391.Is my Sister equal to me ?

My answer to this question, whether I look at it from my Dutch or my Sikh perspective, is a resounding YES ! From a sub-continental point of view the question is more challenging. The two main religions or dharms on the sub-continent have a rich tradition of treating women as second class, as creatures to be ruled by men.

Sikhí is firmly based on the unity of mankind, but I have seen inequality being practised by Sikhs in Panjab and to a lesser degree here in the UK. I also find that English society is less equal in many respects than what I am used to in the Netherlands. This does not mean that they get everything right in my country of origin !

Guru’s teachings are wonderful. It is obvious from Gurbaní that Guru sees all creation, all creatures as coming from God, and that therefore we should respect all creation. Judging by Gurbaní Sikhs are way ahead of Panjabi, western, Hindu or Ibrahimic ‘teachings’.

The other day I went to two interfaith meetings. At the first meeting I met a female Anglican priest, who was treated by her two male colleagues as an absolute equal. That same day in another meeting I met a female vicar of the United Reformed Church. Both ladies were better educated than the majority of our granthis and were very comfortable in the company of people of other faiths.

A few years ago I attended a meeting regarding the Muslim school in Slough. The committee that was to decide on the school could not come to a decision and the case for a Muslim school was brought before an adjudicator.

The hall was full, partly with the Muslim variety of our greybeards, but there was a good presence of young Muslim women, many of them in hijáb. The men did what South Asian men are good at, they disagreed and launched personal attacks on each other.

The young Muslim women spoke good English, and formulated their contributions well. If it had not been for them the case of the Slough Islamic School might have been lost.

I am not saying that all Muslims and Christians are right and all Sikhs are wrong. In Sikhí we are on firm ground when we speak out for ‘One God, One Humanity’. But I am disappointed when I see that we are overtaken by Christians, Jews and Muslims when it comes to practising equality.

Please let us concentrate on getting our own house in order and let us practice equality between men and women, between all !

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 6:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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389.The Man in Blue – Moral politicians, Moral us ?

I am not impressed by the present hysteria around MP’s expenses. If you have lived in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh you know what corruption is really like. What our MPs have been up to is ‘peanuts’ compared with sub-continental practices.

Our MPs keep saying that what they did was within the law and approved by the relevant authorities. Apart from some MPs who really stretched the interpretation of the rules to the very limit, this seems to be true.

Mind you, changing the status of your first residence to second residence for financial gain and selling properties that have been bought with financial support of the taxpayers and pocketing the profits sounds like fraud.

The real problem is not that most of our MPs are particularly bad, but that they are a reflection of our society where ‘making money’ is the number one value and where many people think that they have a right to extraordinary large slices of the cake, because of the position they have in society.

People are not encouraged to judge on ethical grounds, but on ‘what you can get away with’, more or less within the rules.

Does an MP need a huge income ? Does an MP have to be on an equal footing with a captain of industry ? Do top bureaucrats need to earn £ 100.000 a year or more ? Are even our local councillors not overpaid ?

Many of us could easily do with less, fewer earthly goods, simpler food, simpler clothing. Urban poor often live on fast food and claim they cannot afford fresh food. But rice or roti with simple mixed vegetables is cheaper and healthier than the frozen or tinned foods from the supermarket !

We should all, in business, in politics, in government jobs or whatever look at the ethical side of our life first and foremost. Is it justified to earn 50.000 or more while people who do ‘simple’ but essential jobs like cleaning do not even get half of it ? Is it really justified claiming certain expenses, would you not have bought these things anyway, business trip or not ?

Imagine that you were to meet with any of our Gurus, could you look him straight into the eyes explaining your lifestyle, the unnecessary things that you spend your money on, the time and energy wasted on acquiring Maya ?

Our MPs would be happier with less, we all would be happier with less. Spending less, living a simpler life will make us richer than any millionaire, and will cure the ills western and eastern societies suffer from. Not just living for ‘me, me, me’ but sharing with others is the profitable way of life.

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 6:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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388.The Man in Blue – Have you been liberated ?

This question is very relevant for Sikhs. In our view God is not the saviour, but the liberator. There are two ways in which we are looking for liberation. The first one is God who liberates us from the cycle of births and deaths and joins us with Him/Herself.

Secondly there are the important freedoms that Guru Gobind Singh offered us. Most of us refuse the gift of Kul Nash, we prefer to be bound by caste, race, clan and heritage.

I was born in the Netherlands, and I lived there for about 47 of my 62 years. Obviously this is an important part of who I am. But I should not accept all things Dutch as good and everything ‘un-Dutch’ as bad.

I used to attach too much importance to the family that my father came from, but I now realise that there is both good and bad in my family. I grew up in the sixties and believed in sexual liberation and used to drink alcohol and smoke ‘pot’. Befuddling your mind with drink and drugs is obviously not part of the Guru’s path, but the equality of Dutch society, without caste and with less class consciousness than in the UK does fit into Sikhí.

I lived in Panjab for four years from 1996 till 2000 and have been in West London since then. When I lived in Panjab all my values were challenged, both by the Panjabi culture and by Guru’s teachings.

I have accepted the Guru’s teachings, although I am in no way perfect at living the Sikh way of life. But there are two ‘issues’ that come from the Panjabi heritage of many of my fellow Sikhs with which I struggle.

My Dutch culture emphasises equality, the Sikh Guru agrees with that but most people who I met in Panjab did not even know what being equal means. Even in the UK many Sikhs struggle to accept that all are equal, including women, young people and those with darker skins.

My other ‘issue’ is around sexuality. I am perfectly comfortable with the idea of ethical and honest sexual behaviour. I am a married man, and I do not want to have ‘adventures’ with other women. I have good female friends, but I am loyal and faithful to my wife.

Since we stopped thinking that a woman’s role is only to satisfy men’s desires, sexual relations have become more complicated but potentially much more rewarding. I would like to discuss sexuality, including homosexuality, without running into a concrete wall of pre-conceived ideas. Friendship with women and discussions about sexuality are not understood by many Sikhs. They are the prisoners of their heritage and do not understand that trying to come to a better understanding is not un-Sikh.

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 6:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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