The Sikhs know what it means. In the post 9/11 phase, they went through a series of attacks and suddenly found that people in America, Europe and many other places had no idea of who they are, and many in fact confuse them with the Arabs.
We have seen Sikhs and Sikh organizations in many parts of the world working overtime to stress their identity, to stress their patriotism, to loudly hail themselves for their love for America, to proclaim in the town square how they are as Scottish as any Scot and as English as any Britisher. Read in this edition of the WSN the write up by Hardip Singh Kohli for instance.We say this in connection with the recent cricket fever in the sub-continent. The Pakistani cricket captain, Shoaib Malik, after losing the T20 final to India “apologized to the Muslims of the world for losing”. It was a stupid thing to say perhaps, but the way the Indian Muslims went into an overdrive to stress that they did not associate themselves with Shoaib’s comments was pathetic. Why should a whole big community rush to prove its bonafides the moment one of them makes a comment not very politically correct?
God forbid the day any Sikh is found associating with the Al Qaeda, or any Al Qaeda is found in possession of any book related to the Sikhs. We can’t even fathom the depths to which the detractors of the Sikhs will plunge to blame the community, but more than that, we can’t even guess the shrillness with which the brave community will rush to prove that terrorism is not its policy and that Sarbat Da Bhala was the motto it lived by.
Indian Muslims leap up and talk about what a twit Shoaib was to have said that. Did you notice the flurry of articles by eminent Muslims saying the Indian reality was different and that they associated more with the men in Blue than the ones who wear green? Shoaib’s statement was a gaffe, a reflection of the stance of the Pakistani mind set, but where was the dire need for Indian Muslims to distance themselves from the remark?
All talk about the common educational system, common politics, and, most of all, common problems in an open society that pledges equality for all vanishes the moment Shoaib utters the words. All Muslims are expected to jump up and underline their patriotism again, just as Sikhs are expected to re-state their American-ness or their English-ness or whateverelse-ness at every gurpurab, every American, British, or whateverelse-national holiday.
In the new global world, the Sikhs will have to carve out a clear defined space of their own. A strong identity. Muslim communalists in India have delighted in the alienation in some pockets and tried to capitalize on it. The fact that terror in India has historically been perpetrated by groups of all descriptions was sought to be subsumed in one overweening pattern — all the easier for security agencies to fix blame. This has, in turn, led to a sense of defensiveness among many Indian Muslims — and the nationalist noises that greeted Shoaib’s statement are of a piece with that mindset. The Sikhs must learn from this.
Sikhism is not fixed to any geographical construct. A Sikh in America can feel as American as anyone next door. Ditto for every other land. But the mindspace of the community dedicated to the spirit of the Khalsa should give it more confidence about its own self. Rushing to prove one’s credentials may not be part of the solution; it may even be adding to the problem. May be the community should pore over this aspect.