Malaysian Sikhs worry most about economy, divorce and conversion, reveals new ground breaking research

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia | 24 Sept 2015 | Asia Samachar


By Hb Singh

A first-of-its-kind study on the socio-economic and social issues of Sikhs in Malaysia by a team of researchers from four universities has identified five key areas of concern.

In gauging the pulse of the community, the five top areas of concern for the 700 respondents interviewed were, in the order of importance, economic, divorce, conversion out of the faith, health and mixed marriages.

“We were expecting something else,” Associate Prof Dr Sarjit Singh from University Putra Malaysia (UPM), who led the research team, tells Asia Samachar.

The project report, entitled ‘A Study on the Socio-Economic Status and Social Issues of Sikhs in Malaysia’, will be presented at a forum in Petaling Jaya on Sunday (Sept 27).

SEE ALSO: CMSO call-for-action to discuss new research on Sikhs in Malaysia

The study was commissioned by the Coalition of Malaysian Sikh Organisations (CMSO) with funding from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The seven-member coalition is hoping the forum, and any necessary subsequent engagements, will identify strategies to address issues highlighted in the study.

“We need financial and manpower resources to tackle them. We hope to submit some proposals in time before the next Federal government budget,” says CMSO secretary general Autar Singh.

Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak, who is also the finance minister, is scheduled to table in Parliament the Budget 2016 on Oct 23. This woud be the first budget under the 11th Malaysia Plan which was tabled in Parliament in May.


The research, which combined both qualitative and quantitative methods, involved 700 respondents from eight states in the Peninsular Malaysia.

“It covers both rural and urban areas. The sample size was more than sufficient to represent the popullation, in order to generalise the findings,” said Dr Jaspal from Taylor’s Business School in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Almost half the respondents were from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Perak, with an almost equal balance of men and women, according to the research data made available to the Asia Samachar.

About 76% of the respondents to the a set of detailed perception questionaire from the research team were between 15-45 years old. In terms of marital status, 41% of the respondents were single, 52% married and 7% divorced.

Some 42% of the respondents have a household income of between RM1,001 and RM5,000 (US$229 to US$1,142, at exchange rate of US$1=RM4.38).


Elaborating on the research, Dr Sarjit said such a multi-disciplinary study on Sikhs in Malaysia had not been undertaken prior to this.

“This study was driven by academics. You get critical analysis and insights on community issues.

“We have teams members form various disciplines: sociology, accounting, economic, anthropology. It was a multi-disciplinary team, it enabled us to get different perspectives.”

The research team included Asc Prof Dr Ahmad Tarmizi Talib (UPM), Asc Prof Dr Sivapalan Selvadurai (UKM), Asst Prof Dr Charanjit Kaur Darshan Singh (UTAR), Dr Jaspal Singh (Taylor’s University) and Dr Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran (UPM).

Previous university driven studies on the Sikhs in Malaysia have touched on history,  gurdwaras, culture and the Punjabi language.

“But not on socio-economic and social issues. In a way, this is a ground breaking study. These are fresh data coming on stream,” adds Dr Sarjit.


How did the research idea come about? In 2011, the CMSO board held a discussion with historian Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, Dr Sarjit and Dr Charanjit with a view to set up a Sikh history research project.

“A Sikh histroy research project team was set up in view of the distortions in the history textbooks,” said Autar.

Dr Sarjit was tasked to prepare three research proposals: Malaysian Sikh history in view of a book, research on social economic status and social issues of Sikhs in Malaysia, and producing a Punjabi-Malay-English dictionary.

The proposals were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012.

In 2013, Malaysian Gurdwara Council (MGC) received a research grant of RM100,000 to produce a history of SIkhs in Malaysia, which is being now handled by Dr Ranjit.

In the same year, CMSO also received RM100,000 for the second project which was awarded to Dr Sarjit and a team of experts from various universities in Malaysia.

“The third project has yet to make headway,” said Autar.

As of Tues (Sept 23), CMSO has received confirmation of participation for the forum from representives of two gurdwaras, seven Sikh organisations, six universities, two Sikh media groups and 12 individuals.


CMSO call-for-action to discuss new research on Sikhs in Malaysia (Asia Samachar, 21 Sept 2015)

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  1. Can the Sanggat get status reports of the projects with details on how the grants were expended?
    This is important as transparency and accountability helps to prevent raising of unwanted suspicions and questions.
    Tranparency and accountability of grants and other trost funds should be culture by all resonsible for mmanagement and usage of trust funds

  2. Interesting, but not unexpected.

    Rising self confidence, education, social empowering groups and social economic independence generally has lifted woman to stand alone in life than suffer abuse from men continousl; as in the past. Many other, and a plus of other factors has also made divorce simpler to obtain and face, live and survive.This is not peculiar to Sikhs. ..That should be understood.

    Nothing unusual abt economical or the rising divorce rates when compared with many other similar placed communities from the indian sub continent.Divorce was a taboo only abt 50 years ago.It no longer is.Conversion is a peculiar fact among most minorities in mainly moslem countries.However,Sikhism has survived strongly in countries such as Afghanistan [the situation is different now]Iran or the middle east.;except in last 40 years when the govt of these moslem countries (malaysia in particular )have embarked upon programmes and policies that favour Islam. Aggresive missionaries have been an issue as well. The strongly religiously and unique identitied Sikh community has seen it’s young going astray for worldly gains very easily.

    In Malaysia being a minority, it has also faced conversion assaults from Christian cult groups.The multi racial climate has led to inter faith and inter racial marriages , a phenomenon that Skhs face.Esspecially around the carriage of Gurmat rites.

    Similar challenges faced by the Parsi community in India has led to almost an extinction of that community in India.

    The Portuguese community in Melaka has seen it’s racial identity becoming mish meshed, and lost.

    Lessons can be learnt from hardships of these two communities and action plans put into place, that could slow down such issues eroding the Sikhs community.

    Of course, there are a number of other communities that have seen their own demographics in every manner and in every sphere changed.

    In most cases politics have not been an issue,but in MALAYSIA the political factor and state policies of favouring a perceived state religion would have to be dealt with sensitively, which would be a challenge.It now has to be seen how this is received by the PMO’s office and what support gained from the PM office, that could benefit the community; and not merely a paper exercise run.

    This strenghtens the belief that the Sikh community faces the same concerns faced by other communities , but in addition also has the fear of assimilation religiously, or racially and loosing it’s identity; interestingly it did not emerge at the top.