Sikhs in Singapore have benefited from the country's prosperity by participating in its early days of development, a prominent Sikh leader said here on Sunday.
"Sikhs in Singapore have been accepted in the multi-racial community very well for we have been part of Singapore's development from the early days," said Gurcharan Singh Kesail, president of the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB).
Comparatively, Sikh diaspora have been fighting for their identity elsewhere in the world, especially the US and France, having had to face issues with turbans, he pointed out. "But we have been fortunate in Singapore, where Sikhs have served in full uniforms with turbans. There has never been an issue with a Sikh in Singapore," Kesail told PTI after concluding a two-day conference on 'Sikhi in a Contemporary Society'.
But today, the Singapore Sikh community faces the challenge of maintaining its identity in metropolitan Singapore, given the changing life-style environment.
"The conference's main objective is to provide a meaningful platform for the brightest minds in our community to gather and discuss the wisdom of Guru Granth Sahib and, more importantly, how it can be applied to our daily lives with family, community and society such that we can live a more meaningful and engaged lives," said Kesail.
The first Sikh to set foot in Singapore was Bhai Maharaj Singh, who was captured by the British as a revolutionary in December 1849 and jailed in the then colonial-ruled island in July 1850.
Sikhs then became early economic migrants from Punjab to Singapore, which was then being developed by the British rulers as a port in South East Asia.
"Sikhs have since been part of the Singapore community and have prospered in businesses, serving the state in various capacities, including the civil service, police and armed forces, in their full Sikh attire with turbans."
Kesail said the inaugural conference, held on August 22 and 23, stressed on the importance of the Sikh life, family and community in the multi-racial Singapore community.
The biennial conference was jointly held by the CSGB and the Singapore Management University's SMU Sikhs Inc, a student body.
There are about 14,000 Sikhs in Singapore, mostly second- and third-generation Sikhs, with seven temples, a missionary society, a welfare society and two sports clubs.