| Opinion | Malaysia | 8 Aug 2017 | Asia Samachar |
By Darshan Singh
History tells us that Sikhs came or were brought over to Malaya in the 19th century. In every article on Sikh migration to Malaysia, it is always proudly claimed that we were brought in by the British to serve in the security forces.
Let us also not forget that majority has come over as mere labourers toiling in the tin mines. It would have been indeed tough to build and sustain life in a completely new environment thousands of miles away. Being resilient, they ensured that the generations to come would have a better future in this land of abundance which we now call home.
Gurdwaras were established wherever we went, acting as the core institution to meet our socio-religious needs. So closely knit was our community that we were able to self-govern, overseeing and supporting each other’s needs.
In the earlier days, many cultural practices , deemed acceptable today, were a taboo. The list topper was mixed marriages. No Gurdwara in the earlier days would allow or condone such an Anand Karaj ceremony to be held within its premises. Mixed marriages were seen as dishonouring the family name. Unfortunately, today, we quite regularly witness or receive invitations to mixed marriage.
It is rather worrying that nowadays mixed marriages are rampant and encouraged not only by families who appear proud of such unions but also by Gurdwara Parbandaks whom we entrust to sustain the essence of Sikhi in its true form. These parbandaks – members of the gurdwara management committee (GMCs) – are setting a sad example by sending an explicit message to the wider community that mixed marriages are accepted in society, encouraging more young Sikhs.
Let us not discuss the clear requirements of the Sikh Rahat Maryada (SRM) on marriages, but apply common sense on its long term social impact on our society. Recent population statistics released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia indicates that current Malaysian population is about 30 million, of which 68.6 percent are Bumiputras, 23.4 percent Chinese, 7 percent Indians while all others at 1 percent.
Sub-ethnic Sikhs account under the wider Indian ethnic group, predominantly represented by the Tamils. What is our exact number in Malaysia remains anyone’s guess but I will say it not more than 75,000 people. And this figure is definitely declining due to various reasons, including migration and low fertility. However, the dwindling numbers due to mixed marriage is certainly avoidable if our Gurdwaras act in unison by declining permission for its premises to be used.
In most cultures, convention has it that a female would take on the faith of her male companion, and weddings solemnised in accordance to the faith of the male partner. But why abuse the Gurdwara, the holy Anand Karaj ceremony and the sanctity of Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj in the process?
Impact on children of mixed marriages is another concern. A Sikh female who marries a non-Sikh continues to bring their children to the Gurdwara, even encouraging learning of the Punjabi language and following the Sikh culture. On the other hand, the father would take these same children to practice his institution of faith. How is this fair to the children, who are sadly the victims caught in between?
If we do not set a strong foundation today, we will be crippled tomorrow. What drives mixed marriages? It is high time we identify the root cause, discuss it openly and address matters at hand.
In a society, there is strength in numbers. Our forefathers ensured that we remained united in faith as a community. Are we capable of carrying on their legacy?
Darshan Singh Dhillon is an avid writer on consumerism and also a member of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) executive committee
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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