Sikhs and alcohol

Opinion | UK | 21 May 2017 | Asia Samachar |
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson apologises after discussing alcohol in Sikh gurdwara in Briston

By Sohan Singh

There has been some discussion about the visit by Boris Johnson- the Foreign Secretary to a Gurdwara where he talked about increased trade between the UK and India, and used Scotch Whisky as an example. We have condemned his speech for mentioning whisky in a Gurdwara. I am not condoning what he has said, and he has apologised for talking about a taboo subject in a Gurdwara.

However we need to look our own behaviour also in accordance with the Guidance in Gurbani:

Fareedaa jae too akal latif kalae likh na laekh.

Aapanarrae gireevaan mae sir neevaa kar daekh. SGGS: 1378 fjtlk

O Farid! If you are of a keen understanding (subtle wisdom, subtle mind), then do not write ill-accounts of others’ misdeeds. Look, instead, into your own heart by lowering your head (and analyse your own actions).

We invite our non-Sikh friends at our weddings where whisky and other hard drinks flow like water. People who drink in moderation are coerced to drink more and more. Politicians are given VIP treatment, never allowed to have their glasses empty. Ask any white person who has been to a Sikh wedding what he liked most – and invariably the answer is – dancing and drinks.

SEE ALSO: Boris Johnson apologises after discussing alcohol in Sikh temple – The Guardian

SEE ALSO: MSSSC does not encourage, condone alcohol during games

Sikhs own quite a few Off- Licence shops in this country. These are shops that sell alcoholic drinks for consumption elsewhere. Normally the name of the shop is: Singh’s Off-Licence or Surname followed by – ‘s Off-Licence. So what impression are we giving to politicians and non-Sikhs?

According to the media, Boris Johnson apologised after the woman who had criticised him told him that- she had experienced alcohol problems in her family.

Let me end this missive with a light hearted anecdote: While returning back from a wedding, I was asked to sit in a coach reserved for women. The person who asked me to do so explained that I wouldn’t enjoy sitting in the other coach as all the men would be drinking. I was the only one who was teetotal. He also asked a friend who was talking to me when he approached us to give me company. The friend also was fond of drinks but didn’t say anything. And the man who asked us to sit in a different coach? A leading member of a Gurdwara management committee!

[The article first appeared at Gurmat Learning Zone, an email-based Sikh discussion group. Published with permission of author]

Sohan Singh, MA, BSc Hons. CQSW. Sohan Singh is an author of five books, the latest ones being Spiritual Sayings from the Sikh Faith and the Real Purpose of Life. He has worked as a teacher and lecturer in Kenya and as a Treatment Manager for the probation service in the UK.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website:]


Boris Johnson apologises after discussing alcohol in Sikh temple – The Guardian (Asia Samachar, 21 May 2017)

Well done, Pulapol, for alcohol-free Vaisakhi party (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2017)

MSSSC does not encourage, condone alcohol during games (Asia Samachar, 28 June 2016)

Alcohol, Gurdwara and the Cup (Asia Samachar, 28 June 2016)


  1. I have been somewhat dismayed how the controversy, triggered by Boris Johnson by talking about alcohol in a Sikh Gurdwara in Bristol, has been twisted and used as an opportunity to kick our own backs when it was not warranted.

    The woman, who challenged Johnson for daring to talk about alcohol in a Gurdwara, did not say Sikhs do not use alcohol or do not trade in it. She did it because she could not tolerate someone talking about alcohol in a Gurdwara. The other reason for her challenge was because she had faced difficulties owing to alcoholism in her family.

    Given why and how Johnson was challenged, in my view, the debate should have focussed on whether we should or should not talk about alcohol in our Gurdwaras ? I think, what happened in Bristol Gurdwara, did not warrant us to be self-critical about use or abuse of alcohol in our community. There is no doubt many Sikhs use alcohol and some even abuse it and the matter should be debated but not on this occasion when it had no relevance to the actual Johnson controversy. It did not have to be attached to the issue at Bristol Gurdwara.

    My concern is that by twisting the debate we have shown how Sikhs tend to unnecessarily kick their own backs on anything and everything when it is not warranted. It is a case of denigrating ourselves. Appropriate self criticism is a good thing but inappropriately lowering ourselves and showing us in bad light do not do the Sikhs any good. This is certainly not the way to solve our problems.

  2. Sadly Sikhs are perceived to be heavy drinkers and a non-drinking Sikhs are generally looked upon with a surprise as I have been subject to this taunt by many including Sikhs and own relatives at functions like dinners or other wedding functions as I do not drink liquor and thus have stopped attending such celebrations functions including by my own relatives/friends/colleagues.

    Sikhs celebrations and liquor may have become an international culture where even those who cannot afford the high costs of such liquor will borrow to provide to save ‘face’ in the community. This may be common in the case of parents of brides who are reported to be coerced by the grooms family who demand that their baraties be served liquor and meat dishes or the ‘baraat will be displeased and may result in them leaving the before the anand karaj which will lead to a stigma on the bride’s family who may be taunted that their daughter will now remain at home and be a burden on the family. And to avoid this the bride’s father/family may even go to the extent of borrowing to satisfy the demands of the groom’s family.

    [Sri Guru Nanak Ji had also equated baraties were equated with plunderers where Babar looted India and baraties loot bride’s parents]

    The professional elder brother of my sister’s husband even scolded me for not providing liquor and suitable hotel to drinks for baraties after the anand karaj ceremony and stated that he felt insulted and had ‘lost’ face in his society because the baraties were not served liquor. Another brother in law of mine also damaged the hotel furniture because the I had not permitted them to drink liquor in the hotel at my expense.

    Sikh Religious-Gurdwaras-Society-Elders preach about the dangers of liquor consumption but sadly many do not practice their own advice. WHEN WILL THEY SAY WHAT THEY MEAN AND MEAN WHAT THEY SAY.
    Punjab which is the homeland of Sikhs has the highest number of liquor and drug addicts and this may be due to their material successes and may now be an international culture.
    MORE WEALTH SUCCESS MORE LIQUOR ADDICTION and this may apply more to Sikhs and question should be ‘WHY’ and the leaders should look for answers and not blame others.

    Gur Fateh