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A Crisis of Faith and Identity


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A Crisis of Faith and Identity

Sandeep Singh (Brar) Wed Sep 19

As I sit here in the San Francisco airport terminal waiting for my flight after having survived the security checks and stares, there are many thoughts in my mind related to the recent tragedy and to being a Sikh.

It seems that we, as a people over the last 50 years, have lurched from one major crisis to another: Partition, Operation Blue Star, Delhi massacre, tortures in Punjab, Air India bombing, tables and chairs, government killings in Kashmir to the latest crisis in the USA, you have to wonder what's going on here? Is it worth being a Sikh anymore or has it now become a liability?

A friend of mine's young Amritdhari son has suddenly cut his hair, for my safety my relatives are telling me to shave off my beard and remove my turban, an acquaintance is being hounded by his wife to remove his beard and turban. These are just a few stories related to me, I'm sure that such discussions and crises are going on in many Sikh households across the country. What does it all mean, and what should we as a people do?

Kulmeet, a friend of mine, has a theory that Sikhs as a people have only advanced and been strengthened when faced with a major crisis. I tend to agree with him. Most of the 'Sikhs' that I see out there today are cultural Sikhs and not practicing Sikhs. Many knowingly violate the spiritual and physical tenants of Sikhism with a matter of fact attitude. Some have no idea why they are Sikhs, while others oppressively force their children to endure the rituals of the religion blindly, with no commitment to fostering an understanding or an appreciation of the faith. It's in times of crises like this that make each and every one of us question our faith and ask: is it worth it anymore?

Stop for a moment and ask yourself that question. Sikhs around the world and especially those in North America are about to face a hurricane of racial stereotyping and it does not look like it will end any time soon. Any person who does not look like an 'American' (whatever that means) is about to face a period of overt and subtle racism. Those men and women who are practicing Sikhs and carry the articles of faith will face double the pressure than that of other 'Arab looking' people. It is not a good time, how are you going to react or deal with this impending storm?

It's a time for some personal reflection and a decision. No religion should be considered as a burden or something that holds you back. The whole purpose of religion after all is to draw strength from it and to provide some sense of purpose and direction in one's life. If you don't feel that, then Sikhism is not for you. It's time to make a decision, not straddle a fence. Either you want to be a Sikh, are prepared to face the challenges and persecution that are ahead and are willing to make the effort to be a practicing Sikh, or it's something that's a liability for you and perhaps this latest crisis is an opportune excuse to denounce your allegiance to Sikhism and move away.

To be a Sikh for me is a honour and a blessing, not a burden. When Guru Gobind Singh gave his people that choice 300 years ago, it was just that - a choice. It's now time to make that choice, or reaffirm your choice. For me the decision is clear. I draw strength from the physical and spiritual aspects of Sikhism. I feel honored to be a Sikh and I honestly enjoy being different from everyone else. It's not time for Sikhs to hide or cower, but a time where I, as a Sikh, proudly stand up and am consciously ready to face both the consequences and the rewards of my decision. For me personally, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities. Today I'm honoured to be a follower of the House of Nanak.

Sandeep Singh is an information technology professional and author of the widely acknowledged Sikh website, www.sikhs.org.

Please discuss :D

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