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Sikhs in America
June 4, 2010 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Sikhs in America "The Sikh community is an important part of northern Californias cultural tapestry, yet the Sikh religion and cultural traditions are not widely understood. This documentary captures Sikh social and family life, spiritual life, and economic and work life. Witness a beautiful Sunday service at a gurdwara, a Sikh wedding, the tying of a Sikh turban, and a look at the game Kabbadi." (PBS, 26mins)
posted by puny human (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
For an alternate perspective on Sikhs in America, here are the thoughtful words of South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts (R) about fellow Republican, SC gubernatorial candidate, and Sikh descendant Nikki Haley: "We've already got one raghead in the White House, we don't need another in the Governor's Mansion."
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:53 PM on June 4, 2010


I am about as atheist-y of a dude as you are likely to find, but if I had to be reborn into a faith tradition beyond my control, I have long hoped that it would be the Sikh faith. An emphasis on social justice plus a non-anthropomorphic conception of the Deity (arguably co-extensive with the cosmos itself) and some of the most down-to-earth and cheerful adherents of any of the various faiths that my former students have adhered to. I should mention that in my line of work I end up teaching a host of students from various faith backgrounds. The Sikh students I have taught could and did (politely) argue circles around the various fundamentalist Christians I have tried to teach philosophy. This has happened more times than statistical aberration could account for.

Nothing but respect.


And fuck that redneck asshole Jake Knotts.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:12 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


How to date a Sikh.

But seriously, "It’s like local political version of ‘Saturday Night Live.’"? How the fuck is this guy a Senator?
posted by doublehappy at 4:14 PM on June 4, 2010


most down-to-earth and cheerful adherents of any of the various faiths

I endorse this viewpoint.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 4:23 PM on June 4, 2010


I endorse this viewpoint.

In retrospect, I hope my comments are not seen as condescending or patronizing or anything like that. Just a Lebansese-Irish-Italian-American trying to call it like I sees it.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:25 PM on June 4, 2010


Dammit, I know how to spell Lebanese.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:26 PM on June 4, 2010


Great docu, thanks for posting it.

Professionally, I can tell you that at Sikh weddings people DANCE. I worked a 1,000 guest wedding in the hangar bay of a decommissioned WWII aircraft carrier. Not only did they fill the space, the normally cold space (all that steel floating in the water) was undo-your-collar warm with everyone and their granny making with the BOOM-chikka-BOOM-chikka-BOOM!

Mother of the bride made very sure all the bartenders got fed and OH, some of my cow-orkers weren't ready for the spicy.

-Check out Dya Singh World Music Group. "Bringing Sikh music to the world, and World Music to the Sikhs". Lexi & I have gone to see him a few times when he's passed through NorCal. As far as Langar goes, the pakoras at Gurdwara Sahib Hayward were out of this world delicious.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:35 PM on June 4, 2010


An emphasis on social justice plus a non-anthropomorphic conception of the Deity (arguably co-extensive with the cosmos itself) and some of the most down-to-earth and cheerful adherents of any of the various faiths that my former students have adhered to.

True enough. Nevertheless: Table Riot!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:57 PM on June 4, 2010


That's not funny, that's Sikh.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2010


This documentary did not tell me the one thing I really wanted to know about Sikhs: how that one dude keeps beating me at disc golf. We keep getting paired together and though I can consistently outdrive him by a good 50 feet I swear I've never seen him miss a putt. Dude's a disc-golfing machine.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:01 PM on June 4, 2010


Defending Raghead Comment, South Carolina State Senator Says ‘We’re At War’ With Foreign Countries
posted by homunculus at 5:16 PM on June 4, 2010


We've always been at war with India.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:40 PM on June 4, 2010


Christ, what an asshole. South Carolina, do the honorable thing and show him the door come election season.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:10 PM on June 4, 2010


I'm so tired of this Star Wars crap. People need to quit all this acting like fictional characters really exist. First the Klingons and now this.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:12 PM on June 4, 2010


Oh, *Sikh*. Nevermind.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:12 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was trapped by Sikhs!

My parents were visiting me in DC, just after the Cherry Blossom Festival, so it was early April or so. We parked in the (now gone) Washington Monument parking lot, then did some touristing. When we returned to our car, we found that the parking lot was barricaded, and that there was a Sikh parade going on, some 30,000 identically dressed people with floats and music and all that. Apparently, it was some major anniversary--I want to say it was the 350th anniversary of thier founding, but I can't find any date that would corroborate that. It was quite an amazing sight.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:13 PM on June 4, 2010


People need to quit all this acting like fictional characters really exist. First the Klingons and now this.

Oh, *Sikh*. Nevermind.


Well, as a matter of fact... SIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!*
posted by Sys Rq at 6:51 PM on June 4, 2010


This documentary did not tell me the one thing I really wanted to know about Sikhs: how that one dude keeps beating me at disc golf. We keep getting paired together and though I can consistently outdrive him by a good 50 feet I swear I've never seen him miss a putt. Dude's a disc-golfing machine.

One word: Chakram
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:52 PM on June 4, 2010


South Carolina State Senator Says ‘We’re At War’ With Foreign Countries

Speaking of war, more than a little irony (and bravery) here.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 6:54 PM on June 4, 2010


Well, Sihks did blow up that plane that one time, but I would say that's an outlier. Aside from that, most Sikhs are pretty awesome.
posted by GuyZero at 6:57 PM on June 4, 2010


सैट श्री अकाल - Sat Shri Akal

Nice post, puny human -- and good timing for that Knotts incident this week. The video is really well done (share generously with your S. Carolina friends?).

Another powerful film is the one done by PBS after 9/11 - A Dream in Doubt which follows a Sikh family as they come to terms with their brothers' murders by racists. This film hit me especially hard; even though I had not been close to my ex (Sikh) husband for some time, I worried as I read stories of hysteria after 9/11. Even my Punjabi-looking daughter had to constantly look over her shoulder during that time. She still talks about her early memory of her father being attacked by a woman in the late 70's when Khomeini was the boogieman. Sometimes it is hard to stomach ignorance.

The PBS film does not tell much about the beliefs of the Sikhs as the youtube video does - and that is a shame; it truly is a beautiful religion. I hope we see more Americans becoming curious about those who appear so "different".

And, yes, if anyone needs to know how to starch and tie a turban, I'm your girl.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:24 PM on June 4, 2010


Here's my uninformed layman's opinion of why Sikhism is a righteous religion:

Back even before the American Revolution shocked the world with its government based on the concepts of equality, in an area with a highly enforced and segregated caste system, along comes the Sikh religion.

They taught that everyone, in God's eyes is in the highest caste. Regardless of any law, everyone had basic human rights given by God.

Since you are in the highest caste, you dress in Brooks Brothers suits (or equivalent: turban and beard were restricted to Kings and rulers). Sometimes the caste system was enforced with names. To heck with that. Lots of Sikhs are renamed Rockerfeller (or the equivalent at the time: Singh).

Of course nearby Kings didn't like this one bit and their armies killed a lot of Sikhs. So it became a requirement to know the art of war and martial arts, including knowledge of all kinds of weapons. No violence to attack unbelievers. It's purely for self-defence.


So to be a Sikh, you have to:

o Dress well.
o Know martial arts.
o Carry cool weapons. (The razor Frisbee of death!)
o Believe that everyone is equal in God's eyes.

I apologize in advance for my ignorance and inaccuracies. Please feel free to correct. I love reading about this religion.
posted by eye of newt at 8:41 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


To understand what it is to be Sikh, one has to know the story of the Panj Piare, or 'Beloved Five'. These five were the ones to first wear the turban, kara (steel bracelet that signifies no caste), and the kirpan (swords to defend justice).

In this form the Sikhs themselves became symbols. The point of was to make the Sikhs stand out. At that time (1699) India was dominated by the Mughals - a time of violent, forced conversion to Islam. The Sikhs in their distinctive appearance took on a martyred role, saying, "each Sikh need to stands out for 100 others who can not stand up for themselves." This sense of obligation to step forward as a model, a defender of justice, even a martyr, is an integral part of the Sikh psyche today. (Not to mention, a source of much modern Indian humor.)
posted by Surfurrus at 1:17 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My dad loved it whenever he saw the turban & beard of a Sikh because he knew he could play one of his favorite pranks on whoever he was with. He'd say "See that man? I've never seen him before in my life but I bet I know his name." He'd confidently walk up to the Sikh & say "Mr. Singh, how are you? I'd like you to meet my friend so-&-so." After a short conversation with the man he'd walk away & explain to his perplexed target that all Sikhs are named Singh.
posted by scalefree at 9:11 AM on June 5, 2010


-One of the things I most admire about Sikhi is the idea that the weapons and martial arts are not just for defending Sikhs, but anyone regardless of caste or religion who is oppressed. Because if there is only one God, then all his children must be defended. One of the Ten Gurus was martyred on behalf of non-Sikhs.

I'd have to birddog the reference, but I once read about an episode in Dehli when the Sikhs were in hiding in the mountains due to being oppressed by the local Hindus. Except then the Mughals (who were Muslim) ride into Dehli and capture a bunch of women and daughters from the town and ride off.

At which point the Sikhs come down from the mountains and go off to join the fight to rescue the daughters of the men who so recently were trying to put them and theirs to the sword. THAT is walking the talk to this monkey.

-Which reminds me: If you know someone these days who is unsure of where their next meal is coming from, if there's a Gurdwara nearby them it's serving Langar at least once a week. The schedule is probably posted on their website.

It's free, volunteer prepared, vegetarian (so that persons with meat-related religious rules may partake), and open to anyone who shows up, period. Originally, if you wanted to meet the Guru and hear what he had to teach, you had to eat the Langar meal.

This meant everyone, princes and beggars, had to eat the free meal sitting on the floor together as equals. Only then would the Guru show up and teach. These days, it's more of an after-service lunch.

But if you know someone who is hungry, the kitchen is open to everyone. The Sikhs consider it part of their Seva.

-My faith tradition tells me that to have a 'tolerant' society is to demean society. If I say that I will tolerate you, I am demeaning you. If I say that I will accept you, I am still demeaning you. Now, if I was to say 'I will respect you,' that would be slightly better. But what if I said, 'I will lay down my life for you!'? You have to try and have that kind of spirit of sacrifice.

-Mohinder Singh, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Birmingham, UK, @ the 2004 Parliament of the World's Religions
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


scalefree, one of my best friends is a sikh ... but doesn't have the last name of singh. of course i've never seen him in a turban, either.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:01 PM on June 5, 2010


Mrph, somehow the wrong link got posted into my comment. This is the right one (which it looks like Sys Rq got in before me). There may be exceptions to the rule, but I believe they'd be exceedingly rare.
posted by scalefree at 12:40 AM on June 6, 2010


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