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Houston, YOU Have A Problem:
A Sequel To "Where Are We Heading"

EDITORIAL

 

 

Last Friday, we published an article titled "Where Are We Heading", by Charanpal Singh. It has received a large number of responses from across the diaspora, and given rise to an energetic dialogue. Within two days, we had posted 35 comments, while an equal number were rejected because they did not meet our criteria of a healthy and productive dialogue. Thereafter, we closed the COMMENT section on that particular article after determining that the readers seemed to have exhausted the things they had to say on the topic.

Among the numerous missives we received from our readers, there was one from which I wish to offer here a few key extracts:

... I've admired the work of sikhchic since its inception. And although I disagree with many (perhaps most) of the arguments presented, I do appreciate good writing - and that is largely a credit to you. Even the articles that make me a bit uncomfortable often lead to useful discussion, perhaps that is due to your decision of reviewing the comments ...

I found this particular article to be poorly written ... it is loaded with broad generalizations, illogical arguments, and in the end - nothing productive to offer ...

I'm all for free speech and people sharing their opinions, no matter how absurd they might be ...

What made this article get a free pass?  And if it was edited, I must ask,  what are the editing standards and conventions you apply to articles, and perhaps a broader question ... what is the objective of Sikhchic?  ...

I feel strongly about what I've said above.  But as someone who has admired your work for some time, I have to ask ... what gives? 

 

I WISH TO SHARE WITH YOU, OUR READERS, OUR REPLY, WHICH IS AS FOLLOWS. [Editor] 

 

 

I appreciate your words - including the criticism. It is the forthrightness that makes it precious.

Let me try and answer your questions:

I generally like The New York Times very much and gravitate to it not only every day but several times a day. I like its editing policy, I like their style of editing, I like their choice of opinion pieces, I like the direction it takes in its placement of stories, etc., etc.

However, not infrequently, I come across a news story, or an article, an editorial or an opinion piece with which I completely disagree. I wonder where it came from, or why it is on those pages I admire so much, etc.

But I take it in my stride. If I find I feel very strongly about it, I write about it and thus canvass and explore my own thoughts on the subject.

But I never conclude that the sky is falling, that the journal or the editor has let me down, or that the newspaper is now "going to the dogs."

Why? Because, I'm very conscious of the fact that maybe, just maybe - despite my strong reaction to it - it is I who may be wrong. Or maybe there is some learning for ME to do - even if I'm in the right and the author of the article wrong.

Now, back to the "Where We Are Heading" piece.

The strong and numerous responses received from all points of the spectrum, including the extremes, I believe confirms that we were right in publishing the story. We at sikhchic.com do NOT have a position on this topic, but we are committed to encouraging and facilitating a healthy dialogue on even difficult issues - especially when those issues are foremost in the community's radar but our institutions and other media outlets shy away from them or prefer to go the way of complete denial.

The article was not the best-written we've had, but it met our standards. So, we published it. We have published much worse pieces, and take no pride in acknowledging this. But do take credit for fostering a healthy forum for debate by insisting that the participants remain focused, brief, polite, civilized, respectful, rational, etc.

Why then did we close the comments section after 35 of them had already been posted?

Because it became apparent to us that someone was orchestrating an inappropriate style of response to the piece. Several dozen comments were received by us which would not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered healthy - on the part of those writing them, that is.

Let me give you a sample, reproduced here verbatim - and there are dozens of this ilk :

YOU UGLY SLUT HERETIC WOMEN !!! YOU UGLY HERETIC DOGS !!! HERETICS LIKE IJ AND T.SHER ARE PUSSIES INFRONT OF THE SLAVE OWNERS AND LIONS TO INSULT THE KHALSA !!! YOU ARE CONFIDENT BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE BACKING OF GOI AND MILLIONS OF HERETIC SLUTS AND HERETICS !!! YOU TIE YOUR BEARDS IN FRONT OF THE SLAVE OWNERS LIKE DOGS WHO PUT THEIR TAILS IN BETWEEN THEIR LEGS AND YOU WEAR THE UNIFORM OF THOSE WHO WIPED OUT ALL NATIVES !!! YOU ARE THE HERETIC SLAVES !!! YOU ACT LIKE LIONS IN FRONT OF AND CHALLENGE THE KHALSA !!! WELL NOW LET THE WAR BEGIN !!! YOU HAVE MILLIONS !!! I WILL MYSELF TAKE ON 125,000 OF YOU (NOT VIOLENTLY!) !!! JUST WAITING FOR THE TIME !!! THE TIME IS COMING !!! BOLEH SO NIHAAAAAAL SAT SREEEEEE AKAAAAAAAAL !!! HERETICS VS SIKHS !!! THIS WAR IS LONG OVER DUE !!! IM GETTING ANXIOUS !!! LOVE IT !!!!! WHOEVER GUROO LOVES MORE WILL WIN !!!!!  I HAVE REALIZED ONE THING !!! HERETICS ARE FOR LIFE !!! THEY CAN GO DORMANT FOR A WHILE AND ATTACK FROM BEHIND THE SCENES !!! AND ONCE THEY ARE POWERFUL AGAIN THEY COME OUT AND ATTACK AGAIN !!! ONCE AND FOR ALL !!! THE HERETICS HAVE TO BE ADDRESSED !!! NEVER TRUST THE HERETICS IS THE TRUE MANTRA !!! TRUE KHALSA WILL RISE AND RULE !!!!! WHO EVER GUROO LOVES MORE WILL WIN !!!!! CHARDHI KALA !!!      

I should also add that all of these writers claim that they are amritdhari Khalsa and express support for the very things that Charanpal Singh was raising concerns against.

None of such missives were received from those supporting Charanpal's position.

I would say, standing at my unique perspective,  that not only do we have a problem in our community, but some of it may - just may - lie in the very same issues raised by Charanpal Singh.

I have not yet shared any of the above with anybody in the community (except the authorities), but am willingly doing it with you because you have the decency to raise your concerns in a forthright manner, and because I know you have a good head on your shoulders.

I do plan to write about it in sikhchic.com shortly, but I'm waiting to collect all of my thoughts.

My final point: any practice that gives rise to such behaviour either to this degree and intensity or in its inherent nature, needs to be examined very, very carefully. I feel embarrassed to say that sikhchic.com is, so far, the only one I know that has been willing to give a platform to those who have the courage to start the dialogue. That does not bode well for us. If you can help further the dialogue, all power to you.

Thanks once again for being willing to talk about it.

 

April 10, 2011

 

Conversation about this article

1: I.J. Singh (New York, USA), April 10, 2011, 8:22 AM.

Since I, too, have been dragged in by the correspondent whose comments appear capitalized in the editorial comment above, some response is necessary. I believe that it is in dialogue and discussion that we define our goals, sharpen our focus and hone our skills. And sikhchic.com aims to foster conversation. As Guru Granth tells us: "Jab lug dinaiya rehaiye Nanak kichh suniyae kichh kahiyae." That's the method, the modus operandi. It is the tension and friction of competing ideas that refines the unpolished ore of our opinions in the free marketplace of ideas. The discussion on the original article was closed because no new ideas were coming in, and the demeanor was getting heated. Such matters will continue to emerge and they should have a place, not necessarily agreement or the opposite. I, personally, often receive an angry response that may seem entirely pointless to me but I welcome it because it indicates that the person took the trouble to read what was written. I wish that instead of getting incoherently angry, his feelings would move him to greater introspection and a more logically framed and pursued conversation so that we all learn - that includes readers and us, both. Personal innuendo and abuse have no place. Every issue that comes up needs and deserves a place where the community can join the conversation. Sometimes the editorial responsibility is a crown of thorns. Are our policies perfect? - absolutely not. It is like the Vietnam War or racial issues, etc., or the debate over immigration. There were and are angry voices and strident ones; there are also voices of reason. So I would request that those who have a strong point-of-view write a column putting things in perspective from their point of view. I am sure sikhchic.com would post it. Discussion on it will close only if it veers off the track. We can either bury issues or face them head on. But we need to be fair and open to both sides. Individual readers and writers on sikhchic will have opinions of all shades but the site should not be taking an official position. Just like the editors of The New York Times - they have opinions but they publish all shades of opinion - everything that's fit to print deserves to be printed.

2: JagJeevan Singh  (California, U.S.A.), April 10, 2011, 9:04 AM.

I find the misbehavior of these fake Khalsa and amritdhari posers appalling, to say the least. They have clinched the argument for Charanpal Singh with their hyperbole, their false bravado and their hollow and macho freak-outs. There is a lesson to be learned here for WSO and our community activists and representatives. Mere blind faith and reliance on the substance and moral righteousness of your arguments is not enough, if you have neglected or been careless with your presentation in some form or the other. That is exactly what Charanpal Singh was trying to say, and some of you missed completely when you instinctively started beating your breasts in insane frenzy. Turn to gurbani for the answers, if you will: there's no point in putting together the most sumptuous of feasts, if the dishes you serve in are soiled. Appearance is not all, but it must be given as much attention as substance, if we are to get anywhere.

3: Bibek Singh (Jersey City, USA), April 10, 2011, 10:30 AM.

I am highly disturbed after reading the capitalized comment by one of my brothers/sisters. It is completely unacceptable and uncalled for. Even to Aurangzeb, his bitter enemy, Guru Gobind Singh reminds how he and his men had broken their oaths taken on the holy Koran in a professional and polite manner. We all need to learn from it.

4: Balwinder Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), April 10, 2011, 11:32 AM.

I think, as with anything, you are going to have to take the good with the bad. Nothing is perfect and free speech would not be what it is without both "good" and "bad" journalism. The upside is that this opens up discussion, which is what is sorely needed in the community. Not the emotional, fighting type discussion but the thought-provoking, calm and intellectual back-and-forth which some of these articles have put forth. We are not always going to agree with the authors, or even those who publish this website, but that is our individual prerogative. I urge the community to put forth a dignified and educated response to the articles so that we can better explore the issues. A healthy discourse is much needed, and certain comments do not need to be posted but I also hope that through this editorial process a selective view is not displayed.

5: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), April 10, 2011, 3:05 PM.

The guy who wrote this in capital letters truly needs to be on medication. Furthermore, it was hilarious to read how he considers his appeal as non-violent.

6: Editor (sikhchic), April 10, 2011, 4:26 PM.

Balwinder ji: If you will please re-visit the comments against the article, "Where Are We Heading" - as any other one on the site - you'll see that "both" sides of the argument have had ample chance to air their positions. We take great care in not imposing a pre-judgement, but instead, allowing a full, open and healthy debate. However, when a commentator loses focus; gets repetitive or repeats an argument already presented; becomes rude, discourteous or overly excited and emotional; rambles on or ceases to be rational or articulate; etc., the comment is edited where possible - to the best of our ability, given what material we are given to work with - or left out completely. However, we simply do not have the manpower to offer answers to queries over why certain editing was made or why certain comments were not published, or get into any dialogue over the whys and wherefores. We request commentators to be aware of these parameters BEFORE they begin working the keyboard. Also, we encourage our readers to re-visit our earlier editorials (to be found under COLUMNISTS - EDITOR's PAGE) to canvass our editorial policies and our raison d'etre.

7: Izhaarbir Singh ( Houston, Texas, U.S.A.), April 10, 2011, 4:51 PM.

"Cursed are the lives of those who read and write the Lord's Name to sell it./ Their crop is devastated - what harvest will they have?/ Lacking truth and humility, they shall not be appreciated in the world hereafter./ Wisdom which leads to arguments is not called wisdom./ Wisdom leads us to serve our Lord and Master; through wisdom, honor is obtained./ Wisdom does not come by reading textbooks; wisdom inspires us to give in charity./ Says Nanak, this is the Path; other things lead to Satan." [Guru Nanak, GGS:1245]

8: Ravinder Singh (U.S.A.), April 10, 2011, 6:29 PM.

How far do you go with opinionated articles and whose articles do you allow to be published? If you're allowing opinions (as a leading Sikh website) you need to be much clearer about why you've allowed any particular opinion to be posted on the site. Let me ask, can I post my opinion? [Editor: We welcome articles which, even though they may have lop-sided opinions, are logically argued, sincerely presented and give rise to a conversation and dialogue. We are always open to articles from any one - Sikh or non-Sikh - as long as it meets our standards. Please go through our earlier editorials (under COLUMNISTS - EDITOR'S PAGE) for enunciation of our parameters. I should add that on the issue raised in "Where Are We Heading", we have yet to receive a calm, well-thought out, articulate, rational response to the concerns raised by Charanpal Singh. Merely saying that he is being "divisive" or "rude", etc., or lashing out against him in anger, conveys nothing, other than that one disagrees with him. You want to try your hand at putting together something? If it meets the standards, we WILL publish it. A suggestion to those who wish to try: try focusing on the issue and explain your view point. Tell us why you think dressing up like a Nihang - partly or completely - does not take away from one's ability to advocate a cause which is steeped in issues of modernity. And please do not make the grievous error of assuming that not dressing up in a 'bana' translates into not being an amritdhari or a Khalsa or a solid Sikh. Focus. Focus. Focus. Hope these pointers will help!]

9: Jasdeep Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada ), April 10, 2011, 8:00 PM.

I have been a reader of this website for the past several years now. I was busy for the past few days and didn't see the article written by Charanpal Singh until today, after the comments section was closed. That said, I do agree there was sufficient amount of discussion on it from both sides. I do want to address the point brought up here though about the behaviour of one misguided and disturbed individual. Someone wrote above that it's this type of behaviour that validates what Charanpal Singh has said in his article. This is an assertion which is completely devoid of any logic. The hateful and immature comments made against this website and individuals was made by certain individuals. It was those persons' lack of emotional intelligence that lead them to send such messages. It was NOT his/her nihang bana. People making stupid comments or conducting themselves in a less than honourable fashion come in every shape, size, colour, creed, and fashion style. Personally, I enjoy reading sikhchic.com because the articles are usually quite provocative but also touch on issues that go deeper. Articles on what one should wear or not wear are the reasons why I stopped reading other Sikh sites.

10: Harpreet (Bareilly - Shillong, India), April 10, 2011, 9:05 PM.

I get concerned when I see articles in your pages which talk about un-Sikhi practices. For example, the article, "Roots" - http://sikhchic.com/faith/roots - where the writer shows no remorse for trimming her eyebrows. Don't you think a young Sikh girl who is in a dilemma over trimming her eyebrows, once she reads this article, she will be subconsciously encouraged to go for it? While posting any article, all such points need to be kept in mind and, if the article is still published, suitable footnotes can be added to avoid the wrong interpretation of the stuff given in the articles.

11: Parmjit Singh (Canada), April 10, 2011, 9:53 PM.

Kudos to you for not ignoring the opposition. Many at sikhchic.com and WSO do amazing things. It's easy for us armchair quarterbacks to criticize. Both of you are a bit more transparent than you think. Regardless, both are very much admired for your talent and seva.

12: N. Singh (Canada), April 13, 2011, 6:22 PM.

Call me naive or optimistic but I find it hard to believe that these disgusting words (as shown in the capitalized paras) were written by an amritdhari Sikh! I suspect they were written by someone posing to be a Sikh just like the Air India tragedy was probably committed by someone in Sikh garb; like the killing of Hindus in buses during the 80s when fake beards and turbans were discovered by Julio Ribeiro, Chief of Police in the Punjab. I suspect this is just another case of 'divide and rule' by those intent on giving amritdharis a bad name ... remember the Baatcheet of June 1984 where all amritdharis were called 'terrorists' by the Indian Army in their official newsletter. Just food for thought!

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A Sequel To "Where Are We Heading""









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