It seems to many that Sikhs in politics is a brand new development a product of the 21st century, with our recent migration to the west. I frankly disagree with that assessment. We are Sikhs, to the word Sikh means to learn, and only the way to learn is to question, to question those in power and their beliefs is very a political act. Sikhism from its very foundation with Guru Nanak in questioned the logic of the caste system when in his eyes all humans were the same, the idea that women are equal and that money should be earned honestly or not at all, ideas radical then and in many ways still are now. These challenges to power formalized after the execution of the Fifth Guru Arjan, his son Guru Hargobind set aside the seli topi (caps of holy men) asked for a sword i and the kalgi of a king instead. He was given one but it was put on the wrong side, so he asked for another as well. Those two swords would represent Miri and Piri, the need to be powerful in the spiritual world so as to know injustice, and the physical world so as to have the means to actively oppose it. With that Sikhism challenged the might of the Mughal empire and opposed the religious intolerance of it. Time and time again our faith challenged those that sought to oppress whether they were the Afghan kings or the British empire. To say being political is in conflict with our beliefs would ignore that long history of active opposition to injustice and oppression. No, to be political is a consequence of who we are, where we come from and what we believe.
So today is the day of Diwali, a day of celebration marked millions of Hindus and Sikhs worldwide. While it is widely known for themes of family get together’s, going to religious and the setting off fireworks. Sikhs however we should not neglect the history behind it. For today marks the day marks the release from prison, the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind. He was wrongfully imprisoned by the Intolerant Mughal empire of India, along with him were 52 innocent Rajahs. Eventually the Emperor had a change of heart and allowed that the Guru be released. The Guru refused unless others were freed as well, the emperor conceded saying that however many Rajahs could hold his coat could leave with him, in the knowledge that this would limit them to a few. The Guru instead had a special cloak woven with 52 corners, and proceeded to lead all 52 Rajahs out of the prison to freedom. I believe in that spirit of freedom and opposition to tyranny and injustice is what Diwali should be about. Such an act was necessary then as it now for tyranny and injustice still continue to this very day, as is the need to stand against it. So instead of people spending money on sweets which are not only bad for health as Punjabi community continues to struggle with diabetes and heart disease, I propose that we ought to use that money and donate Amnesty International. an organization that’s symbol is a lit candle an organization whose motto is “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” not unlike the purpose of the lit divas of our faith, but most importantly it is a group that perpetuates the fight for the rights of the wrongly imprisoned, stand opposed to injustices that our fellow human beings continue to face. Its good that we celebrate the greats deeds of our storied past, rather than merely celebrate we ought to be a reflection of that in our present, and build upon that foundation laid so long ago rather than merely admire it.
Ever since Quebec Charter of Values was thing a while ago. There has been a lot of backlash against religious accommodations for people. A select few people have been complaining that minorities are trying to change this country are “intolerant of us canadians”. Obviously those voices are quickly shut up, and labelled racist. What a lot of people instead adopt instead is the position of oh “Religion has no place in schools and the work place.” I call bullshit on this statement. It fails to convey the racist connotations, but many things as well. Take for the fact why isn’t school and a lot of workplaces open on Saturdays or Sundays. While many would argue that oh we need at least a couple days off of the week. Personally I don’t disagree with that. My problem is the days, in that they fall on Saturday which is shabbat for followers of Judaism and Sunday which is Sabbath for the followers of Christ. Now do I have a problem with that either no. No what I have a problem is the failure of many to recognize that many of society institutions are already religiously accommodating for judeo-christian beliefs. But they are designed so at a time when there wasn’t as much diversity in this country, and it was done subconsciously. There was no religious accomodation back then, the structures were designed around them. Now do we need to declare several new years holidays for various cultures such as chinese people, vaisakhi for sikhs or nowruz for persians? and declare any celebration by any culture or religion a public holiday? No while it would be nice, we wouldn’t get anything done. All that I am asking is people ought to be more tolerant to other groups, especially when they are simply asking for the same things others already have granted to them.
In the darkest hours of tyranny and oppression, to merely think becomes an act of rebellion.