Intolerance between Western & Punjabi Sikhs

Here are some thoughts relating to this Discussion Topic posted on SikhNet.

There is definitely an element of this, however much of it has to do with cultural differences. I am a so called “Western Sikh”, though I am a mix of east and west since I went to school in India for 10+ years.

In my experience the cultural differences and some of the close-mindedness has kept the integration from happening. However in the recent years I have seen some very positive change. Part of it is people getting over the whole “yoga” thing which myself and many other western Sikhs practice. There are so many things which trigger a reaction in Punjabis because of historical and cultural things. Yoga is automatically assumed and looked at as a “Hindu” practice and something that the Gurus were against. Most have no idea what it is and know very little about it. I would say…Before criticizing…Learn more and actually try it! You might surprise yourself.

We don’t have these issues…So we look at it, try it…See the benefits and reap the rewards without getting hung up on these other things. Another example is something like a statue or picture representing a Guru. From the Punjabi perspective this is considered a big “no-no” and potential idol worship. However since we don’t have that background…we just take these representations as inspirational images (not as an item of worship). I think we are coming into the Sikh path with a clean slate, learning from scratch so it is very different.

I also think that it would benefit all our communities to mingle more. It has been one of my goals for a long time to find ways to bridge the gaps between the growing non-Punjabi Sikhs and the rest of the Sikhs. I think the youth are the key here (in both communities). My parents generation and the older Punjabi generation are from very different cultures, whereas the youth are more on the same page. It easier to relate and be open to new things.

When it comes down to it…it really has to do with people wanting to meet and have a relationship with other sikhs. It’s like when there is someone new in your community, it takes an extra effort to welcome them and say hello. It’s easier to take the easy route and just stay within your circle of friends and what is familiar.

Also I think when people see “western” sikhs there is a certain curiosity or unknown element which makes them feel very different. Your not quite sure what to make of them. I think a lot of people don’t really know much about “western” sikhs, so there is that part which keeps people at a distance. It’s kind of the same as a “John Doe” might see any Sikh and keep his distance because he is not sure what to make of the person with a Turban.

This will change in time as we get to know each other and get over each other’s hangups. I think the outlook is positive. It’s just a matter of time and people opening to change.

Well…that is it for tonight…it’s already way too late.

3 Responses to “Intolerance between Western & Punjabi Sikhs”

  1. Daas says:

    I Love all of Guru’s Sikhs :)

  2. ABS Bedi says:

    I agree with pretty much everything in this article. To bridge this gap and to clear these misunderstandings we should take concrete steps in a positive direction.
    I believe that all of us should make an attempt to make meditation & yoga available at Gurudwaras in US.
    Available meaning that any one who wishes to learn is welcome and this way we can encourage non Sikhs or Punjabi sikhs to participate.
    This will not only help in changing the post 9-11 image of Sikhs but also create more understanding between Indian Sikhs and western Sikhs.
    For the future of our community it is very important that wherever we live we get recognized as Sikhs and not end up becoming victims of mistaken identity.
    I live in New Jersey and we have around 9-10 gurdwaras here because of a sizeable Sikh community. However, since the over whelming majority of sikhs hail from India, therefore neither yoga nor meditation is taught.
    Also, there is ample space and accommodation available to allow these. Most of these gurudwaras have langar halls which are not utilized at least 5 out of 7 days. Even one class per day or per week would not be a bad start.
    Sikh community spends millions in seva to build gurudwaras and we can really top ourselves if we are willing to spend a fraction of our time and resources to engage everyone with in our community.