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Sikh FAQ:Conflicts and Debates


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Like any religion, Sikhism has both its conservative and progressive aspects. As a result, many of the religious conflicts which occur within the Sikh community are between those who are more conservative in their understanding of Sikh traditions and those who are more progressive in how they think those traditions should be followed and applied today. What makes such conflicts so difficult is that both sides believe that what they are doing is necessary to preserve the Sikh faith.

A good example of this the conflict over translating the Adi Granth, the collection of Sikh holy writings. The Adi Granth is regarded so highly that extreme measures are taken to ensure that it stays holy. It is not, for example, permitted to be translated because any translation would necessarily compromise some of its meaning.

This can cause problems because the Adi Granth is written in Punjabi, a language which is not easy to understand and which many young Sikhs in the West have little contact with. Some in the Sikh community would like to see the Adi Granth translated into English in order to ensure that young Sikhs do not drift away from the faith of their ancestors. Others, however, believe that such translation would corrupt the true meaning of the text and hence should not be done.

Thus, we can see that both sides have a legitimate claim to be trying to preserve Sikhism while also regarding their "opponents" as promoting ideas and actions which will, in the long run, destroy the essence of Sikhism. The question then become: what is the "essence" of Sikhism? Should we look to the community of believers or rather to the preservation of an ancient collection of holy writings? The answer to that will dictate whether one is more sympathetic to the progressives or to the conservatives.

Sikhs and India

Sikh conflict with Hindus and Muslims has also acquired a political dimension because, in 1947, the land ruled by Britain was divided into India and Pakistan. They continue to hope for the creation of a Sikh nation, an aspiration which has resulted in violent conflict with the Indian government. more..

Sikh Calendar

It might seem odd that the choice of calendars would cause conflict, but the debate over calendars has significant political and religious aspects for devout Sikhs which has prevented a full resolution of the debate. more...

Sikhs and Chairs

One interesting issue which has produced conflict and dissent within the Sikh community (particularly in Canada) is the use of chairs. This may seem like an odd source of conflict, but Sikhs have taken it very seriously - so seriously, in fact, that people have been killed over the matter. more...

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