Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Sat Nam Readers!
If you like this button you can get it at
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I try to keep it positive. I try to keep it light and humourous. I try to keep it about Sikhi. But, I have a button that’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me and it’s easy to push. Sometimes I feel like it’s sitting right in the middle of my forehead for all to see and for some to take a poke at. It has an ugly name – discrimination. I pray one day that word and all its variants (racism, sexism, anti-Sikh) will fall from common usage in the various languages of the world because we have finally come to a place where it just hasn’t happened in centuries. So we forget what the word even means… But ladies and gentlemen, we are nowhere near that day. NOWHERE near it.
I apologize now for the rant / vent I’m about to go on but as Martin Luther King Jr., would tell us all “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Very smart, very good man was he. I miss his presence on our planet.
My name is Himmatpreet. It’s a powerful name – it means brave (“Himmat”) and lovely (“Preet”). I try to live up to both parts of the name but mostly I try to be brave and like MLK Jr., speak out about the things that matter, fight for what is right, and be a good Sikh.
So what happened to send me on this rant today? Two things. Well, okay, three things.
First, I was asked some time ago to officiate the wedding of a friend and her long-time partner, Earl. [NOTE: Earl’s name is changed to protect the innocent – i.e. his future bride]. We’ll call the friend Alice. Alice is a lovely lady. She’s all of 5′ tall, feisty and really soft-hearted though it takes awhile to know that about her. She works really hard and is good at her job. She’s also got a great sense of humour. We’ve been great friends since the moment we met a few years ago. I don’t know Earl – met him once briefly. In a few minutes, you will come to see why I have no interest in ever knowing Earl.
Alice came to me this morning with news that Earl did not want me to officiate their (non-religious, secular) wedding. She stumbled over her words a little bit and looked a little tense. I wondered what was going on but I stayed quiet and let Alice speak. It was clear there was something she needed to say… Then she said it. “He doesn’t want you to marry us because of your faith.” Smack. There it is. Right out there in the open. And all I could think in the moment was what a crappy situation Earl put Alice in, to make her be the one to come and tell me. She who asked me to officiate must now be the one to tell me that I’m not welcome because of my faith.
Let’s be real here. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m Sikh. It has nothing to do with my religious belief at all. They’re having a secular, non-religious ceremony. This is not an Anand Karaj (a Sikh wedding ceremony). They are having a non-religious Justice do the ceremony instead. It has everything to do with the fact that I keep my kesh and I wear my turban and kara. It has everything to do with the fact that I am a visible Sikh. That’s where the problem lies.
I could have done or said any number of things this morning to Alice. I could have said “Why are you marrying a jerk?” or “What is he afraid of? Is he worried I’ll shove my faith down anyone’s throat?” or “Wow, that’s cold.” or any other frustrated, passive-aggressive or snarky, childish comment I might have thought of. I could have become angry and even hostile. I could have walked away and said nothing at all. I could have tried to educate her but she’s already educated about my faith. But I didn’t. I looked at Alice and thought “I’m not going to be the reason that Earl spoils your wedding day.” and so I told her “That’s fine. You should have an officiant that you are both comfortable with.” It wasn’t Alice’s fault and the issue I have is with Earl, not Alice so why should she take the brunt of what I was thinking at that moment? Besides, she’s lovely, she’s always treated me well and I didn’t see a need to damage our friendship though that’s what’s happened anyway. It’s damaged. That’s what discrimination does – it damages people and it damages relationships.
She added, “maybe you can come and still take pictures for us”. Right. Man, that felt like a consolation prize. More likely it was Alice’s way of making the discrimination up to me somehow. “Sorry we’re being discriminatory because you’re so obviously Sikh but here’s a token for you.” No. Sorry Alice, that will not be happening. I would not feel comfortable knowing that Earl does not want me at his wedding and somehow I know that Earl would also not be comfortable and would probably end up taking that out on Alice. Besides, even if Earl thought this was appropriate, going and participating would send Earl just the wrong message – that what he did was okay, that we don’t have to talk about it, that it’s all good. And it’s not okay. My feelings aren’t hurt, I’m so much stronger than that but in 2014, in Canada, in a multicultural society, this is not okay.
And we do have to talk about it. A friend advised me to ignore it, which only succeeded in pressing the button for a second time. Pretending it’s okay or ignoring the bad behaviour doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t. Talking about it, forcing it out into the bright light of day is what makes it better. You simply cannot cure ignorance with silence. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about. Discrimination matters so we cannot be silent about it. Otherwise, we become cowards and the bad (or ignorant or dumb) guys win the right to define how life is going to be.
This might seem like a small problem, especially with what happens in the world today but it’s not. This type of thing builds up over time, if it is allowed to, and because the behaviour is never addressed, it becomes worse. The discrimination we face daily slowly grinds away at the targets of discrimination. It limits what we, as free and full citizens are permitted to do and participate in. It makes us think twice about participating in some things or going some places or doing some things because do we want to deal with the hassle today? Worse yet, are we risking being hurt? Are we risking our families and friends? The same is true for any group of people who are different everywhere and that is not okay either.
And that brings us to the third event. Coincidentally, while I thought of what to say to Alice and while I focused on being preet with her… (you see what I did there?)… I played with my smart phone, scrolling through my news feed. I follow a fellow Sikh named Avtar Singh from the Vancouver area. If you’re on Facebook, you can follow him at : http://www.facebook.com/avtar.singh.3954?fref=ts. I really like Avtar Singh Ji. He’s outspoken and speaks his mind on a variety of topics, usually involving Punjabi politics but also about other important issues to Sikhs. I don’t always agree with him but he is always up for a good debate. He’s also a major soccer fan so you know… win there!
Of course it was coincidence that he posted about a politician in Israel named Ayelet Shaked and her irresponsible, utterly horrifying, yet truly ironic Facebook post from June 30th. I marked it to read later because… well Alice.
I don’t know where to begin with the background on this. If you live in the West at all or in any of Israel or the Arab states, I’m sure you are familiar with the long standing conflict that is Israel and Palestine. I could not possible give the entire history of this complicated conflict in the space of this blog. That story could fill a dozen or more books the size of War and Peace (irony intended).
Needless to say, Ms. Shaked was not born when World War II and the Holocaust ended. She was not yet born when Israel was formed and she was not yet born when the Israel-Palestine conflict began. Yet, she is a large part of the problem there – the fierce hatred that some Israelis have for the Palestinians and vice-versa. This woman is the very example of hatred turned extremism that has reduced this century and the last into a series of never ending wars and never ending misery.
Here’s the post below. I won’t reproduce a link to it here because I don’t want this horrid woman to have any page clicks on my account but if you are really interested, you can find her public Facebook page very easily. The post is in Hebrew but a translation follows (thank you Google Translate and other articles which also copied and translated the Hebrew [I had to verify that the translations I read previously weren’t completely off base). I won’t reproduce links to the translations offered by the other side of this either, because those are also easy to find if you really are interested. The Google translation is not great but you get the gist of what this woman is saying.
This woman who is Jewish, holds a position of influence and authority, and clearly misunderstands the history of her country… copies a dead man’s work from more than a decade ago to justify a call for genocide and crimes against humanity against all Palestinians. All of them, not just the combatants in a seemingly never-ending conflict. All of them, holding mothers responsible for the behaviours of their sons. All of them, holding even neighbours responsible for one another. All of them including presumably given her post, children, elderly and infirm. All of them whether they are innocent by-standers stuck by fate of birth in a conflict zone or not, without distinguishing one from another. All of them without considering whether or not any had viable options or whether any of them ever threw so much as a stone. All of them, even those who are not yet old enough to hate or to even form words. All of the them. All of the people of Palestine. This is not war she is talking about, it is not counter-terrorism, this is genocide.
And the post below currently has nearly 5,000 likes. Though I’m also happy to see that others are at least commenting on the post to point out how problematic this woman’s advocated position is.
This is the other extreme, when ignorance combines with anger and stupidity to form a pure and evil hatred toward one another. All the more dangerous when spouted from the hateful lips of a person in authority. All the more dangerous because this is being tolerated in an atmosphere of near silence.
To find this story, the background to it, the responses to it and the translations that I read this afternoon, I had to dig fairly deep because virtually no-one is speaking out about this. There is no reporting going on. This is not being addressed by the majority of the global population who would never tolerate this if this was their backyard. It is horrifying to me that so many people – 5,000 and climbing – are liking this woman’s venomous post. Why? Because no-one is talking about this. No one is forcing this hatred out into the light. No one is examining the hate. So it’s allowed to breed and simmer and influence others without being challenged openly. And this is what is allowed to happen when ignorance goes unchecked.
I’m not picking a side in this conflict. Some people on both sides have been guilty of extreme hate, extreme measures, extreme violence and extreme cruelty. I’m taking a stand against hate. Period. What started it isn’t the issue, certainly not anymore. It’s become the excuse. Okay, so I’m picking the side of reason, love (even the enemy) and peace. That’s clearly the side that I’m on.
This is why, big or small, major or minor, public or private, we have to speak out. We (the good guys) outnumber the bad, yet we’re silent and we allow it to happen because it’s not happening in our back yard. It’s not happening to us. Wrong. It’s happening right in front of us and we have to have the courage to stand up and speak out. We have to be himmat. We have to be brave and united and for the love of all that is good in us, we have to speak out.
We also have to lead by example and examine and get rid of all the ways that we might discriminate and hate ourselves. We have to be equally willing to examine our own behaviours while we clearly address the behaviours of others. That is also himmat.
As Sikhs, we know the meaning of discrimination and we know the meaning of hatred. We have been living this in some way in all of our lives. Our Gurus have quite a bit to say about standing up and speaking out for the oppressed, for defending others. Sadly, we know as well as too many others, the pain and misery that follows.
Okay, end of rant. I’m going now to speak out some more and reset my rant button. And no worries – despite the title – I’ve not pulled a single hair. May you all be blessed and may at least some of you be blessed with the courage today to speak out even in a small way against hate and discrimination, whether it is for yourself or for someone you love or for a complete stranger.
Sat Nam Readers!
הסיכול לא יכול להיות ממוקד. ככה זה במלחמות. מה שממוקד לא מסכל ומה שמסכל לא ממוקד. לא אנחנו פתחנו במלחמה הניבזית הזאת ולא אנחנו יכולים לסיים אותה. המפתחות להפסקת אש בידיים של בני העם הפלשתיני. אנחנו יכולים רק לחרוך להם את האצבעות עד שירצו להשתמש בהם
Translation By Google Translate:
30 June at 23:59 ·
Article by Uri Elitzur late has been put away, written 12 years ago. Relevant today as it was then irrelevant:
“Palestinian people declared war on us, and we need to fight back.
No operation, no roll, and low intensity, and controlled escalation, and destruction of terrorist infrastructure, and targeted prevention. Vague enough to make up nicknames. This is war. Words have meaning. This is war. And the war on terror, not a war against extremists, not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. Both forms of evading reality. This is a war between the two nations. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask him, he began.
I do not know why so difficult for us to define reality in the simplest words the language provided us. Why should invent a new name every two weeks this war, only not call her name. What’s so shocking understanding the entire Palestinian people is the enemy. Every war between the two nations, and in every war, people started the war, as a whole, is the enemy. Declaration of war is not a war crime. Certainly not the Sabbath of war. Rather than using the word “war”, and a clear definition of the enemy. On the contrary. Morality of war (and there is such a thing) is based on the assumption that the world wars, and war is not a normal condition, and wars enemy is usually a whole, the elders and wives, their cities and villages, property and infrastructure.
And the morality of war know you can not harm the citizens of the enemy. He did not condemn the RAF bombed and completely destroyed the Dresden German and U.S. jets destroyed the cities of Poland and destroyed half of Budapest, places where residents miserable never done bad for America, but had to destroy them to win the war against evil. Morality of war No calls to prosecute the Russian blasting and destroying towns and neighborhoods in Chechnya. he denounced the UN peacekeeping forces for the killing of hundreds of civilians in Angola, not NATO force bombed Milosevic’s Belgrade city million citizens, the elderly and infants of women and children. morality of war gets correct in principle, not just politically, what America did in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of human settlements, including the creation of the movement of refugees of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from the war, and thousands of them left home to return to.
And our war it is doubly true that the enemy soldiers hiding in the population only because of the support they can fight. Behind every terrorist there are dozens of men and women, without which he could not rope. Participants inciting hostilities mosques, curriculum writers murderous, shelter providers, automotive suppliers, and ITS honor and moral support. All the enemy fighters and all the blood in the head. Now it also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They need to follow their sons, nothing is right that. They need to go, and physical home where they raised their snake. Otherwise grow other small snakes.
But this week there are celebrations and respect in both houses of the two despicable murderers. I guess there opened mourning tents, and all the dignitaries of the city come to honor the mother and father who raised the devil. Both of these homes need to bomb from the air, to destroy and to kill. And should inform that this is done here on every home of every martyr. There is nothing right hand, and probably not even anything useful from it. Hamlet should know that he takes with him his parents and his house and some neighbors. All Om – Jihad heroine sends her son into hell needs to know that she was going with him. Along with the house and everything in it.
Counterterrorism can not be targeted. It’s a war. What focus does not thwart what frustrates unfocused. No snide We started the war that we can not finish it. Keys for a ceasefire in the hands of the Palestinian people. We can only singe their fingers until they want to use them