Has the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandik Committee (SGPC) created sufficient awareness about Sikh identity and Sikh religion worldwide, to prevent members of the community from becoming victims of 'hate crime' , particularly after the 9/11 terror strikes in the United States (US)?
Both feel that adequate steps are being taken to confront the identity crisis and explain to the western world about the distinct identity of the Sikhs and their religious symbols, including the shape and style of their head gears or turbans or 'patkas' in the case of children.
Akal Takht Jathedar calls for intensive preaching
Expressing concern over the recent attack on Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor at the Columbia University in the United States (US), who was called a 'terrorist' and 'Osama' by his attackers, Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh gave a call to the Sikhs to intensify preaching of Sikhism, with particular emphases on 'distinct identity'. This, he felt, needs to be done not only in all states of India but in other nations also, particularly in countries like the US, Canada, England, which have a fairly large Sikh population.
"Sikhs in the US, Canada and other countries need to move out of gurdwaras and start preaching Sikhism as it was and as it still exists. The need of the hour is to tell the people in other countries about the differences between Sikhs and members of other communities, particularly those who too support head gears", the Jathedar said while talking to the media here on Wednesday.
Even though his advice to Sikhs was to move out of gurdwaras, he refused to acknowledge that religious propagation and preaching in western nations had remained confined to within the four walls of shrines. In countries like Canada, England and the US, disputes have often interrupted over the control of gurdwaras, which had hampered preaching activities outside shrines.
The Jathedar said that Sikhs who are citizens of US or Canada or of any other nation have a greater role to play in the preaching mechanism. Sikhs with a good command of English or any other foreign language should go out and explain about the religion to the 'goras', he added.
"Sikhs should contact universities and educational institutions to spread the message of Sikh identity. Seminars and awareness drives are needed", he added while also calling upon Sikh NGOs and intellectual groups abroad to play their roles to hammer home the 'identity crisis' issue.
He also called upon the SGPC to establish centres worldwide to impart knowledge of the religion. He said that already a step in this direction had been taken.
The Jathedar also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take up cases of 'hate crime' against Sikhs during his forthcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama. He said that as a Sikh it was his duty to do so.
SGPC chief attacks Manpreet Badal
Patting the SGPC for having taken concrete measures to step-up awareness to explain the separate identity of Sikhs, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar chose to warn Sikhs not to be misled by 'political exiles' like Manpreet Singh Badal, the Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) chief.
" Beware of people like Manpreet Badal, who due to their failures are now trying to give a political angle by holding the SGPC responsible for incidents of 'hate crime' against Sikhs in the US", said Makkar in a statement issued here on Wednesday.
The PPP chief in his reaction to the latest case of 'hate crime' in the US had claimed that the SGPC had not done enough to explain to the world about the distinct identity of the Sikhs and about their religious symbols. In his opinion, the SGPC still needs to do a lot of homework to strengthen its preaching network.
Makkar said, " Whenever the need arises, the SGPC has come forth to intensify its awareness campaign about Sikhism", he said, while pointing out that they were opening a Global Sikh Centre for Learning and Information at Yuba City of California where besides preaching Sikhism, knowledge will also be imparted on the separate and distinct identity of the community members.
Instead of accepting shortcomings on the preaching front, which normally exist in any religion of the world, Makkar chose to question Manpreet, asking, "You remained a minister. What did you do towards contributing for Sikhism or propagating the religion in other nations, where you travelled"?