule based practise with clear delineations and rituals. There are a large number of Sikh converts in America in New Mexico and California. They are followers of a Sikh holy man who went to the USA in the 1960’s and they practice various forms of Yoga that you won’t find in mainstream Sikh ritual in the UK. However they are highly respected for their devotion to Sikhism and often visit the UK to sing in Gurdwaras.

    I know several white people who through marriage into a Sikh family or just curiosity have an affinity with the Sikh religion. It is possible to become attached to the culture by visiting Gurdwaras, having Sikh friends, listening to the music at the temple, and participating in the communal service in the langar, for example. Nobody will ever insist that you have to formally convert to Sikhism to experience and join in with Sikh life.

    This is what has to be recognised, and is not recognised by ‘headline’ activists / organisations — the elasticity of the Sikh community and how this actually strengthens rather than weakens the Sikh identity, as the conservatives claim it does. This is a major fault line that is at play and will continue to be in the next generations. It is being worked out across the country in many hearts and families and souls and is sometimes painful and hard. But it is a sign of life and beauty and is as exciting as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

    ******

    I do believe that there is a secular Sikh identity in the UK which has been formed by the demographics, music culture and working class urban roots of British Sikhs in the Midlands and London particularly — but this has little to do with any formal religious practice and is the kind of thing that just exists as spontaneous common informal experience over the last forty years.

  29. Sukhi — on 1st September, 2007 at 3:44 am  

    Even by Guru Arjan’s time, it was still not clear that the Sikhs were a seperate faith- Jahangir refers to Arjan as a Hindu whom Muslims and Hindus were following

    But that’s just the ignorant Jehangir speaking, no different from an outsider who knows little about Sikhism today and erroneously describing Sikhs as Hindus. By the time of Guru Arjun Sikhs had begun to formalise themselves as a unique panth and religion — events during his lifetime and the lifetime of subsequent Gurus quickened the forms and nature of this.

  30. Sukhi — on 1st September, 2007 at 3:57 am  

    I have read and heard and experienced some people who have been interested in becoming Sikhs, or finding out more about Sikhism, complain that Sikhs are apathetic towards converts or those interested in learning more about their religion. I think it’s something that people don’t understand is that in the ‘Sikh psyche’ there is a revulsion to coercion and conversion, and the prosletysing impulse is equated with chauvinism and various forms of intolerance due to the history of the Sikh religion and how it took the forms it took through the ages due to religious pressures and aggressive persecution. It’s just a very unfamiliar scenario, people are not used to dealing with this issue, because like Judaism, we do not seek to expand or convert.

  31. Rohin — on 1st September, 2007 at 4:15 am  

    Sid, I never thought someone as smart as you would take this line on homeopathy and tat like that. I too could bore for England, like Don, on ‘alternative medicine’ and pseudoscience. Specifically, on what defines good a good evidence base. In fact I’m known for being quite anal about it at work. Hey it’s not limited to aromatherapy, acupuncture and reiki – allopaths are also guilty of prescribing drugs without sufficient evidence, but just because a patient feels better that is not proof of homeopathy being effective.

  32. David T — on 1st September, 2007 at 8:28 am  

    Excellent post Sukhi

    Sid, please tell me you don’t believe in pixies!

  33. Natty — on 1st September, 2007 at 9:22 am  

    -The fact that you managed to get through an entire
    -post without resorting to wild fantasies
    -about “Neocons” is progress, I guess.
    The fact that you didn’t get involved is progress I guess. The fact you didn’t throw around wild accusations about anti-semitism is progress I guess. The fact that you didn’t infer your own opinions to what someone said is progress I guess. The fact that you might have read what people said and listened instead of inferring is progress I guess.

    The fact that you stayed out of it made for a good response.

    -But what would have happened if I had answered your
    -questions here about the various streams of Jewish
    -culture instead of Rumbold?
    With respect you wouldn’t have answered as well as you’d have started wild accusations and instead of allowing people to learn about Jewish Culture in a meaningful way it would have antagonised people then you’d call them anti-semtic and we’d be off again.

    I may not be a great expert on politics like you, but then again I don’t go round making false accusations of racism based on lack of political knowledge. Being civil to people means they listen even when they are wrong. What good did your approach do? The other people who replied have been listened to – which is positive.

    I would happily listen to you if every thread didn’t turn into a I am superior to them and they are anti-semitic. Sometimes one has to look in the mirror to see why people don’t want to talk.

    The reason I don’t want you to answer anything I ask is because you still have not had the courage to apologise for your false slur. Hiding behind such slurs causes the Jewish community more problems when things such as anti-semitism occur. So hurling them around like candy does a disservice to your own community.

    Unlike the last thread where you were involved this one has been civil, and people have learned about Judaism and Sikhism which to my tiny mind and lack of knowledge is a great thing.

    Due to you I didn’t manage to learn about the spread of Judaism to Africa and Europe which is not good as you just killed the discussion with your Oh no here we go again response.

    I personally would like to thank Sunny for setting up the thread and all the people who replied to questions for taking time to explain to people. I would also like to thank you for not getting involved in my questions it is much appreciated.

    Now could someone recommend a good website(s) to learn more about the various different Jewish and Sikh Cultures across Europe, Asia, Africa etc.

  34. Thunker — on 1st September, 2007 at 10:33 am  

    David T – excellent post. Sometimes I think this whole ‘ethnicity’ business is just another way that we humans willingly divide and conquer ourselves.

    There is only one ‘race’ – human, and if we had to paint everyone’s skin green at birth to remind them of this, it would still be worth it!

  35. Jai — on 1st September, 2007 at 10:42 am  

    Rumbold,

    Would it be fair to say that, with a few exceptions, from Gobind Singh and beyond, the Sikh ‘nation’ did not try and convert others, or even encourage conversions? That was what I was getting at.

    I don’t think the Sikh ‘nation’ has ever been involved in active conversions, at least not in the Abrahamic sense of the term. It’s always been more about spreading the humanitarian values, rather than trying to turn anyone “from” one religious affiliation “into” another. There is, however, a view in some quarters of the modern Sikh population that they have become somewhat negligent in doing their bit to make the world a better place these days, in terms of promoting the aforementioned values and ideals. This is probably quite accurate when you consider all the turmoil going on in today’s world.

    Anyway, I think Sukhi responded to your query very eloquently and his point about Jahangir was also accurate.

    *********************

    Natty,

    Now could someone recommend a good website(s) to learn more about the various different Jewish and Sikh Cultures across Europe, Asia, Africa etc.

    Sikhnet (www.sikhnet.com) is very good. It’s run by the “white Sikh converts” in New Mexico that Sukhi mentioned in post #28. They’re very nice people too.

  36. Jai — on 1st September, 2007 at 10:58 am  

    Clairwil,

    Oddly enough I wanted to convert to Sikhism a while back but I couldn’t find out how one goes about it.

    You don’t really need to go through a formal conversion process in order to become a Sikh. It’s really just a matter of internally acknowledging the veracity of the 10 human Sikh Gurus and believing in their teachings, along with the Guru Granth Sahib, and practising the faith’s basic tenets and ideals as best as you can. If a person is willing and able to do that then it makes them a Sikh, to all intents and purposes. But this is about the individual person’s heart and mind, there’s no coercion involved and certainly no “all or nothing” mentality (apart from the core areas, of course); sometimes it’s a gradual process. However, the really important issue is that there shouldn’t be any hypocrisy involved, and no false claims of piety if the individual actually falls short of the faith’s ideals in some way.

    If you wanted to go the whole hog then the closest equivalent to an official conversion ceremony is the induction into the Khalsa order via the Khanda-de-Pahul baptism ceremony I mentioned earlier. However, there is a considerably stricter code of conduct involved and higher expectations too, so I’d only recommend a person does that if they have the motivation, sincerity and self-discipline required. In some ways it’s equivalent to an order of knights, so (to draw a medieval analogy) I’m sure you can appreciate the difference between someone “accepting Christ” and someone actually joining the Knights Templar, for example.

  37. sid — on 1st September, 2007 at 1:35 pm  

    OK, I’m no homeopathy buff, but I am armed with anecdotal evidence and I’m not afraid to use it. A couple of years a very young member of my family got ecxema which flared up rather badly in a short period of time. After a few years of consultations where doctors liberally prescribed steroid-based hydrocortisone medication, the situation got progressively worse. Her parents finally went for homeopathy remedies, which worked. Ecxema cleared up like a charm. Now I can understand the placebo effect of these remedies, but if this child of 4 was cured by the power of suggestion, why didn’t the steroid work as placebo?

    Sid, please tell me you don’t believe in pixies!

    Not pixies but ‘Bonbibi the forest maiden of the Sundarbans’. A spiritual being who protects humans from tigers and, being worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims, happens to be a figure of Hindu-Muslim unity. An important issue in the motherland. Care to join my facebook group? Setting one up later.

  38. Neet — on 1st September, 2007 at 1:49 pm  

    Jai- Your right, there is no formal procedure for converting to Sikhism. However the Rehit Maryada is the Sikh code of conduct and defines a Sikh as the following;
    Someone who believes in the existence and teachings of the 10 Gurus
    Someone who believes in the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and
    Someone who does not have an allegiance to any other faith

    I guess if you have clear guidance on what Sikhism is and you believe in it whole-heartedly then there isn’t a need for a conversion process. Also by having such a formality in place then it can be seen as contradicting one of our fundamental beliefs that all religions are equal and that there is one God and lots of different paths to reach them. From what I understand Islam holds the view that their particular religion is the only path to God; therefore that logic follows the need to allow others of different faiths the option to convert.

    Okay the other thing about non-practicing Sikhs is a bit strange. What is really meant by that term? I assume it to be someone who was born into the religion but does not follow the basic ideals; to pray to God, work hard and share a contribution of your efforts with the less fortunate (plus holds differing beliefs to the definition of a Sikh given in the Rehit Maryada). Therefore aren’t non-practicing Sikhs not Sikhs at all? Just wanted to see if that is what others thought, as I know the term is often wrongly used interchangeable with Shajdheri Sikh (technically meaning slow learner); basically a Sikh who holds the beliefs and ideals but cuts their hair. Therefore someone who in there every essence is a Sikh and practices their beliefs but has not accepted a gift from God; uncut hair.

    Last point the culture referred to in this thread seems to be that of Punjabi culture (the North West region of India where the majority of Sikhs live and the Diaspora derives from). In which case I think it is important to note the difference because Punjabi culture can contradict Sikhism (Castism, drinking, male chauvinists). I am not saying that is the norm for Punjabi culture; just that is does occur, although most strike a happy medium. The culture formed by Sikhism is not necessarily the same as that of Punjabi culture. Thus in order to form a collective identity of Sikh culture for people to feel a part of we need to define it, consider whether it is different to the definition of the Sikh Religion or Punjabi culture and the purpose of such a term.

  39. Sunny — on 1st September, 2007 at 3:00 pm  

    However the Rehit Maryada is the Sikh code of conduct and defines a Sikh as the following;

    I have little time for the Rehat Maryada – a document put together by so-called defenders of the faith rather than the Gurus themselves. Have you read the whole thing? It’s full of all sorts of bizarre stuff.

  40. Neet — on 1st September, 2007 at 3:25 pm  

    Sunny-Nope I haven’t read it all. Does its definition not tally with the Guru Granth Sahib? Also could you elaborate on what you mean by non-practising Sikh and Sikh culture?

    Thanks

  41. Sunny — on 1st September, 2007 at 4:34 pm  

    Does its definition not tally with the Guru Granth Sahib?

    Does the Guru Granth Sahib actually define what it means to be a Sikh?

    A non-practicing Sikh could be someone who doesn’t wear a turban and Sikh culture merely means to see the faith as something that can be expressed through outward signs, like a turban, rather than being part of the Sikh diaspora by birth or choosing.

  42. Rumbold — on 1st September, 2007 at 6:03 pm  

    Sukhi and Jai:

    Excellent points. I stand corrected, and more knowledgeable. Thank you.

  43. Neet — on 1st September, 2007 at 10:57 pm  

    Sunny

    If a non practicing Sikh is someone who isn’t a dastaar (turban) wearing Sikh then what does mean for women (as dastaars are normally worn by Sikh men). Also some would say that there is a lot more to practicing Sikhism than a dastaar, although clearly it is an important part of what the Guru asked from his followers.

    Sikh religion manifests in outward signs and that is how I would classify the dastaar, kara, kirpan etc.

    It would be difficult to ask Sikhs or indeed anyone to subscribe to a culture that is undefined and not distinguishable from current concepts. If what you are saying is that we should be more inclusive then fair point. Maybe we could start by erdicating the caste system that so many Sikhs use as a method of segregating people.

  44. vokz — on 1st September, 2007 at 11:42 pm  

    If we are going to play the game of restricting race to the strictest possible definition, then Jews are no more a race than Muslims are.

    There never was a Jewish race and there is no single country (historical or otherwise) from which all Jews can trace their ancestry.

    If you start to argue all Jews historically came from a certain region of the world, then you also have to argue that the vast majority of the inhabitants of that region who chose to convert to Islam, rather remain true to Judaism, are also Jews. Can you imagine Israel ever accepting the Arab peoples as Jews? .. or Arabs accepting that they are Jews?

    If say that it is fine to insult beliefs, but not race – on the basis that insulting a race is racist – then we also have to accept that any modern definition of racism rightly covers hatred or intolerance of any group of people who share a common history, language and cultural traits .. and if we are looking at culture, then we are back to square one and have to accept that Islam / Judaism and culture are inexorably linked.

    Ultimately, it is a zero sum argument to argue the difference between religion and race.

    At the end of the day it is about what constitutes an insult. My attitude is that making something the subject of humour, or a joke, is not an insult .. and if the chip on your shoulder says it is an insult, then that is your problem.

    As to the point about a tradition of ‘community’: I think the point is very valid; but I think broader, non-religious, cultural recognition needs to come society as a whole -. NOT from within – and only then is ownership wrested from the strictly religious / sects / orthodox.

    At the end of the day it is about what constitutes an insult. My attitude is that making something the subject of humour, or a joke, is not an insult .. and if the chip on your shoulder says it is an insult, then that is your problem.

  45. vokz — on 1st September, 2007 at 11:45 pm  

    If we are going to play the game of restricting race to the strictest possible definition, then Jews are no more a race than Muslims are.

    There never was a Jewish race and there is no single country (historical or otherwise) from which all Jews can trace their ancestry.

    If you start to argue all Jews historically came from a certain region of the world, then you also have to argue that the vast majority of the inhabitants of that region who chose to convert to Islam, rather remain true to Judaism, are also Jews. Can you imagine Israel ever accepting the Arab peoples as Jews? .. or Arabs accepting that they are Jews?

    If say that it is fine to insult beliefs, but not race – on the basis that insulting a race is racist – then we also have to accept that any modern definition of racism rightly covers hatred or intolerance of any group of people who share a common history, language and cultural traits .. and if we are looking at culture, then we are back to square one and have to accept that Islam / Judaism and culture are inexorably linked.

    Ultimately, it is a zero sum argument to argue the difference between religion and race.

    At the end of the day it is about what constitutes an insult. My attitude is that making something the subject of humour, or a joke, is not an insult .. and if the chip on your shoulder says it is an insult, then that is your problem.

    As to the point about a tradition of ‘community’: I think the point is very valid; but I think broader, non-religious, cultural recognition needs to come society as a whole – NOT from within – and only then is ownership wrested from the strictly religious / sects / orthodox.

  46. Rumbold — on 1st September, 2007 at 11:54 pm  

    Jai and Sukhi:

    Just one point- Why do some Sikhs consider that Guru Arjan was executed for refusing to make changes to the Sikh holy book, when there is clear historical evidence that states that he was funding rebels and that is why he was executed? Or do Sikhs generally accept that he was executed for treason?

  47. Bleh — on 2nd September, 2007 at 2:10 am  

    The reason I don’t want you to answer anything I ask is because you still have not had the courage to apologise for your false slur. Hiding behind such slurs causes the Jewish community more problems when things such as anti-semitism occur. So hurling them around like candy does a disservice to your own community.

    It was not false, Natty. Your postings have a consistent theme – of paranoia, ignorance and (at the very least) latent anti-semitism.

    I may not be a great expert on politics like you

    There is a difference not knowing about politics and posting blatant falsehoods, like you have done.

    I would also like to thank you for not getting involved in my questions it is much appreciated.

    Frankly, you are a lost cause. You are not worth any sort of dialogue with – you have shown no inclination that anything anyone says actually gets through to you.

    P.S. I’m not Jewish.

  48. Sukhi — on 2nd September, 2007 at 6:17 am  

    Rumbold

    Read Jehangir’s own words on why he Guru Arjun was martyred.

    Guru Arjun’s Martyrdom

    I believe various Islamic orders encouraged Jehangir to kill Guru Arjun. Either way, the religious, inquisition component is central.

    As for whether Sikhs consider that an act of treason was the pretext for his arrest — Sikhs generally don’t recognise the moral or judicial dispensation of Mughal rule at that point, especially as it included at the time arbitrary murder for those refusing to submit to the rule of Islam with torture and beheading the punishment for breaching that law. Treason, for affronting a religious tyrant? Treason was meaningless and a pretext. Either way, that was the axis point in Sikh history.

  49. Sukhi — on 2nd September, 2007 at 6:20 am  

    I have little time for the Rehat Maryada – a document put together by so-called defenders of the faith rather than the Gurus themselves

    Rehat Maryada should be re-interpreted in light of the primacy of Guru Granth Sahib. The rules set out by a collocation of men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century should never be considered immutable or unchallengeable.

    Ultimately Sikhi is a very simple religion. Naam Japna, Kirat Karni, Sewa.

    At least, that is the idea.

  50. Natty — on 2nd September, 2007 at 11:01 am  

    -It was not false, Natty. Your postings have a
    -consistent theme – of paranoia, ignorance and (at the
    -very least) latent anti-semitism.
    Here we go again you just can’t help yourself. Your posting have a consistent theme of you being superior to everyone, they are contantly insulting to people not just me, and frankly you hurl abuse at people which is false.

    You are neither worth the time or the effort.

    I think the Jewish people will be grateful you are not Jewish because you are a disaster as PR for Jewish people.

    -Frankly, you are a lost cause. You are not worth any
    -sort of dialogue with – you have shown no inclination
    -that anything anyone says actually gets through to
    -you.
    Thank go then as that says it all about you.

    At least people answer my questions and correct me if I am wrong so I do get through to people. They have given up on you and your wild accusations. You are hardly Mr. Popular.

    And again you are throwing around falsehoods of anti-semitism. You conduct is nothing short of a disgrace. I think some sort of action or warning should be taken against you.

  51. Natty — on 2nd September, 2007 at 11:37 am  

    Sunny and Katy – Please could you clarify if you think I have been anti-semitic then please say so and I will apologise unreservedly and promise not to post again on Pickled Politics and in addition I will make a donation to my local synagogue.

    I can’t say fairer than that.

    I am getting fed-up of these quite nasty accusations from Bleh.

    As moderators I trust you and leave it in your hands.

    Regards,
    Natty

  52. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2007 at 12:28 pm  

    Sukhi:

    “I believe various Islamic orders encouraged Jehangir to kill Guru Arjun. Either way, the religious, inquisition component is central.”

    If one examines Jahangir’s attitude to religious figures it is difficult to believe that Guru Arjan was killed because he was popular; he was killed because he was assisting a dangerous rebel. Jahangir usually embraced religious figures (as he did with a few Hindu holy men), or if they were causing trouble, threw them into a fort until they calmed down. One Muslim who claimed to have surpassed the companions of the profit suffered this fate.

    “As for whether Sikhs consider that an act of treason was the pretext for his arrest — Sikhs generally don’t recognise the moral or judicial dispensation of Mughal rule at that point, especially as it included at the time arbitrary murder for those refusing to submit to the rule of Islam with torture and beheading the punishment for breaching that law. Treason, for affronting a religious tyrant? Treason was meaningless and a pretext.”

    In the 17th century, the Mughals were the legitimate rulers of the lands in which the Sikhs lived. Apart from a few unbalanced Calvinists, no theorists at the time would have denied the ruler the right to punish those who rebelled against him.

    As for Jahangir as a religious tyrant, nothing could be further from the truth. Please point out one contemporary state with as much religious freedom as Jahangir’s India. Jahangir was a Sunni, but Shias occupied some of the highest offices in the land. Hindus were free to worship as they wanted to, and even received money to help maintain temples. Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, were allowed to preach at court, and also received Mughal money. There was no jizya (it was re-introduced by Jahangir’s son, Shah Jahan).

    The Mughals did persecute the Sikhs, but later on, after Jahangir’s reign. As we have agreed, the Mughals did not really understand the Sikhs were not Hindus in the time of Jahangir and Guru Arjun.

  53. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2007 at 12:29 pm  

    Sukhi:

    “I believe various Islamic orders encouraged Jehangir to kill Guru Arjun. Either way, the religious, inquisition component is central.”

    If one examines Jahangir’s attitude to religious figures it is difficult to believe that Guru Arjan was killed because he was popular; he was killed because he was assisting a dangerous rebel. Jahangir usually embraced religious figures (as he did with a few Hindu holy men), or if they were causing trouble, threw them into a fort until they calmed down. One Muslim who claimed to have surpassed the companions of the profit suffered this fate.

    “As for whether Sikhs consider that an act of treason was the pretext for his arrest — Sikhs generally don’t recognise the moral or judicial dispensation of Mughal rule at that point, especially as it included at the time arbitrary murder for those refusing to submit to the rule of Islam with torture and beheading the punishment for breaching that law. Treason, for affronting a religious tyrant? Treason was meaningless and a pretext.”

    In the 17th century, the Mughals were the legitimate rulers of the lands in which the Sikhs lived. Apart from a few unbalanced Calvinists, no theorists at the time would have denied the ruler the right to punish those who rebelled against him.

    As for Jahangir as a religious tyrant, nothing could be further from the truth. Please point out one contemporary state with as much religious freedom as Jahangir’s India. Jahangir was a Sunni, but Shias occupied some of the highest offices in the land. Hindus were free to worship as they wanted to, and even received money to help maintain temples. Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, were allowed to preach at court, and also received Mughal money. There was no jizya (it was re-introduced by Jahangir’s son, Shah Jahan).

  54. Jai — on 2nd September, 2007 at 1:48 pm  

    Rumbold,

    The link Sukhi supplied in post #47 also includes multiple URLs at the bottom of the screen for further websites detailing historical events involving the Sikh Gurus, along with summarised biographies. I recommend you read through those to get a further understanding of what happened during the 200 years of the 10 Gurus’ earthly lives.

    This website is also very good and has excellent biographies for the first 9 Gurus: http://www.sikhs.org/topics.htm

    Here is the link for the biography of Guru Arjan: http://www.sikhs.org/guru5.htm

    Along with the information in Sukhi’s original link, it also includes the following explanation of the historical events concerned:

    (Quote): “On October 17, 1605 Akbar died and was succeeded by Jahangir as Emperor. Jahangir was a person of lax morals, pleasure loving and fond of drinking. He left much of the administration duties of running his kingdom to others. Because of his lax morals Jahangir set out to please the orthodox Muslim clergy which he knew did not approve of his actions, or the tolerant attitude that his father Akbar had previously displayed to other religions…..When Guru Arjan received the summons to appear before Jahangir, he knew that it was not a good sign. The Guru declared that his son Hargobind should be installed as the next Guru. Prominent Sikhs gathered and revered Baba Buddha applied the saffron mark on Hargobind’s forehead anointing him as Guru Hargobind.

    Upon reaching Lahore, Jahangir demanded that Guru Arjan Dev revise the Holy Granth, removing all references to Islam and Hinduism. This of course the Guru refused to do. Since Jahangir was on his way to Kashmir, he asked Murtaza Khan to deal with the Guru.

    Murtaza Khan immediately jailed the Guru, and ordered the Guru Arjan Dev to be tortured to death if he did not agree to remove the alleged derogatory references in the Holy Granth. The Guru was cruelly tortured. He was made to sit on a red hot iron sheet. They poured burning hot sand on his body. The Guru was dipped in boiling water. The bore all of these brutalities with calm serenity, for five long days he was tortured. When the torturers found the Guru unresponsive to their torture they did not know what to do. On May 30, 1606 the Guru asked for a bath in the river Ravi by the side of the Mughal fort. Thousands of followers watched the Guru who could barely walk make his way to the river with tears in their eyes. His bare body was covered with blisters, Guru Arjan Dev repeated over and over; “Sweet is Your will, O God; the gift of your Name alone I seek.” The Guru then calmly walked into the river bank, bidding his farewell to his followers and was gone forever, his body carried away by the currents. This act of brutality in ending such a saintly life with such cruelty was to forever change the course of Sikhism.”

  55. Jai — on 2nd September, 2007 at 2:20 pm  

    Rumbold,

    or if they were causing trouble, threw them into a fort until they calmed down.

    Whether they were actually “causing trouble” is of course a matter of opinion. In the case of the Mughals, we are not exactly talking about a democractically-elected government here. Like any paramount power which rules by force (and certainly not with the consent of the subjugated people), Jahangir would have viewed anyone and anything which could potentially undermine him as a threat to his continuing authority and, on a larger scale, as a threat to the established Mughal political, military and theological infrastructure.

    In the 17th century, the Mughals were the legitimate rulers of the lands in which the Sikhs lived. Apart from a few unbalanced Calvinists, no theorists at the time would have denied the ruler the right to punish those who rebelled against him.

    I think you may not have a clear understanding of what Sikh philosophy actually involves in such situations. Firstly, ruling over others by force is not compatible with Sikh teachings for human conduct. Secondly, if one is indeed already in that kind of position of power (particularly as a result of hereditary monarchies) and the removal of the established heirarchy and infrastructure would be more destructive than allowing its continued existence, then one is expected to rule justly and with compassion (as Guru Nanak himself told Babur). I hardly think executing Guru Arjan in the manner that occurred qualifies as humane and benevolent. What Calvinists etc of the time would have thought of such matters is irrelevent. Sikhism has some ideals and principles which the faith promotes as being universal, eternal humanitarian values, and one of them is not inflicting cruelty towards others regardless of how justified you think you are. And these ideals are supposed to supercede “accepted” modes of political control, particularly the more brutal medieval-style “accepted practices” which were prevalent worldwide at the time.

    As for the concept of the Mughals being the “legitimate rulers”, bear in mind exactly how they came to power (starting with Babur), and the fact that they continued to be aggressively expansionist in their attitudes and activities throughout successive generations up to Aurangzeb, including during Jahangir’s era. The fact that this kind of imperialist mentality was an accepted and widespread way of ruling in that age globally (including, increasingly, in Europe) does not justify it, certainly not from a Sikh perspective, because a) wars of aggression and conquest and b) forcible rule over others are both violations of some of the most fundamental Sikh principles for ideal human conduct.

  56. Sunny — on 2nd September, 2007 at 2:47 pm  

    Bleh: (regarding Natty)

    It was not false, Natty. Your postings have a consistent theme – of paranoia, ignorance and (at the very least) latent anti-semitism.

    Shut up, please.

    You are not worth any sort of dialogue with

    Good, keep it that way. You’re ruining a perfectly interesting thread with your usual rubbish.

    Natty, just ignore him.

    Rumbold: In the 17th century, the Mughals were the legitimate rulers of the lands in which the Sikhs lived.

    But the Gurus were not required to accept them as such.

  57. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2007 at 6:06 pm  

    Jai:

    “Jahangir was a person of lax morals, pleasure loving and fond of drinking. He left much of the administration duties of running his kingdom to others. Because of his lax morals Jahangir set out to please the orthodox Muslim clergy which he knew did not approve of his actions, or the tolerant attitude that his father Akbar had previously displayed to other religions.”

    Jahangir, though fond of drinking, was actually incredibly hard-working, often spending most of his day dealing with administration and issues of justice. This is not apparent just from his own memoirs, but also in accounts from foreign visitors, who had no reason to praise Jahangir in such a way.

    Jahangir was not particularly bothered about pleasing the orthodox ulema too much, as his power did not rest on a religious foundation, but a secular one. As long as his name was read out in Friday prayers (to show he was the legitimate ruler), that was good enough. Just look at the utter indifference to the Turkish claims that the Ottoman Sultan was the Caliph, or the use of the old Mongol ‘son of sun’ routine.

    Jahangir believed himself to be a good Muslim, but was intelligent enough to recognise that the Mughal power structure rested on the support of the Shias, Rajputs and other none Sunnis. Later Mughals failed to realise this, which was one of the reasons why the empire began to break up.

    ”Murtaza Khan immediately jailed the Guru, and ordered the Guru Arjan Dev to be tortured to death if he did not agree to remove the alleged derogatory references in the Holy Granth.”

    Well, torture is wrong but I am always slightly sceptical about the validity of information coming from any religion’s sources. Is it possible to get an accurate picture of Jesus from the Bible, or Muhammad from the Qur’an? I am not saying that Guru Arjan was not tortured, just that Jahangir ordering the torture of a person who believed something different and wrote it down never happened before or after this incident, which makes me a bit wary. I suspect that Murtaza Khan overstepped the mark and ignored his orders.

    Jahangir’s memoirs were not sanitised (though there are obviously events missing), so it makes no sense why he would invent the treason claim when he could have had Guru Arjan killed anyway.

    ”Like any paramount power which rules by force (and certainly not with the consent of the subjugated people), Jahangir would have viewed anyone and anything which could potentially undermine him as a threat to his continuing authority and, on a larger scale, as a threat to the established Mughal political, military and theological infrastructure.”

    There is no evidence to suggest that Jahangir considered Guru Arjan a threat to the regime. The only actual threats during his reign came from his son Khusrau’s rebellion, and later his son Khurram’s (Shah Jahan) rebellion. The Sikhs were never a threat in that way.

    ”The fact that this kind of imperialist mentality was an accepted and widespread way of ruling in that age globally (including, increasingly, in Europe) does not justify it, certainly not from a Sikh perspective, because a) wars of aggression and conquest and b) forcible rule over others are both violations of some of the most fundamental Sikh principles for ideal human conduct.”

    It is not an attempt to justify it, it is an explanation of how rulers viewed rebellion, and those who helped rebels.

  58. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2007 at 6:14 pm  

    Sunny:

    “But the Gurus were not required to accept them as such.”

    They could either ‘accept’ Mughal overlordship, or rebel.

    Too often people look back and apply 21st century values onto historical periods, such as the right to reject one’s prince. At the time of Jahangir (1605-1627), there are almost no theorists arguing this (the exceptions being a few Calvinist thinkers and the odd ultra-Catholic).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchomachs

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_League_%28French%29

    Most thinkers, including Luther and Calvin, said that, at best, subjects who did not want to live under a certain prince’s rule could emigrate.

  59. Sukhi — on 2nd September, 2007 at 10:02 pm  

    Rumbold

    Sunny and Jai have answered your questions succinctly.

    I find Jahangir’s account fascinating not only as historical record, but as an insight into the capriciousness, arrogance and cruelty of a ruler with absolute power, and the ease with which a man in such a position can exercise that power. Speaking in terms of somebody not accepting the rule of a Mughal tyrant as having an option to emigrate is amusing. The language of tyrants, despots and the intolerant is rife with assumptions and designations of the ‘treasonous’ — this is the syntax of power and intolerance.

    ++++

    From Tuzuk-i-Jahagiri — the memoirs of Jahangir

    In Gobindwal, which is on the river Biyãh (Beas), there was a Hindu named Arjun, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity, so much so that he had captured many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus, and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly sounded the drum of his holiness. They called him Guru, and from all sides stupid people crowded to worship and manifest complete faith in him. For three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they had kept this shop warm. Many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.

    At last when Khusrau passed along this road this insignificant fellow proposed to wait upon him. Khusrau happened to halt at the place where he was, and he came out and did homage to him. He behaved to Khusrau in certain special ways, and made on his forehead a finger-mark in saffron, which the Indians (Hinduwän) call qashqa, (Tilak) and is considered propitious. When this came to my ears and I clearly understood his folly, I ordered them to produce him and handed over his houses, dwelling-places, and children to Murtaza Khan, and having confiscated his property commanded that he should be put to death.”

  60. Sukhi — on 2nd September, 2007 at 10:15 pm  

    As for the concept of the Mughals being the “legitimate rulers”, bear in mind exactly how they came to power (starting with Babur)

    Indeed Jai. One of the earliest Sikh writings is Babar Vaani, written by Guru Nanak, where he reflects on the depredations, misery and violence wrought by the first Mughal Babar, whose invasion of India took place in Guru Nanak’s era. This ground level view and perspective was therefore innate in Sikh consciousness from the very beginning of the religion.

  61. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2007 at 11:41 pm  

    Sukhi:

    “I find Jahangir’s account fascinating not only as historical record, but as an insight into the capriciousness, arrogance and cruelty of a ruler with absolute power, and the ease with which a man in such a position can exercise that power.”

    Agreed, but he was also capable of great compassion and fine justice. It is the absolute power which fascinates, and the extent to which he could indulge both his good and evil desires.

    “Speaking in terms of somebody not accepting the rule of a Mughal tyrant as having an option to emigrate is amusing.”

    From a theoretical point of view, that was the situation at the time. You would have found few writers who wrote in support of rebellion.

    And, thanks for reprinting the passage; it shows that Jahangir only moved against Guru Arjan when the latter aided the rebellion. Arjan was not stupid- he knew the message he was sending out by openly helping Khusrau.

  62. Jai — on 3rd September, 2007 at 9:41 am  

    Rumbold,

    Jahangir, though fond of drinking, was actually incredibly hard-working, often spending most of his day dealing with administration and issues of justice. This is not apparent just from his own memoirs, but also in accounts from foreign visitors, who had no reason to praise Jahangir in such a way.

    Are you aware of the historical accounts from that time describing the extent to which one of Jahangir’s wives, Noorjahan, was the de facto ruler of the Mughal Empire ?

    Well, torture is wrong but I am always slightly sceptical about the validity of information coming from any religion’s sources. Is it possible to get an accurate picture of Jesus from the Bible, or Muhammad from the Qur’an?

    The accounts of what occurred are not from the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the contents of this text, but it is not an account of the Gurus’ lives (or historical events from that time), just their teachings.

    I am not saying that Guru Arjan was not tortured, just that Jahangir ordering the torture of a person who believed something different and wrote it down never happened before or after this incident, which makes me a bit wary. I suspect that Murtaza Khan overstepped the mark and ignored his orders.

    Jahangir’s own memoirs state clearly that he ordered the execution of the Guru, as confirmed by the extract posted by Sukhi. Furthermore, the first paragraph in the quote also makes it clear that Jahangir’s own actions were motivated to a considerable extent by religious factors. You may wish to consider that he was subsequently just looking for a pretext to get rid of the Guru. With the possible exception of Akbar, Mughal Emperors were not exactly thrilled about the prospect of Muslims in particular falling under the influence of non-Muslim religious figures (especially those they regarded as Hindus), regardless of how much they indulged their own interests in comparative theology out of intellectual curiosity.

    There is no evidence to suggest that Jahangir considered Guru Arjan a threat to the regime.

    Any popular grassroots movement which potentially encourages a lack of loyalty or submission to Mughal rule — and especially which involves Muslims falling under the influence of non-Muslim religious figures — would be a threat. Of course this was exactly what happened, especially during Guru Gobind Singh’s time.

    It is not an attempt to justify it, it is an explanation of how rulers viewed rebellion, and those who helped rebels.

    Arjan was not stupid- he knew the message he was sending out by openly helping Khusrau.

    You may wish to consider exactly why Guru Arjan apparently gave his support to the “rebel” Khusrau.

    They could either ‘accept’ Mughal overlordship, or rebel.

    I think there are some fundamental teachings of Sikhism which you may be unaware of. Firstly, the Sikh Gurus did not believe they were under the “overlordship” of the Mughals or anyone else — as far as they were concerned, the “True Emperor” was God Himself, and they were acting under divine inspiration. Any “earthly ruler” was therefore regarded as being under a moral obligation to God and humanity as a whole to rule fairly and humanely. They were not supposed to abuse that power or indeed seek it for self-aggrandisement. Anyone who violated this “covenant” would have been regarded by the Gurus as having defaulted on their obligations and, if they did not change their ways, to have forfeited their right to rule.

    Secondly, according to Sikhism, absolutely everyone is intrinsically equal in the eyes of God, regardless of whether you are a “commoner” or an Emperor. Nobody is actually subordinate to anyone else. There are a number of ramifications here which you may wish to consider.

    Too often people look back and apply 21st century values onto historical periods, such as the right to reject one’s prince. At the time of Jahangir (1605-1627), there are almost no theorists arguing this (the exceptions being a few Calvinist thinkers and the odd ultra-Catholic).

    From a theoretical point of view, that was the situation at the time. You would have found few writers who wrote in support of rebellion.

    The “right to reject one’s prince” isn’t just a “21st century value”, it’s a basic concept the Sikh Gurus also taught, as I explained earlier.

    I’ve already stated that “theorists” are irrelevant to the lives and teachings of the Gurus, so I’m not sure why you keep referring to them. The Gurus were not engaging in idle metaphysical speculation or detached academic philosophising, and in fact actively warned of the dangers of excessively indulging in such overintellectualised activities.

    It is the absolute power which fascinates, and the extent to which he could indulge both his good and evil desires.

    I’m sure it is all very fascinating for you, but you may also wish to bear in mind that we’re talking about real historical events which negatively affected huge numbers of people (including the ancestors of many commenters on this blog and indeed many British Asians as a whole) and, in this case in particular, involved revered and respected religious figures. You may be in danger of over-romanticising the Mughals, even though reading about their lives and exploits is indeed very interesting when we have the luxury of our detached 21st-century perspective (speaking as someone who has an interest in the era myself).

    As I said in one of my previous messages, I think you need to read up thoroughly on the lives of the Gurus. Regardless of whether you believe they were literally divinely inspired, you need to gain an understanding of the ideals they stood for and exactly what motivated their actions.

  63. Rumbold — on 3rd September, 2007 at 12:28 pm  

    Jai:

    “Are you aware of the historical accounts from that time describing the extent to which one of Jahangir’s wives, Noorjahan, was the de facto ruler of the Mughal Empire?”

    She certainly had a great deal of influence, but I would describe them more as joint-de facto rulers, with even a bit of de jure thrown in (Jahangir ordered the minting of coins with both of them on it; an unprecedented honour).

    “The accounts of what occurred are not from the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the contents of this text, but it is not an account of the Gurus’ lives (or historical events from that time), just their teachings.”

    I am not really familiar with the Guru Granth Sahib, but I shall go and read it. What I meant was that there were other Sikh records of Guru Arjan. If you have access to JSTOR, or the actual journal, read:

    ‘Martyrdom and the Execution of Guru Arjan in Early Sikh Sources’ by Louis E. Fenech
    Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, No. 1. (Jan. – Mar., 2001), pp. 20-31.

    “Jahangir’s own memoirs state clearly that he ordered the execution of the Guru.”

    I never denied that. What I was arguing was that Jahangir never ordered Guru Arjan to be tortured so that the Guru would make changes to the Sikh holy book.

    “Furthermore, the first paragraph in the quote also makes it clear that Jahangir’s own actions were motivated to a considerable extent by religious factors.”

    I read it in the opposite way. Jahangir was unhappy that Muslims were converting to Sikhism, but did nothing about it, and only moved against Guru Arjan when the latter rebelled.

    “Any popular grassroots movement which potentially encourages a lack of loyalty or submission to Mughal rule — and especially which involves Muslims falling under the influence of non-Muslim religious figures — would be a threat.”

    Why did Jahangir let the sixth Guru go then? I think that you are overestimating Sikhism’s impact on early 17th century Mughal India. Looking at contemporary accounts, there is very little mention of it. If it had been a threat, more people would have picked up on it.

    “I think there are some fundamental teachings of Sikhism which you may be unaware of. Firstly, the Sikh Gurus did not believe they were under the “overlordship” of the Mughals or anyone else “

    I never questioned what the Sikhs taught or thought. My point was that if you rose against your prince you were considered a rebel, and so could be executed without bother. I was explaining the situation, not justifying it.

    “You may be in danger of over-romanticising the Mughals, even though reading about their lives and exploits is indeed very interesting when we have the luxury of our detached 21st-century perspective (speaking as someone who has an interest in the era myself).”

    Compared to the Ottoman Empire or Christian Europe, Jahangir’s empire was a beacon of tolerance. That is not me romanticising it.

    “As I said in one of my previous messages, I think you need to read up thoroughly on the lives of the Gurus. Regardless of whether you believe they were literally divinely inspired, you need to gain an understanding of the ideals they stood for and exactly what motivated their actions.”

    I shall Jai. And just let me add that this debate, with you and Sukhi, has been an incredibly enjoyable and civilised one.

  64. Max — on 3rd September, 2007 at 1:37 pm  

    This is an interesting subject, given that race is a social construct. There’s no biological basis for “races” of people. What we’re really talking about is ethnic identity and religion, the overlap between the two and whether you ought to be able to treat people differently because of the (sometimes self-) imposed ethnic identity.

    There’s an interesting book about the treatment of the Irish in the USA called How the Irish Became White. If you’ve ever had an application form for anything in the UK you’ll notice that there’s “White British”/”White” and “White Irish”.

    Just an aside, from G. E. M. Ste de Croix’s Christian Persecution, Martyrdom and Orthodoxy:

    One of the essays is a classic paper from 1963 on Christian persecution under the Romans. From it, I learned this:

    It was not so much the positive beliefs and practices of the Christians which aroused pagan hostility, but above all the negative element in their religion: their total refusal to worship any god but their own. … I shall call this exclusiveness, for convenience, by the name the Greeks gave to it, ‘atheism’ (ἀθεότης); characteristically, the Latin writers refer to the same phenomenon by more concrete expressions having no philosophical overtones, such as “deos non colere” (not paying cult to the gods): the word atheus first appears in Latin in Christian writers of the early fourth century, Arnobius and Lactantius …

    … [U]ntil the advent of Christianity no one ever had any reason for refusing to take part in the ceremonies which others observed—except of course the Jews, and they were a special case, a unique exception … [because] their religious rites were ancestral, and very ancient. … The gods would forgive the inexplicable monotheism of the Jews, who were, so to speak, licensed atheists … Matters were very different with the Christians, who had ex hypothesi abandoned their ancestral religions … The Christians asserted openly either that the pagan gods did not exist at all or that they were malevolent demons. Not only did they themselves refuse to take part in pagan religious rites: they would not even recognize that others ought to do so. As a result … the mass of pagans were naturally apprehensive that the gods would vent their wrath at this dishonour not upon the Christians alone but on the whole community; and when disasters did occur they were only too likely to fasten the blame on to the Christians. …. Tertullian sums it all up in a brilliant and famous sentence in the Apologeticus: the pagans, he says, “suppose that the Christians are the cause of every public disaster, every misfortune that happens to the people. If the Tiber overflows or the Nile doesn’t, if there is a drought or an earthquake, a famine or pestilence, at once the cry goes up, “The Christians to the lion.”

    The essential point I want to make is that this superstitious feeling on the part of the pagans was due above all to the Christians’ “atheism,” their refusal to acknowledge the gods and give them their due by paying them cult.

    … We must not confuse the kind of atheism charged against the Christians with philosophical skepticism … The vital difference was, of course, that the philosophers, whatever they might believe, and even write down for circulation among educated folk, would have been perfectly willing to perform any cult act required of them—and that was what mattered.

  65. Adnan — on 4th September, 2007 at 10:15 am  

    When the Incitement To Religious Hatred Bill was being discussed, I saw an interview with Peter (is ** he ** the right-wing brother?) Hitchens who said that Jews were a race and gave the example of a Cathotlic nun whom the Nazis arrested because she had a Jewish ancestor. I thought the argument a bit perverse then.

  66. bananabrain — on 4th September, 2007 at 12:31 pm  

    hmm, i’ve always thought sikhs and jews had a lot in common, but i suppose the reason it is becoming more and more obvious is that we are, in more ways than one, undergoing similar societal and cultural pressures occasioned by the fact that we both have a diaspora issue which means that we are a) dealing with being minorities and b) dealing with cultural issues like conversion, assimilation and alternative models to the strictly religious definitions that were possible when religious and cultural identities were congruent. in other words, back when all sikhs lived in the punjab you could make a case for it being an ethnic group, religiously defined, but once you start getting white people converting to sikhism, or ethnic punjabi sikhs who no longer practice sikhism though they’re from a sikh background, you start to need new definitions and frames of reference. that doesn’t mean the old ones are wrong, but they may not match the self-definition of the new models. for example, according to halakhah, someone may be jewish regardless of the fact that they don’t even know it – this is covered by the halakhic category of the tinoq she-nishb’a or “jewish baby brought up in a non-jewish environment”. on the other end of the spectrum, you’d have something like the nuremberg race laws of the nazis defining a jew racially as someone with one jewish grandparent, whereas under halakhah it is only, strictly speaking, your maternal grandmother that determines your status. interestingly enough, the nazi definition of “jewish enough to require murder” was at least in part responsible for the much-reviled israeli “law of return” which entitles anyone with one jewish grandparent, *regardless of halakhah* (a caveat which the ultra-orthodox political parties in israel are always trying to change) to israeli citizenship, so at least they’ll be safe somewhere.

    someone (natty) asked on the other thread about the following:

    So how did the European Jews ie. white skinned and blue/green eyes become Jewish? Did they convert? They are not from the family of the prophets or are they?
    well, it is an assumption of course that nobody in the family of the prophets had blue or green eyes, or whatever, but the usual explanation given is, often, “cossacks”. actually it’s a bit more complex than that – because judaism has at least since first Temple times been used to quite a lot of admixture both voluntary and involuntary, “alexander” is another good word to drop, as are “khazars”, “hellenisation”, “christians”, “kashmiris” and so on. mrs bananabrain certainly doesn’t look like me, whereas i wouldn’t be out of place anywhere in the mediterranean, middle east, central asia or northern india/pakistan/afghanistan.

    as for the african jews, some of them converted, but so long ago that it barely makes any odds – suffice it to say that all the kohanim (priestly families) from wherever they are in the world share certain male-line genes, or so i am given to understand.

    and lol @ j0nz for once for spotting the “damn, i had to save it to notepad” issue!

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  67. Jagdeep — on 4th September, 2007 at 3:30 pm  

    Oh dear Rumbold, major load of bollocks being talked by you here. Yeah, “treason”, torture and behead them if they refuse to convert to Islam, the treasonous bastards. It was their own fault, he was such a fun loving and tolerant guy, hypocritical tyrant who drank and was therefore, you know, not all that bad. They should have migrated to Switzerland. Jeez….

  68. Jagdeep — on 4th September, 2007 at 3:47 pm  

    One thing I noticed when at the Golden Temple last was how ethnically diverse Sikhs are. Mostly Punjabi, but white Sikhs from America and elsewhere, Nepali looking Sikhs from the east, white skinned green and blue eyed Sikhs from the Himalayas. People wathing at the Golden Temple is brilliant.

  69. Rumbold — on 4th September, 2007 at 4:27 pm  

    “Oh dear Rumbold, major load of bollocks being talked by you here. Yeah, “treason”, torture and behead them if they refuse to convert to Islam, the treasonous bastards.”,/blockquote>

    Sorry, where is the evidence that people were tortured for refusing to convert to Islam in Jahangir’s India? As I said before, I am not defending the contemporary attitude to rebellion, just explaining it.

  70. Jagdeep — on 4th September, 2007 at 4:34 pm  

    I understand you’re explaining it Rumbold, but it doesnt need explaining, we all know why that prick did what he did. Your comment about emigration was hilarious.

    You are William Dalrymple, aren’t you? :-)

  71. Rumbold — on 4th September, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

    Jagdeep:

    “I understand you’re explaining it Rumbold, but it doesnt need explaining, we all know why that prick did what he did.”

    Yup- as a punishment for rebelling. And Jahangir was a good ruler.

    “You are William Dalrymple, aren’t you?”

    There is more than one person in the world who thinks fondly of aspects of the Mughal Empire, though if you think that I am an award-winning writer who am I to argue with you.

    Perhaps supporting Wolves has finally pushed you over the edge, though as my team could be bottom of the Conference National by tomorrow I cannot really make fun of Wanderers.

  72. Jagdeep — on 4th September, 2007 at 4:48 pm  

    And Jahangir was a good ruler

    Unless you were tortured and murdered by him. Then he was a bad ruler. Call it the sub-altern view of Indian history. Sikh history provides many grass roots report of life around that time under the Mughal rule.

    As long as Wolves are above West Brom I’m staying sane.

  73. Rumbold — on 4th September, 2007 at 4:54 pm  

    Jagdeep:

    “Unless you were tortured and murdered by him. Then he was a bad ruler. Call it the sub-altern view of Indian history. Sikh history provides many grass roots report of life around that time under the Mughal rule.”

    Life was by no means perfect. In terms of religious toleration however, the fact was that under Jahangir you could be of another religion and worship freely, or even hold high office. How many other contemporary states could boast that? England? France? Spain? the Ottoman Empire?

  74. justforfun — on 4th September, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

    In how many years will it be safe to think fondly of aspects of British rule in India?

    Lamb Cutlets and tomato sauce mmmmm – now that is a fond memory that is safe to have now – but perhaps in the future , thoughts of eating meat will be frowned upon.

    Lamb Cutlet – minced lamb ( or meat of various origins, perhaps even road kill ) fried with any spices to hand – ccoled and then wrapped in mashed potatoes and then bread crumbs and then fired again. I can taste it right now – mmmm. I have tried to replicate this here in the UK but it just has never tasted as good as I remember as a child when travelling around the Dak houses of UP and HP.

    Justforfun

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