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The CNN TV Special On Sikh-Americans: A Review -
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee

FATEHPAL SINGH TARNEY

 

 

 





I viewed the hour-long TV Special on Sikh-Americans and their Sikhi last Sunday on CNN, as part of the series, "United  Shades of America". It was well done and I enjoyed it very much.

I thought all the Sikhs interviewed were devout and articulate and representative of a variety of ages and professions. There was an intellectual, a soldier, an actor, a politician, and a prosperous farmer with deep roots in America. There were even some young gatka practitioners.

I recall a photo or short video clip during the program of some 'Western' Sikhs, but I wish one of them had also been interviewed. This would have made the case that Sikhi is not a race, ethnicity, or nationality, but a religion with principles and a Scripture open to all. True, our origins were in Punjab, and we have an alphabet and language from there that is central to our faith. But a Western convert would have shown the public that although most Sikhs still live in India and most are of Punjabi ancestry - there are many others around the world.

I also believe that Sikhs who are blessed to have been born into our faith need to be reminded every now and then of certain historical realities: for example, the first of our Ten Gurus to have been born into a Sikh family was our Fifth Master, Guru Arjan. Therefore, and I write this both proudly and humbly at the same time, we converts having something significant in common with our first four Gurus!

Guru Angad, formerly Bhai Lehna, was originally a devotee of the Hindu goddess Durga. Meeting Guru Baba Nanak was the turning point in his life, when he embraced Sikhi.

Guru Amar Das spent most of his life as a devout Hindu who used to do his ritual puja and engaged in fasting and pilgrimage. He became a disciple of Guru Angad at the age of 62. Yet, look at all that he accomplished thereafter! For example, he prohibited the practice of sati, developed the Langar as an integral part of Gurdwara life, and he wrote great poetry. He became the Third Master at the age of 73. Guru Amar Das advocated the re-marrying of widows and disavowed the Hindu practice of burning of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres, long before the British arrived and enacted laws against the hideous practices.

And then, we recite Guru Amar Das’ composition, The Anand Sahib, at every diwan, every morning, every evening.

The message here, I suggest, is that the essence of Sikhi is transformation. Regardless of our background, Sikhi offers us a path to greater spiritual enlightenment, and to more and better sewa.


May 14, 2018

 

Conversation about this article

1: Bhupinder Singh (Sugar Land, Texas, USA), May 17, 2018, 8:45 AM.

Fatehpal Singh makes an interesting case about changing our mind-set on Sikhism re race, ethnicity and geographical location. The universal message for entire mankind needs first to be embraced by us.

2: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), May 18, 2018, 1:43 PM.

Our Gurus inculcated in Sikhs, in order to eliminate the relative differences between person and person on the basis of caste, race and creed, the social conscience needs to be built up within the sound foundation of equality, fraternity and fellowship. These secular ideals lead to honorable and fruitful living.

3: Avtar Singh (India), May 20, 2018, 11:00 AM.

Fatehpal Singh made a very important point: that the one-hour TV programme should have also include the Sikhs who have adopted Sikhi.

4: Rup Singh (Canada), May 21, 2018, 10:09 AM.

Fatehpal Singh ji, I always enjoy reading your column and thank you for raising important points. I think it's a big deal for a one hour program on Sikhs to be aired on CNN. Agreed that it could have been better, what can't be? Also I think it's important to not look at this as a one off, or a lost opportunity to convey our complete message. Let's hope this is a beginning and it will show Sikhs from around the world and the contributions they make in their respective communities in future broadcasts. Thanks, again.

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Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee "









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