House divided….Or

This is perhaps the first ever initiative by the Sikhs to market themselves by engaging world class talent which has worked for Obama, Bush, Ford motor company and Facebook. It’s time to actively educate others on who we are, what we are, and why we are the way we are.

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Opinion | 19 June 2017 | Asia Samachar |

By I.J. Singh

Mine is one Sikh’s (my) perspective on the Sikh journey; enjoyment directly proportional to the generated conversation. More thoughtful the disagreement the greater my joy.

Under the lens is a project defining a place for Sikhs and Sikhi in the North American mainstream. We need it. The idea is not new, the attempt is one of the few. It is a product of Rajwant Singh and his close associates.

Honest disclosure: I have known Rajwant for more than a couple of decades, and we have been in periodic contact over the years. We have disagreed but also collaborated. In this project, I helped edit some of the voluminous material produced by the core group led by Gurwin Singh.

Did we always agree on the product? Absolutely not. So why did I work with this team? Because the idea is bigger than any man.

Sikhs seem like the new kids on the block. We are few and the world knows little of us. We are destined to remain a minority no matter where we live – in India or North America.

Keep in mind that we have over a hundred years-old history in the good old U.S of A. Sikh workers had a hand in the construction of the Panama Canal in 1901-04. But today, most Americans can’t distinguish Sikhs from the Islamic enemies of the nation.

All along, we have been struggling for an equal place at the table of this society, and the struggle goes on.

This new project is designed to introduce Sikhi and Sikh-Americans to the larger society. We need to knock on the doors of social institutions, academia, portals of mass communication for a place in the public space. It is and will always remain an educational incentive.

The project is expensive and this group raised more than a million dollars – an inspiring start to a beginning that shall have no end. This initiative remains costly despite the many volunteers (like me) who work gratis.

SEE ALSO: Sikhs hire PR firm to reach out to Americans nationwide

Some of the loudest criticism, as expected, comes from left field. Let me recapitulate one dedicated sincere Sikh critic: “Why so much money on television and print time? All we need to do is to serve free food in every town to the millions.The money would be better spent on prayers and more gurduaras instead.”

But don’t you think our community deserves and needs some larger perspectives and initiatives also? Then there were others who attacked the organizers for real or imagined character flaws, misguided ambition, possible financial sleight of hand, and so on, ad infinitum.

Flaws are not rare in people and that’s what we are.

Life makes many demands: What kind of a car should I drive – Rolls Royce, Lexus, Mercedes, or a used Kia? Similar questions on my house and where it should be. Food, shelter and clothing are basic needs, but what choices I make depends on where my life is at a given time. My resources and my sense of self are important and varied. There are needs and there are wants.

Our community, like all the others around us, seems divided along fault lines that seem impossible to bridge. There are some who live more flashily than I approve or can afford. Many live like the proverbial church mouse. Our needs are many and varied; some will get the short end at any given time. Differences on how our budget should meet our varied needs may sometimes amuse us; other times we might kill because others choose a different path.   Let our differences be the haven where personal innuendo has no place.

I know that we don’t proselytize or work to convert others. But this is perhaps the first ever initiative by the Sikhs to market themselves by engaging world class talent which has worked for Obama, Bush, Ford motor company and Facebook. It’s time to actively educate others on who we are, what we are, and why we are the way we are. The times demand it and the technology is available to perhaps do exactly what Guru Nanak ventured to do for 37 years by traveling thousands of miles.

Our community has the resources and the talent but, until now, not the marketing strategy. Explore these links for exactly what new doors are being opened:

US Sikhs launch campaign to spread awareness about Sikhism

Sikh Americans Hope To Reduce Hate Crimes With Ad Campaign

Sikhs nationwide are opening their temples to dispel myths about turbans

Sikh group launches $1.5 million TV campaign to educate Americans about Sikhism

Our religion, our tradition and our common needs unite us into a vibrant community with a glorious history and common needs.

Are we a house divided or a mansion with many rooms?  Sikhs are a large and complex orchestra of many instruments.  Let the music play on.

 

I.J. Singh is a New York based writer and speaker on Sikhism in the Diaspora, and a Professor of Anatomy. Email: ijsingh99@gmail.com

 

[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: www.asiasamachar.com]

FROM THE SAME AUTHOR:

1984: Hope & Despair (Asia Samachar, 6 June 2017)

Sands of time  (Asia Samachar, 12 May 2017)

The giants and dwarfs of time – I.J. Singh (Asia Samachar, 6 May 2017)

Art, faith, history, culture & science (Asia Samachar, 26 April 2017)

Walking on egg shells (Asia Samachar, 17 Feb 2017)

 

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Sikhs hire PR firm to reach out to Americans nationwide (Asia Samachar, 1 Feb 2017)

1 COMMENT

  1. Guru Ji gave the objective of Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Ji as safe places where one can get not only FOOD FOR THE SOUL in the form of Bani-Katha-Kirtan but also the following:
    [a] food for the hungry
    [b shelter for those in need as travelers and needy
    [c] medical services for the sick
    [d] education facilities
    [e] financial assistance for those in need
    to name a few main ones.

    Further it is sad to note that most Management Committees of Gurdwara Sahib Ji appear to limit the activities in Gurdwara Sahib Ji funds either to Langgar-Kirtan-Kathas with some providing Punjabi language education facilities and some even gone to provide computer literacy classes. Another objective is to accumulation of funds and expanding/renovating the buildings appears to be the main objective.
    It is long overdue that Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Ji Management Committee get outside the box and change their mindset and expand activities to include providing assistance of commercial/study loans/facilities so that interested Sikh youths can acquire high level educational qualifications in various disciplines. Those who have lands/building these can be used to assist Sikh entrepreneurs by providing space for commercial/other business activities and not sell the lands/buildings with rationale that it is not within their scope of duties or in accordance of Gurdwara Sahib Ji objectives.
    World is changing and Management Committees officials should change with the times as they may have done with their personal lives but not expanded the change to Gurdwara Sahib Ji objectives.

    Another concern I have and have voiced periodically for past over two decades the lack of TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY of Financial Statements of Gurdwara Sahib Jis funds which are held in trust by the Management Committee. Lack of TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY of Financial Statements and making them public can result in the GURDWARA SAHIB JIS FUNDS being susceptible to RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH MISMANAGEMENT-FRAUD-CORRUPTION-COLLUSION-CRONYISM-BRIBERY-KICKBACKS-NEPOTISM [and has happened as I observed during audit of accounts of some].

    Unwillingness or reluctance by Management Committees of not practicing TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY by making public the Financial Statements may give the perception that there may be cases of MISMANAGEMENT-FRAUD-CORRUPTION-COLLUSION-CRONYISM-BRIBERY-KICKBACKS-NEPOTISM and these may be covered up by the Management Committee members.
    [An article on this subject ‘Managing Gurdwara Funds Transparently, with Accountability’ was published in
    Asia Samachar – February 14, 2016]

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