Sikh schoolgirl allowed to wear kara


by Rumbold
29th July, 2008 at 11:33 am    

A Sikh girl’s school was found to have indirectly discriminated against her by forcing her to remove the kara (bangle), which the judge described as vital to the Sikh religion:

“A Sikh teenager has won her High Court discrimination claim against her school which excluded her for breaking its “no jewellery” rule. Sarika Singh, 14, from Cwmbach, south Wales was excluded in November 2007 from Aberdare Girls School for refusing to take off a religious bangle. The school claimed its no jewellery policy was fair to all.”

It is always a shame when issues like these have to be settled in court, as it benefits no-one but the lawyers. I think that schools should be allowed to set their own dress codes, and should adopt a common sense approach to religious items (in this case the school should have let her wear the kara). Society loses out when people constantly run to the courts to settle minor disputes, rather than working it out amongst themselves. Still, the Commons is full of lawyers and people who benefit from these kind of conflicts, so it is no suprise that they encourage them.


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  1. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 11:48 am  

    Why should they have a common sense approach to religious items?
    Why should schools and society have to pander to fantasy for individuals. To extrapolate your thinking, schools must allow people to go dressed as pirates if they believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or as a Jedi of from the Jedi Church.

    Why not make it very simple.

    Religion stays personal and in the home. Do what you want in your own home, outside, accept that the country is not religious and accept the rules.

  2. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2008 at 11:53 am  

    Steve:

    A simple discussion should have solved this problem.

  3. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:01 pm  

    Agreed. The discussion goes like this.

    School ” no jewellery allowed”

    Everyone ” ok ”

    Simple really.

  4. persephone — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:05 pm  

    1. ref to kara: ‘which the judge described as vital to the Sikh religion’

    How has the judge come to interpret that a kara is vital?

    A strain of sikh thinking/ideology is that sikhism was originally meant to be more of a lifestyle than a religion. A life style that does not believe in outward symbols or rituals. Unfortunately, Sikhs are popularly known for the symbolism ie (turbans, uncut hair, kara, kirpan etc)

    2. Outside of the above, if schools, for health and safety reasons, do not allow jewellery (I assume this includes wearing a cross) then H&S should be the overiding concern and not religion/culture

  5. Ravi Naik — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

    I think that schools should be allowed to set their own dress codes, and should adopt a common sense approach to religious items (in this case the school should have let her wear the kara).

    We either have equal rules for everyone or we don’t. If the government feels that Sikhs have the right not to use helmets, then it should not force anyone else to use them either. Making exceptions is just wrong.

    There is a reason why jewellery is prohibited in gym classes. But if the girl got the right to use it, then so should anyone else including those who have a superstitious bracelet or for that matter, a sword.

  6. persephone — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:22 pm  

    Navi @ 5 I agree as to equal rules for all ….. and Sikhs should have no problem with that since a fundamental tenet of Sikhisn is equality …

  7. Mangles — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:26 pm  

    BTW The kara is not regarded by Sikhs as a piece of jewellery, however, if what Steve describes as a discussion is the sort of dictatorial ideology being ascribed to then good luck in living your life to your values. Thankfully for you in Britain people do have choices at this moment in time, and one of those choices is to choose to practice a faith or religion of choice. Sarika chose to fight for her right to practice her chosen faith despite the indirect discrimination from the school, against the backdrop of a precedent established 25 years earlier.

    Reading some of the comments above makes me grateful that that the cold war put an end to the spread of so called secular communism or fundamentalism, which has simply proven to be another form of dictatorial elite governance by your supposed peers, instead of hereditary aristocracy. Whilst one may get used to being ruled by the elitist upper classes, cos in a way you expect them to treat the common folk with disdain and without regard to human values. It is when the same powers are applied by people who are perceived as equals and peers that the persecution leaves a painful feeling in ones gut.

  8. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:38 pm  

    Wearing items during P.E. is of course a different matter and there should be no exceptions for that. However, in general, why can’t ad hoc exceptions be made? Society doesn’t suddenly collapse if a person is wearing a kara in school.

  9. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:39 pm  

    “Thankfully for you in Britain people do have choices at this moment in time, and one of those choices is to choose to practice a faith or religion of choice.”

    No, No problem with religion or faith…read my post. You can have faith or religion as long as it personal to you. Why do the religious feel they have the right to have their fantasies played out in the real world.

    if you belive that all is fine then you must believe that this http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/article.html?in_article_id=43272&in_page_id=2

    was wrong as well.

    So, I’ll say it again. I have no issue with personal faith or religion as long as it is just that, personal. Once it steps over the line into impinging into real life, it goes beyond the pale.

    As for your psuedo intellectual attempt at left wing ideology, poor…

  10. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 12:43 pm  

    Just as an aside, do you think if I said to the Inland Revenue that I didn’t need to pay me taxes as my religion said all taxes are evil, they would let me?

  11. Hermes123 — on 29th July, 2008 at 1:10 pm  

    Steve, Inland Revenue might agree to that…but you will have to pay in kind (possibly involving a lot of porridge – unless that is against your religion too)

  12. DavidMWW — on 29th July, 2008 at 1:13 pm  

    I am happy that Sarika is allowed to wear her bangle – it clearly means a lot to her, does no harm to others or herself, and violates no law of the land. It seems like the sensitive and friendly thing to do.

    However, the report does not indicate what the court ordered the school to do, or how the school has dealt with the judgement. Were they ordered to make an exception for Sikhs, or were they ordered to change the rules for everyone?

    There is a difference between changing the rules to accommodate holders of a particular belief, and making an exception for them. Accommodation is a sensible, liberal response; exceptionalism is not.

    The school was found guilty of “indirect discrimination”. If they responded by making an exception, they become guilty of blatant discrimination.

    What if some non-Sikh individual asserts that their deep personal sense of identity requires a bangle? As there is no objective way to guage the depth of their feeling, you would have to take that person at their word and allow them to wear a bangle too. Wouldn’t you? If not, why not? How would you explain it to the Chinese girl whose dying grandmother gave her the bangle and told her to wear it always?

    Exceptionalism is, by definition, discriminatory and divisive. Accommodation is not. I hope the school made the right choice.

  13. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 1:13 pm  

    Again, how would this play out if a pastafarian said his deep personal belief was to dress as a pirate everyday?

  14. Sid — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:04 pm  

    Funny. In an earlier post, we heard about a Sikh school which forced its non-Sikh students to wear a “Patka (up to Class V) or Dastaar (Classes VI to XII)”. This was defended on the basis that it was a clearly stipulated part of the school’s rules.

    Now when a school wants a student not to wear a religious symbol, because Health & Safety is part of the school’s rules, some people would like to assert that religious obligation should trump school rules.

    I wonder whether religious people want to have their Dastaars and wear them too?

  15. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:13 pm  

    Sid:

    Schools should be able to set their own dresscodes, and enforce them without fear of legal action, but that doesn’t mean that there cannot be some ad hoc exceptions if the school and pupils agree.

  16. Sid — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:17 pm  

    Rumbold
    I most certainly agree. I’m just pointing out the inconsistencies in some “ad hoc exceptions”.

  17. Bartholomew — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:17 pm  

    I agree with DavidMWW. This isn’t France, the UK has a tradition of bending a bit to accommodate conscience and dissent. There’s more to a free society than simply imposing the will of the majority. I would simply say to a Pastarfarian (after checking via a translator): “Aye, stop takin’ the piss”.

  18. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:19 pm  

    Excellent point Bartholomew.

  19. Sunny — on 29th July, 2008 at 2:31 pm  

    I agree with David MWW too. Accomodation is a central tenet to liberalism and our democracy, rather than a rigid adherence to rules.

  20. Ravi Naik — on 29th July, 2008 at 3:03 pm  

    Accomodation is a central tenet to liberalism and our democracy, rather than a rigid adherence to rules.

    Sunny, if rules are not to be rigidly adhered to, then they become inconsequential and pointless.

    Rules can be challenged though, and I agree that it is a good thing when rules are changed to accommodate diversity to a degree of common-sense. However, if I understood David correctly, I agree with him when he says that there should be no exceptions: other non-Sikh girls should be allowed to wear bracelets regardless of religion. Not to do so, is illiberal as well as making an exception for those who wear turbans when riding a bike or in construction sites.

  21. Bartholomew — on 29th July, 2008 at 3:11 pm  

    if rules are not to be rigidly adhered to, then they become inconsequential and pointless.

    But sometimes it’s “inconsequential and pointless” to adhere to a rule rigidly (as your second para implies). And they can be “inconsequential and pointless” anyway…

  22. Sid — on 29th July, 2008 at 3:24 pm  

    Either schools should allow *all* religious symbols or none at all. This piecemeal “ad-hoc” approach lends itself to redundant circular discussions such as this one.

  23. Raj — on 29th July, 2008 at 3:47 pm  

    There is a difference between a secular nation and a free nation. Unfortunately most European countries are becoming secular nations, banning ALL types of religious expression which frankly only increases the animosity and likelihood of “violence in the name of religion” in those nations. Ironically these nations are moving to this direction to combat terrorism. The people in those countries would be better served by taking a page from the United States.

    Thankfully in the US and UK, freedom rings true and religion is not denigrated to wearing a pirates costume.

  24. Jagjeet — on 29th July, 2008 at 4:08 pm  

    Great people who have absolutely no concept of Sikhi, seem to be the first who want talk absolute rubbish about it, some of the comments on here…well I just dont know where to begin, why dont people actually learn first then chat???

  25. Ravi Naik — on 29th July, 2008 at 4:16 pm  

    But sometimes it’s “inconsequential and pointless” to adhere to a rule rigidly (as your second para implies). And they can be “inconsequential and pointless” anyway…

    No, it does not imply that at all. It is one thing to break the rules by not adhering to them, and the other is to challenge them. A healthy democracy lives by the rule of law, but also allows those rules to be changed through a formal process. If we didn’t have to adhere to rules, there would be no point in having them or even challenge them.

  26. billaricaydickey — on 29th July, 2008 at 4:22 pm  

    Going back to the seventies, which I always seem to do, I was given one as a present by Ms Mala Sen, an old friend. It wasn’t one of those slim fashionable ones that seem to grace the wrists of young ladies with Gill in their names but a very substantial one that I wore on my right wrist and used to pull down to use as a knuckleduster to smack members of the National Front.

    Will I get into trouble for that?

  27. Hermes123 — on 29th July, 2008 at 4:30 pm  

    Yes Dickey, you will be in trouble if the guy you smacked reports you…he’s probably got a permanent Kara-mark on his forehead. In fact that is one of the ‘warrior’ uses for the heavy Kara among the Sikhs. Going back in history, a long way before the 70s, Sikhs used the much heavier, sharper Kara in battles against the armies of the Mogul rulers who wanted to convert everyone to Islam in India.

  28. Ricky — on 29th July, 2008 at 5:24 pm  

    For those arguing this case on a H&S standpoint; at my school Sikh pupils (including me) tight wear sweat bands or tape up around the kara. Whilst swimming, you pull the kara up so it fits tight around the arm and again tape with duct tape.

    There is no H&S issue wrt the kara; just a rabble of bigots and small minded weasels.

  29. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 5:32 pm  

    As long as an item is discreet and does not pose a threat then, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t be worth making an issue of. And most schools do take that attitude. However, if the wearing of religious symbols was contributing towards division within a school – if a ‘them and us’ attitude was developing – then a policy should be worked out and the school had better be damned sure they have consulted thoroughly and heard all sides. Just ‘No jewellery’ is autocratic and arbitrary.

    Steve, I see your logic and I take a dim view of religion generally, but see no point in using authoritarian systems to harass believers, however mistaken I might think their beliefs. If you are in a position to make or enforce rules regarding the dress or behaviour of others then you need to be morally certain that you are not allowing a personal agenda to creep in. I consider it basic professionalism to keep my lack of belief out of the classroom and not try to score easy points. I just wish some of my religiously minded colleagues would do the same.

  30. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 5:48 pm  

    And Jacqui bloody Smith is still coming on every time I open PP.

  31. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 5:53 pm  

    “Thankfully in the US and UK, freedom rings true and religion is not denigrated to wearing a pirates costume.”

    I don’t…..

    When is it right to denigrate others beliefs. I tossed the pastafarian remark in to see what would happen and as I thought, those with religion says it is trite or just plain silly.

    Hang on, here it comes……a large part of the population, whatever they may say on a census, are non-religious and non-caring. However, if you are saying that a kara may be worn, then if a person has a deep personal belief in the FSM and wishes to dress as a pirate, why not?

    Both are made up stories. Which is more accepted?

  32. Sunny — on 29th July, 2008 at 6:11 pm  

    Really? Does that Jacqui Smith video keep starting up? I changed it so it didn’t start automatically. bizarre….

    I’ll put it underneath the fold later today, sorry about that.

    PS – I’ve been invited on More4 NEws to talk about this case tonight at 8pm.

  33. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 6:12 pm  

    Steve, nobody has a deep personal beleief in the FSM. It’s a joke. It’s a good joke, but it’s not relevant in this situation.

  34. Ravi Naik — on 29th July, 2008 at 6:22 pm  

    Thankfully in the US and UK, freedom rings true and religion is not denigrated to wearing a pirates costume.

    Here lies the problem: from the point of view of a secular society, there should be no distinction between a girl wanting to wear a bracelet for religious reasons, from someone who wants to wear some article for superstitious reasons, or if someone wants to wear a pirate costume in school because he feels more comfortable in it.

  35. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 6:38 pm  

    Steve, nobody has a deep personal belief in the FSM. It’s a joke. It’s a good joke, but it’s not relevant in this situation.

    Don, nobody has a deep personal belief in god, allah, ek onkor, nembutsu or any other godany god. It’s a joke. It’s a good joke, but it’s not relevant in this situation.

    Why? How can you say that no-one has a deep personal belief in FSM? Have you asked them?

    For me it has as much relevance as any other faith or religion. You pomposity knows no bounds. Is not faith or religion a deep personal belief in something? If so, it has exactly the same meaning whether a bangle or a pirate uniform. Its relevant by the simple fact that people take fairy story seriously, and we have to apply the same rules to all believers of all fairy stories.

    I have no religion or faith…simple.

    But if we have to allow one religious icon or symbol in society, we must allow all, from a bangle to a pirate uniform to a jedi sword.

  36. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 6:53 pm  

    You pomposity knows no bounds.

    Of course my pomposity has bounds. You just haven’t found ‘em.

    Why? How can you say that no-one has a deep personal belief in FSM? Have you asked them?

    No, because FSM is a joke. Got it? I don’t need to ask because I can tell the difference between a joke and a deeply held (although probably mistaken) belief. I don’t privilege that belief and I don’t accept that it should get special treatment, but I am aware that such beliefs do exist in the real world of people with whom I have dealings, and that FSM is a different matter.

  37. Ravi Naik — on 29th July, 2008 at 7:02 pm  

    Steve, nobody has a deep personal belief in the FSM. It’s a joke. It’s a good joke, but it’s not relevant in this situation. Don, nobody has a deep personal belief in god, allah

    You are wrong, Steve. Just because you don’t have faith, does not mean everyone else doesn’t have a deep personal belief in god.

    I believe it is irrelevant whether people believe in FSM. It is not just a joke, but serves as a reference as to how religion – regardless of faith – should be dealt with in a secular and rational society. FSM was meant to demonstrate the absurdity of teaching Creationism as science.

  38. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 7:32 pm  

    I was pointing out Dons pomposity, Ravi. Who is he to say what is right and wrong to believe in.

    I agree wholeheartedly about FSM, but who is to say in 100 years that people do not see it as a religion?

    But everyone believes in what they BELIEVE. If you are treating all religions and faith and spirituality as the same, then a deep personal belief in UFOs and little green men, FSMs, fairy, elf, orcs, satan, pope etc all have the same rights.

    Can’t you see that? Or is it only religions you like that count?

  39. Dalbir — on 29th July, 2008 at 8:28 pm  

    Good news!

    Another victory against ignorant pushy tossers.

    If you want to stop people wearing karay, do the same with ties, which are a pointless flappy piece of nonsense which serves no purpose other then get in the way when I eat….and make me look like whitey! lol

  40. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2008 at 8:28 pm  

    Good job on More4 news Sunny.

  41. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 9:01 pm  

    FSM is a rhetorical device, not a belief, you twerp. As for believers in UFO’s and fairies etc., sure they should have the same rights? Don’t they already?

  42. Don — on 29th July, 2008 at 9:15 pm  

    Dalbir,

    With you about ties. I vaguely remember a quote about how civilized man starts his day by putting a blade to his throat and a noose around his neck.

    But ties = whitey? I think that moment may have passed, but by all means keep the faith.

  43. Dalbir — on 29th July, 2008 at 9:56 pm  

    Don

    I was just pointing out that even “civilised” man wears really pointless symbols.

    The kara, I would argue, is infinitely more sensible than a tie and if anything should be banned it should be ties!

    The kara is an identity symbol that came to prominence under serious circumstances. For some of us it represents the fierce battle for dignity and freedom that was fought against overwhelming odds by our Khalsa ancestors. It also represents the victory of common people over oppressive tosser governments. Equating it to Jedi cloaks or pirate uniforms is taking the mickey.

    Personally I think the values that it represents are valid and enduring and not superstitious nonsense.

    But I am biased.

  44. persephone — on 29th July, 2008 at 10:13 pm  

    Jagjeet @ 24 ” Great people who have absolutely no concept of Sikhi, seem to be the first who want talk absolute rubbish about it, some of the comments on here…well I just dont know where to begin, why dont people actually learn first then chat?”

    Can you clarify which are rubbish and then, we can rationalise for ourselves as to who needs to learn

  45. persephone — on 29th July, 2008 at 10:16 pm  

    A triumph of symbolism. I hope that as much energy is devoted to the values that underpin the Sikh religion before the symbols were introduced

  46. Dalbir — on 29th July, 2008 at 10:21 pm  

    ———–
    A triumph of symbolism. I hope that as much energy is devoted to the values that underpin the Sikh religion before the symbols were introduced
    ———–

    The symbols actually helped them to triumph against real oppression. Don’t forget that.

    As for your question, that is something each Sikh has to honestly ask themselves individually.

  47. steve — on 29th July, 2008 at 10:49 pm  

    Oh Don

    I know FSM is a rhetorical device, but it is now spreading beyond that…

    Ok then, lets rationalise this situation.
    A kara can now be worn in that school.
    What happens when someone turns up with a Baphomet bracelet and states that it is their deep personal belief that leads them to wear it? Would that be ok?

    Is this accomodation, or exemption…anyone know?

  48. persephone — on 29th July, 2008 at 11:05 pm  

    Dalbir @ 46 “The symbols actually helped them to triumph against real oppression. Don’t forget that”

    The symbols were to REMIND them of the original underpinning which centres around the inner self.

    It was the values (not the symbols)that helped to triumph over oppresssion long ago. But the flip side is that Sikhism is still perceived as a ‘militaristic’ religion particularly post Guru Gobind.

    I am talking about Sikhism as originally from Guru Nanak’s era. That is what has been forgotten.

  49. Gurpreet2 — on 29th July, 2008 at 11:28 pm  

    It has not been forgotton, in fact it was enshrined into the concept of Sant Sipahi i.e Saint Soldier.

    You can’t say sikhism was just about Guru Nanak Dev Jis era, if that was the case, there was no need for Guru Nanak to pass on guruship to the 2nd guru and the chain so on. The Final seal of sikhism was put on by Guru Gobind Singh who himself made Guru Granth Sahib the everlasting guru of the sikhs and formulated the Khalsa order(what you consider to be just outwardly symbols).

  50. Dalbir — on 29th July, 2008 at 11:56 pm  

    Pers:

    Well, from a Sikh perspective, your separation of the 10 Gurus is problematic. Sikh doctrine clearly states that they are all to be considered one in spirit. This belief was current during the Guru’s lifetimes.

    With all respect, I feel very uncomfortable with outsiders defining what a Sikh is and what they aren’t, especially when they refuse to listen to Sikhs own self definition. It’s just an extension of the old “orientalist” dialog in my eyes.

    If Sikhs are considered militaristic, it is because a part of Sikhism is exactly that. Guru Gobind Singh’s wisdom has ensured Sikh survival against great odds. You talk about oppression as if it ended along time ago. The Sikh experience in more recent times (i.e. partition) points otherwise. I’m not even going into the knotty issue of 1984 etc.

    I notice how westerners are quick to promote the perceived pacifist ways of Guru Nanak and sort of play down the tenth Guru implying that he is “out of date” somehow.

    Given the international political scenario today, made up of wily pseudo imperialistic governments and nut job fanatics running around the place. The symbols and what they stood for seem especially valid to me.

    Don’t separate Guru Nanak from Guru Gobind Singh to understand. See them as agents evolving a whole system. Guru Gobind’s actions ensured the survival of the whole thing.

    As for the purpose of the symbols, we can debate this for a long time. Personally I’ve come to believe they were multifaceted and did not serve any simple single purpose. Has Guru Nanak been forgotten? I would say no, but yes we could all do with reminding ourselves about what he stood for. Sikh or non Sikh.

  51. persephone — on 30th July, 2008 at 8:10 am  

    Dalbir @ 50

    ” With all respect, I feel very uncomfortable with outsiders defining what a Sikh is and what they aren’t, especially when they refuse to listen to Sikhs own self definition.” and “With all respect, I feel very uncomfortable with outsiders defining what a Sikh is”

    You are making a big assumption that I am what you call an ‘outsider’. Your using the word outsider is, in itself, as a sikh, divisive and I am not comfortable with that.

    ” If Sikhs are considered militaristic, it is because a part of Sikhism is exactly that.”

    This is exactly where I feel an aspect in time has overtaken over the original intent.

    ” I notice how westerners are quick to promote the perceived pacifist ways of Guru Nanak and sort of play down the tenth Guru implying that he is “out of date”

    It is not just who you call ‘westerners’ (again another label – can one not be a sikh AND ALSO a westerner, especially if living & being a citizen of a western country?). What I am saying is that the religion has been highjacked. Plus if what you call a ‘westerner’ or anyone else has a viewpoint on sikhism I have no objection to this

    ” You talk about oppression as if it ended along time ago.”

    Yes Sikhs have been oppressed for their religious beliefs. But in context of this post, I do not see the girl in this case as being oppressed & certainly not in comparison to the events you have mentioned. Consider this case also in context of a sikh value being to tolerant other beliefs – for me this case belies that

    “The symbols and what they stood for seem especially valid to me.”

    You are entitled to your intrepretation as am I. But I see the over dominanace of the symbols has in some cases meant that some) sikhs think the symbols are all it takes to be a sikh.

  52. riazat — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:09 am  

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/jul/30/schools.religion

    “She spent nine weeks in isolation in a classroom, alone except for a teaching assistant, working from notes which she was instructed to copy. The school canteen was barred to her and so were its corridors whenever they were being used by other pupils.

    She was not allowed to join her friends in the playground and had to be accompanied by a teacher when she went to the toilet.”

    I wonder if people on this thread think the school’s actions were an proportionate.

  53. riazat — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:09 am  

    I meant proportionate, not “an proportionate” of course.

  54. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:27 am  

    riazat,

    No they were not proportionate, they were bloody ridiculous. I can see the H&S arguement in a PE context, beyond that it is just entirely petty. I wonder who funded the schools’ action?

  55. Sofia — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:48 am  

    I heard the school used an excuse that the kara was somehow a overt symbol of wealth and would separate the less fortunate pupils…not sure if this is true…?

  56. Mangles — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:36 pm  

    Contrary to earlier suggestions, Guru Nanak Dev Ji initiated the dual spiritual and revolutionary values of upholding justice that became known as Sant-Sipahi in the Khalsa era following Khande-di Pahul. All the Guru’s fought against barbarism and oppression. Guru Nanak Dev Ji didn’t mince words and struck at the raw nerves of both Brahmins and mughals for their respective injustices against so-called untouchable and kafirs.

    Guru Nanak Dev Ji was a witness to Babar’s invasion and the suffering caused in its wake. He protested in His Gurbani hymns, collectively known as “Babar Vani”, against the uncalled for death and destruction by Babar. That’s why Guru Nanak Dev Ji paved the path for others to follow by not being idol witnesses to oppression but active opponents of tyranny.

    In standing against injustice Guru Nanak Dev Ji could have been enslaved or killed, and was imprisoned. So to try to separate the One Jyot (light) that passed through all Guru’s is a fallacy – the same message of Love for God and His Creation was/is shared by all 11 Guru’s. The only difference is in application. The saint-soldier values emanated from Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the martial tradition isn’t something that just sprang up during Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s tenure as Guru. Other examples – Piri and Miri from 6th Guru, Harmander Sahib and Akal Takhat as spritual and temporal centres of Sikh society.

    But I accept the balance has too often shifted towards the temporal over spiritual, similar I suppose to the power play within other religions. But that cannot be an excuse. Sikhs should ensure that this changes and more efforts need to be made to share and understand the spiritual treasures embellished in Gurbani. The message of God’s Love for His creation and a true adherents Love for God is truly magnificent and is so undervalued by Sikhs that they really are guilty of a great crime to humanity by not serving Gods Creation as they should.

    Regarding the suggestion of Sarika not being oppressed I was shocked when I heard Sarika’s mother describing how the school treated her daughter- she was taught in isolation, couldn’t even speak or wave to her friends, would be moved between classrooms only when corridors were clear of other children- sounds more like prison than a school. This is clearly cruel treatment for any child, and was designed to punish her and socially ostracize her. The school was psychologically bullying this 14 year old child to force her to give in to their rules. Whether you’re a secularist or otherwise, this is something i am sure all would find deplorable.

    Rab Rakha

  57. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 1:29 pm  

    Riazat (52/53) – It is legitimate to talk about proportionality I think and reading that Guardian article, I have a faint suspicion that this was about rather more than a piece of metal on her wrist.

    The school may well have gone OTT but to my mind the really pertinent point in the article is that she was NOT banned from wearing the bracelet. ‘The school had offered the student reasonable alternatives to accommodate her religious beliefs, such as wearing the bangle, but not so that it was on display.’

    The school offered an alternative which was rejected by the girl (or at least her parents) and followed by court. Would you call this girl’s actions proportionate all things considered Riazat?

    All this, of course, is before questions about whether she could have gone to a school that accommodated her religious demands/wishes [delete as appropriate]. The last paragraph of the Guardian article seems to suggest that she could.

    The stark reality Raizat is that this case is a piss-taker’s and attention-seeker’s charter masquerading as faux religious tolerance and deep down I think you know that.

    Incidentally Rumbold, the Guardian article Riazat links to seems to make clear that Liberty was the brains behind this, not any MP. I will leave it to you to dwell on whether Liberty encourages fecklessness.

  58. Dalbir — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:53 pm  

    ——
    You are entitled to your intrepretation as am I. But I see the over dominanace of the symbols has in some cases meant that some) sikhs think the symbols are all it takes to be a sikh.
    ——

    OK, but because some Sikhs may overemphasise or misunderstand the symbols it doesn’t mean we should discard them or think less of them.

    ———-
    I do not see the girl in this case as being oppressed & certainly not in comparison to the events you have mentioned. Consider this case also in context of a sikh value being to tolerant other beliefs – for me this case belies that
    ———-

    I don’t know what material you have come across but from what I’ve learnt Sikhs preferred death to giving up their “symbols” in the past. Yes, Sikhs are generally a tolerant people, but I’ve never before heard the suggestion that this tolerance involves discarding or devaluing their identity symbols at the behest of others.

    Interestingly I found this on the net. The latter part concerns the granddaughter of the legendary Maharajah Ranjit Singh. Looks like that feisty Panjabi blood was still flowing through her veins. I wonder what stiff arsed Victorian British society made of that? lol

    It’s a shame Chadha never made the film. Would have been better than Bride and Prejudice…..zzzzz

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=O-o4S2qhLPQ

  59. persephone — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:05 pm  

    @ 58 It must be up to the individual if they need to retain symbols to remind them of the values. I abhor the ‘religious snobbery’ of those who think they are the true believers because of them.

    If my viewpoint does not fit in with your reference points it may be because you have not come across those who don’t need them as a reminder nor as a visual show of identity. Perhaps because they go about their everyday lives not wanting to display their beliefs so visibly and without adornment

    Thks for the link – I have read several bios on Ranjit & Dilip Singh which were more insightful. Rather than what is read by others, suggest you ask families whose ancestors were alive & in that circle. But you may not like all that you hear – it may not fit in with your reference points.

    As to feisty punjabis? I’ve seen that used as an excuse (..oops reason) when working in an environment that supported female (inc punjabi) victims of domestic violence. Oh no did I forget, it must be the ‘military side’ being enacted out now that there are no testosterone fuelled battles to win? Perhaps feisty-ness as a stereotype is something one ought to discard as punjabis.

    Happily I am sure the Victorians liked the feisty nature – it sure made it easier for them to recruit droves of hotheaded sikhs (itching to prove their feistyness) into unfeasible battles and certain death.

  60. Dalbir — on 31st July, 2008 at 12:12 am  

    ——-
    I abhor the ‘religious snobbery’ of those who think they are the true believers because of them.
    ——-

    So do I.

    ——-
    If my viewpoint does not fit in with your reference points it may be because you have not come across those who don’t need them as a reminder nor as a visual show of identity. Perhaps because they go about their everyday lives not wanting to display their beliefs so visibly and without adornment
    ——-

    Well, growing up I was taught one of the key reasons for the conspicuous symbols was to ensure Sikhs can’t deny their identity. You probably know the background to this was soldiers challenging Sikhs in the assembled crowds after Guru Tegh Bahadur’s execution in Delhi and Sikhs denying their faith. It’s the notion of being identifiable as a Sikh in a crowd that is the crux of the matter here. If you feel you don’t need this, fair play to you.

    ———-
    Thks for the link – I have read several bios on Ranjit & Dilip Singh which were more insightful. Rather than what is read by others, suggest you ask families whose ancestors were alive & in that circle. But you may not like all that you hear – it may not fit in with your reference points.
    ———

    History is a passion of mine. I’ve read a few interesting bios on them as well. I don’t understand the bit about my “reference points.”

    ——
    As to feisty punjabis? I’ve seen that used as an excuse (..oops reason) when working in an environment that supported female (inc punjabi) victims of domestic violence. Oh no did I forget, it must be the ‘military side’ being enacted out now that there are no testosterone fuelled battles to win? Perhaps feisty-ness as a stereotype is something one ought to discard as punjabis.
    ——-

    That’s a big jump from my admiring the feisty Sophia to your suggesting I excuse wife battering……

    I hope Panjabis remain and continue to be spirited and feisty in the face of assholes.

    ———
    Happily I am sure the Victorians liked the feisty nature – it sure made it easier for them to recruit droves of hotheaded sikhs (itching to prove their feistyness) into unfeasible battles and certain death.
    ———

    I’m sure they did. Those Sikhs were really easy to manipulate. Maybe we can use that period as a a clear warning to make sure you know more than just farming skills to get by. So you’re not forced to be a mercenary for a living. What’s happened has happened, we must learn from all this imperialism and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Especially as those Sikhs busy fighting for the empire couldn’t prevent the mass murder of Sikhs in their own homeland during partition.

  61. Mangles — on 31st July, 2008 at 12:46 am  

    ‘Especially as those Sikhs busy fighting for the empire couldn’t prevent the mass murder of Sikhs in their own homeland during partition.’

    So true. A history repeated so many times in the past century.

    Perspherone the outward symbols aren’t just gestures invented by religious snobs. Rehat is an attribute inspired by Guru Ji, a manifestation of commitment, and a visual symbolism denying worldly maya. Many of these ‘symbols’ were also acts of accepting Gods will in defiance of Islamic laws which restricted and denied rights to kafirs, such as the wearing of the dastar, the right to carry arms (or ride horseback even). The common name – another symbolism, challenged casteism and the suggestion that inequality was a birthright, and that womenfolk were not second class citizens but at least as important as their male counterparts.

    A point was made earlier and suggested a change of emphasis between post- military and Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message. The essential and fundamental (i know that’s an extreme word lol) consideration here is that Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message to all adherents was to be sincere to whichever path they followed to God. Therefore there is really no change in emphasis at all just a question of whether you wish to follow the path of Sacha Paatshah or not. There is no compulsion in making the choice- but there is a crucial issue of whether it is still Gursikhi or not. After all 7th Paatshah disowned Raamrai, his eldest son, for changing a single word in Gurbani to please the Mughal Emperor, and sent a message for him never to return to the House of Guru Nanak. Subsequently Sikhs were blessed with Sahib Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji as a child Guru in the 8th jot.

    You may choose not to adhere to the rehat, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can deny the importance of the rehat – maybe you need to review YOUR reference points?

  62. persephone — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:04 am  

    “That’s a big jump from my admiring the feisty Sophia to your suggesting I excuse wife battering……”

    Yeah agree it was a big jump. I should have linked it more closely to the post by explaining that the oppression is not just external but internal too – so not personal

    ” don’t understand the bit about my “reference points.”

    You said you had not come across sikhs wishing to discard symbols so am suggesting there were no reference points. I’m surprised since I’ve known many who never partook at all as well as several who wore them for their parents but when older got the confidence to assert themselves – more so with cutting hair – just in 1st year at my Uni 2 guys cut their hair & some girls would slowly trim their hair shorter every year so that it was not too obvious. Perhaps I just know more rebels

    Reference points as to history of ranjit singh et al. A lot of the literature is written from fragments of notes, photos & records by someone not normally connected to the subject. I found speaking to people whose ancestors were there is more accurate and revealing as a reference point

    PS i too wish Gurinder Chadha had made that film but she was too busy making her current film: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. Perhaps a little thing
    called revenue got in the way.

  63. persephone — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:07 am  

    .

  64. persephone — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:27 am  

    Mangles

    I am not eshewing the values behind the symbolism. I get and am fully FOR the values

    ” there is really no change in emphasis at all just a question of whether you wish to follow the path of Sacha Paatshah or not”

    It is phrases like ‘sacha paatshah’ that I object too which infer that that way is the true/real way & others are not. I would say that is a big emphasis.

    ” maybe you need to review YOUR reference points?”

    My reference point is the original thinking which was nearly 200 years before symbols were introduced. How do you suggest that reference point be reviewed?

  65. Dalbir — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:57 am  

    ———-
    ” don’t understand the bit about my “reference points.”

    You said you had not come across sikhs wishing to discard symbols so am suggesting there were no reference points. I’m surprised since I’ve known many who never partook at all as well as several who wore them for their parents but when older got the confidence to assert themselves – more so with cutting hair – just in 1st year at my Uni 2 guys cut their hair & some girls would slowly trim their hair shorter every year so that it was not too obvious. Perhaps I just know more rebels
    —————–

    Oh, I think I understand you now. In case you’re under a misapprehension, I personally do not keep kesh but even I have to draw the line at the suggestion that Sikhs who do keep rehat are “out of date” somehow. I know you can get some people who flaunt their rehat and think less of those who don’t keep them. Forget them, they don’t take anything away from the beauty and achievements of Sikhi. I’ve met many who’ve discarded their kesh over the years – I’ve also met a few who have done the opposite and gone from “modern” mona city boy to amritdhari. So I guess I have a nice spectrum of reference in this respect.

    When I made my comments I was specially talking about this statement of yours:

    “Consider this case also in context of a sikh value being to tolerant other beliefs – for me this case belies that”

    I interpret this as your saying Sarika refusing to take her kara off was not being tolerant of others belief. It was in this context I wrote:

    “Yes, Sikhs are generally a tolerant people, but I’ve never before heard the suggestion that this tolerance involves discarding or devaluing their identity symbols at the behest of others.”

    Hope this clarifies. lol

  66. Mangles — on 31st July, 2008 at 2:17 am  

    64. How do you suggest that reference point be reviewed?

    Perhaps your reference point should be Juggo Jug Atal Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (withstanding any further objections on emphasis you may have). All other references are simply points of view or reflection of history. I prefer to go straight to the source and the primal legacy of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji – which ‘is the original thinking’ that you referred to.

    The symbols you refer to as being introduced 200 years after the Pehli Paatshahi, I understand were not all introduced as you describe. These were introduced from Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji onwards, starting with kes. There is no mortal reference which would deny that all Guru Ji’s followed this rehat.

    BTW the term ‘Sacha Paatshah’ as a reference or veneration to Guru Ji should not in any way deny another aspirants belief in their chosen path or their faith in their Avtar or Prophet, but to me those other paths are not desirous of what I seek. I do not seek re-birth, heaven or the false pleasures that those other paths promise. As a Sikh I have a longing for my soul to be together and re-merged into the Primal Soul (Param Atma) from which my soul is long separated. However I have no reason to deny the veneration I have for my Guru, who has shared this enlightened knowledge with me. My reason therefore to sing from the mountain tops, if it pleases my Beloved, that the Jot that emanated from the embodiment of the 11 Paatshahihah is True and will remain so forever. I have no doubt of that whatsoever. The message, as enshrined in their 11th Saroop, is original and unadulterated, and not prepared either years or decades after their physical passage from this world.

    I will not however be so egotistical to dismiss other faiths’ scriptures, as Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, explains ‘Ved Kateb kaho mat chhuute chuutha jo na vichare’.. do not say that the Vedas and the Katebs are false he/she is false who does not read and discuss them’. I admit I have not yet had the opportunity to read the Vedas or Kateb fully, though i will confess of the little I have read from these scriptures I have not been spiritually inspired or uplifted.

    Rab rakha.

  67. persephone — on 1st August, 2008 at 12:08 am  

    @ 65 thanks

    @ 66 origin of sikh ‘kesh’ is hard to trace since long hair was kept before sikhism.

    “I will not however be so egotistical to dismiss other faiths’ scriptures”

    Sikhs cannot dismiss other religions as Guru Nanak distilled aspects of many other religions when forming sikhism. We come full circle in that, symbols or otherwise, we have a common platform with those from other religions and beliefs. That inclusive aspect I like in sikhism.

  68. TFI — on 1st August, 2008 at 10:01 am  

    Steve is right in my opinon.

    Scientology was meant to be a bit of a joke and now its a widely held belief.

    Sure FSM is a joke today, but in a few years it might not be a laughing matter.

  69. Harry — on 2nd August, 2008 at 10:28 pm  

    Reading this blog, I can see that logic needs to be taught in schools.

    First, symbols can be helpful in reminding people to behave in a certain way, especially in times of stress. I myself, have set my computer to flash a symbol every 2 hours to remind me to drink water! So, logically I cannot deny that symbols can be useful.

    Second, this point about allowing Sarika to where a Kara being unfair on other people seems to suffer from logical flaws too. Suppose, for example that the EU decided to ban the German language, it would be a law that applies to everyone equally. So what would be wrong with such a law? Well, of course it would affect Germans, Austrians and some Swiss much more than others. So, Ravi Naik and Persephone, how do you respond to that? In light of this example, your arguments about having the same laws for everyone being fair don’t seem to make sense.

    Basically, I think people are quite happy to ban all sorts of things (for all sorts of stupid reasons) as long as it does not affect them personally.

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