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Freedom Rears Its Head in The Middle-East




Kicked off by Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution last month, the massive uprisings against U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes throughout the Arab world have grown into an undeniable and unprecedented force for real democracy.

Since the dictators being targeted have close ties to Washington, the leaders of our government are finding themselves in a rather uncomfortable position.

Senator John McCain was a little more blunt than the Obama adminstration when, on Fox News last week, he called the rise of democratic movements a "virus ... spreading throughout the Middle East," referring to this as "the most dangerous period of history ... of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times." 

Obama and Clinton talk a smoother, more diplomatic talk, but the take home message is the same:  "Change" in the Middle East must be on our terms.

In a column in the Guardian on Friday, Noam Chomsky wrote, "Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless properly tamed."

Indeed, while the Obama administration pays lip service to supporting "democracy" in Egypt (after backing and funding Mubarak for the last 30 years), it has lined up long-time Mubarak aide Omar Suleiman to lead the so-called transition to a new government. 

The New Yorker reported that Suleiman "has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak ... [H]e was the C.I.A.'s point man in Egypt for renditions - the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances."

That's democracy for you, American style.

For Sikhs in the United States today, what does it mean for us to pay taxes to a government that actively works against the freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty of millions of people around the world, including our brothers and sisters in Egypt whose relentless protests have been met with violent, state-sponsored repression?

This is of course a question that I would ask all citizens of the United States, but for us Sikhs, I don't think it is simply a political question, but also a spiritual one.

Sikhi was born out of a thirst for freedom and liberation, out of humanity's immense need to obliterate the various forms of injustice, tyranny, and sectarianism that stand in the way of our connection to to the Divine Light in all, Waheguru.

baadhsaah saah sabh vas kar dheene
amrit naam maha ras peene

The people are sovereign, not under the rule of any shahs or emperors
They drink the most Divine tasting ambrosial nectar
[GGS: 201]

The late, great Sikh scholar Jagjit Singh, states,

The Sikh view ... does not permit any dichotomy of life or any divorce of the individual from his society.  Nor does it visualize that true religion and ethics can operate unconcerned besides an unjust social or political order, nor that spiritual freedom can coexist with religious dictation and political slavery.

So what is our responsibility then as Sikh Americans to the people of Egypt (and the list goes on) who are, by no exaggeration, politically enslaved by our government?

Our government and the uncritical corporate media will claim that Washington has to save the Arab people from Islamic fundamentalism, but as Chomsky states, "The general threat has always been independence. The U.S. and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism."

Sikhs have been fighting for sovereignty and independence practically since our inception over 500 years ago. Isn't our thirst for freedom intertwined with the millions of people in Egypt courageously fighting to transform their country?

Conversation about this article

1: G.C. Singh (U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 3:51 PM.

It is unfortunate, but not a surprise, that both Canada and U.S.A. are more concerned about their selfish interests despite public pronouncements of their love for democracy and human rights. Sikhs have also been victimized by such policies which are dictated by geopolitical and trade considerations rather than commitment to stand for truth and justice. Although police and intelligence agencies did try to suppress the agitation for the first two three days, the Egyptian army refused to fire on its own people. This is in stark contrast to the role of the Indian Army which attacked the Golden Temple and 38 other Sikh shrines and committed untold atrocities on unarmed Sikhs, treating them as enemies. Tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs were killed by the Indian army in Operation Blue Star, Operation Black Thunder, and Operation Woodrose. Helicopter gun ships were used to massacre Sikh jathas coming to the Golden Temple from villages. When Indian Government sponsored mobs were butchering Sikhs in New Delhi and the rest of India, the Indian army never came out of their cantonments to prevent the Sikh genocide. Sikhs are still very vulnerable and therefore it is necessary that effective levers of political, economic and, above all, massive military power must come back in our own hands for our security and stability in that part of the world.

2: N. Singh (Canada), February 07, 2011, 6:47 PM.

G.C. Singh: Amen to that!

3: Harminder Singh (California, U.S.A.), February 07, 2011, 9:39 PM.

Long Live the Revolution!

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