I have been reading about the history of Sikhs in the UK. All the books I read so far are weak in their sections on Sikhí, but it is fascinating to read about the individual Sikhs and Sikhs as a community who settled in the UK, and about how they became established in this country.
Some of these books divide us into ‘modern/reforming’ Sikhs and ‘old fashioned/orthodox/conservative’ Sikhs. I do not recognise any value in being either ‘modern’ or ‘old fashioned’. Something that was thought of thousands of years ago is not necessarily bad, something thought of yesterday is not necessarily good.
Our Gurus were reformers, and ‘orthodox’ Sikhs should all be reformers. Our Gurus were not conservatives and Sikhs should not be conservatives. The Gurus were on the side of the poor, the dalits and women. Many ‘modern’ Sikhs in the UK and Panjab are arch-conservatives and are not at all interested in people who are less well off, less powerful than them.
The teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib are progressive. The teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib are for everybody, regardless of their skin colour, gender, faith, nationality or whatever. Prejudice against people from other countries or from other Indian states, prejudice against those with darker skins, those from different caste or creeds just is not part of Sikhí.
The umpteenth debate about wearing the 5 Ks is raging on the internet. In this debate there is always an undertone suggesting that people without the 5 Ks, and especially those without ‘unshorn’ hair are lesser human beings. This is not supported by Gurmat.
The Sikh way of life recognises the 5 Ks (and the turban) as powerful signs of the commitment to Guru’s teachings. The kirpan does not mean that we are a ‘martial race’, it powerfully represents the struggle against injustice, the defence of the oppressed. Today we should fight the xenophobia of the BNP and UKIP in the UK and the xenophobia of the Dal Khalsa in Panjab.
When I was young long hair was ‘modern’, now short hair is ‘modern’. As a Sikh my long hair has nothing to do with being modern or old-fashioned. My long hair is linked with my serious attempts to stay on Guru’s path. But Guru will not judge me on the length of my hair or of my kacchera or on the size of my kirpan or my dastar. I hope that God will judge me on my serious efforts and not on my meagre achievements.
Let us be Sikhs who believe in One God and One Humanity, in Simran and Seva. Let us live the Sikh way of life, the way of Love. Let us live like Sikhs and look like Sikhs, let us be proud to be Sikhs, Singhs and Singhanís, who wear the Guru’s uniform, the 5 Ks and the dastar !