Kids Corner


Nikki Haley: Feeding Lions to the Christians




Sikh-born Nikki Haley - daughter of Sikh parents from Amritsar - has been elected Republican Governor of South Carolina, U.S.A.

Before you take umbrage with the reporting of this piece of news on the front-page this morning, or my referring to her as "Sikh-born", I ask for your patience and a few moments of reflection on what I have to say.

I have been meaning to write this piece earlier, but did not want it to be used against her in her election-bid, because a) I do not have many nice things to say about her; 2) pieces posted online tend to get viral with lightening speed; and 3) many of her opponents and supporters are religious and racial bigots and have been grasping at any straw to get ammunition against her, in order to further warp similar minds that surround them.

I met Nikki not too long ago in Toronto. She had come with her parents to Toronto where she was being honoured at the annual Vaisakhi gala of The Centennial Foundation.

I spent much of the evening talking to the three of them at our table.

Here's what I garnered from the evening:

-   Nikki was very proud of being a Sikh and publicly said so.

-   It was also obvious that she was not a practising Sikh.

-   She was a politician, first and foremost - and I do not use the word as a compliment  - and had indeed come a long way on a very rough journey requiring many compromises.

-   She was married to a Christian and her children were being brought up as Christians.

-   She was cognizant of the narrow-mindedness of the Christian South and had become very adept at stepping over their egg-shells.

-   She was very ambitious, and was not willing to be tripped by lesser minds on her rise to the top.

-   She was capable of making any and all compromises to reach her goals.

I concluded from my brief meeting with her that she was a politician to the core. Let me explain what I mean.

I believe that our system of democracy - deeply flawed, but sadly the best we have today - simply does not allow high principles to flourish in its halls of powers.

Which means that any person with high principles - genuinely, not just paying lip-service -  simply cannot get very far in the political arena.

Which means, I believe, that politics today - in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world - simply has no room for high-principled people in its corridors.

Which means, I believe, that there are NO high-principled people in politics today.

Barack Obama is walking proof of this. Although I continue to support him all the way, I have seen his principles unravel from the very day he became President - starting with the criminal pay-out of almost a trillion dollars (I don't really know how much that is, I must confess) to a handful of thoroughly corrupt people, all the way to his most recent cowardly response to a planned visit to the Darbar Sahib.

Sadly, he's the best we have today.

And Nikki Haley doesn't even come close.

She has indeed sold her soul to win this Governorship. I know her distancing herself from her Sikh roots was a mere ploy to placate her bigoted detractors and that she doesn't really believe it. A lie of this magnitude is bound to destroy all the integrity one has within oneself.

But that has never been a danger with politicians - we require them to leave their integrity at home, once they start on their political journeys.

Nikki's has been a double lie.

But I lay only part of the blame at her door.

The rest of it is at the door of Southern Christianity and the South's warped brand of democracy which demand their politicians to be weaklings and unprincipled, and prove their qualifications to the world by publicly declaring allegiance to their brand of Christianity.    

An abomination, I tell you, which would drive Jesus Christ to tears. And each of the founding fathers of the United States of America to spin in their graves.

True, Nikki has failed us - and herself.

And so has America!

Our work as Sikhs - saint-soldiers - is cut-out for us.

Instead of turning our guns at poor, weak, unprincipled Nikki - or our backs to her - we should concentrate on fighting this racial and religious bigotry that plagues America as pervasively as it does Hindu India, Muslim Pakistan, or the Jewish-Muslim Middle-East.

There is nothing to rejoice for us in Nikki's election victory.

There is nothing to rejoice for Americans or Republicans or South Carolinians or Southern Christians either, in Nikki's election victory.

All it has done is expose the ugly under-belly of America.

And how much we Sikhs have neglected the upbringing of our own children - how we have failed them at home.


November 3, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), November 03, 2010, 11:05 AM.

In U.S.A., there is the so-called freedom of religion. But it is very hard to win an election if you are not a Christian or Jew (the latter only because they have money and the resulting power). The Sikh Gurus were above all of this: they complied the Guru Granth Sahib to bring all the religions together. Guru Gobind Singh ji's 7- and 9-year old sons were buried alive for refusing to convert to Islam, by the Muslim rulers, aided by their Hindu courtiers. On the other-hand, Guru Gobind Singh's father, Guru Tegh Bahadar was beheaded by the same Muslim ruler for defending the Hindu pandits. Here, Nikky has publicly embraced Christianity for the sake of expediency. This may be because her parents failed to provide her the rudiments of Sikhi.

2: Charanjit Sandhu (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), November 03, 2010, 12:58 PM.

Out of all the Southern States, South Carolina does not shy away from it's prejudice towards minorities. Being born and bred in SC, Nikki Haley knew full well what was expected from her once she set foot into the realm of politics. She put her Sikh identity on the back burner, so she could fulfill her dream as being a State elected official. My question to the Sikh organizations is then, why do you honour such people? If she refuses to raise her kids as Sikhs, or feels that for her own political gain, she needs to be known as Nikki as opposed to her given name of Nimrata, why do we still recognize and honour people who have denounced Sikhism? Nikki, being a minority, and a female, I think it is a great accomplishment. Though, it is a shame that she has no attachment to the faith she was born into. Nonetheless, best of luck to her.

3: Harman (Amritsar, Punjab), November 03, 2010, 1:21 PM.

Blessed were those Singhniyaa(n) who, even though their children were butchered before their very eyes in Mir Manu's jail, they never turned away from Sikhi!

4: Bakshish Singh (Montana, U.S.A.), November 03, 2010, 2:34 PM.

I can see that Nikki Haley's story causes distress, even anger, for many people. Most resent any mention of the story in the Sikh media - they would rather pretend that this never happened. They do not want to be reminded of Nikki Haley, because they'd rather not face their inner thoughts as to why it makes them angry. It is imperative that we stare this story in the face and realize that Nikki Haley is the cumulative conclusion to the decades of collective neglect that we as a community have inflicted upon ourselves (and our future). Instead of wishing this story to go away, we need to grapple with it and with our failures as a community, and accept the fact that Nikki Haley is the inevitable result of all that we have done to our children, and failed to do for our future generations. Merely whining and wringing our hands at this stage is but more of the old, and guarantees us more Nikki Haleys in the near future. Each parent in the community has to shake himself/ herself awake and make some choices - real choices - vis-a-vis how they bring up their children! And let me warn you before you head off into another frolic - the answer lies NOT in the wacky 'baanas' - the eighteenth century pseudo costumes - that some fringe-groups are parading around in, and all the frivolous and vacuous practices attached to them - but real Sikhi which can only be found in our Guru Granth Sahib and in the Rehat Maryada.

5: Anhad Singh (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), November 03, 2010, 4:42 PM.

Bravo, T. Sher Singh. Although conservative, I am in no way a fan of Nikki Haley. Her victory is in many ways disheartening. It just goes to show how far "integrity" will get you in today's world. Ambition and public aesthetics trump all values. Furthermore, there are no immediate repercussions. It may have once been popular to ornament "integrity" into one's persona, but it no longer has any practical purpose. In fact, those naive enough to carry this heavy weight on their shoulders will only find themselves handicapped in comparison to the competition. Just like those Crocs from 2007, integrity is a fashion has-been that's best left at home.

6: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), November 03, 2010, 5:08 PM.

Although, the author's sentiments resonate with me, I disagree that the root cause of this might also lie in parenting. Children are born to pursue their own destinies. They are not our property. They are from us - not of us! There is only so much we can do and then they have to follow their calling. Nikki did what her heart and soul asked her to. Let us stop at that. I wish her success, to do the right things for her people no matter what her faith is. Personally, 20 years ago when I landed in the U.S.A. as a student, I was shocked to meet a man in Utah who had converted to Mormonism. Before that, I had only known that a Sikh would give his/ her head but not his faith. But I have since learnt that everyone has their own destiny. Being born a Sikh or even being raised a good Sikh does not guarantee your attachment to the Guru or the Panth, as is true for many folks born in other religions who have come to follow the path of the Guru. Closeness to this path is through his grace alone - "Jin ko nadar karam hovai hiradai tinaa samaanee" [GGS:920}.

7: Jessi Kaur (California, U.S.A.), November 03, 2010, 5:36 PM.

Clearly, Anhad Singh is feeling the "weight" of integrity on his shoulders and is pained by those with no scruples who succeed. To be unburdened by integrity is to become a spiritual pauper. You don't don or shed integrity like a fashion garb. As Thomas Jefferson said: "In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." By all means, leave the crocs home, son, but carry your principles with you at all times.

8: Rabinder Pal Singh (New York , U.S.A. ), November 03, 2010, 5:38 PM.

T. Sher Singh ji, Gurjender Singh ji, Charanjit Singh ji, Harman ji and Bakshish Singh ji: You are all correct in what you have said but I would like to add that there is no point in blaming Nikki Haley and complaining that she has failed us. She is a Christian and an American of Sikh/ Punjabi decent. We should applaud that a child of Sikhs has achieved such a position in her parents' adopted homeland. Are all religions not good? I thought our Gurus said that we are all children of the same father. Yes, we all are flawed too and sometimes have to bend principles to achieve what we want. Is ambition wrong?

9: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), November 03, 2010, 5:55 PM.

Gurmeet ji: I totally agree with you that our children are free to pursue their dreams, no matter how they choose to do so, and whatever goals they set for themselves. But that simply does not absolve bad parenting. Your own parenting has often been talked about in these pages. You have done your job well! What Angad does hereon is his choice and for him to answer for. But the latter statement does not obviate the fact that you were expected to do your best in parenting and you met the challenge. In the article, I pass no judgment on Nikki's parents. I do not know then enough, nor do I have the right to do so. But I can certainly state with considerable force that we as a community have done a very poor job in meeting the Sikhi needs of our children. The writing has been on the wall for the last two generations, and we have looked the other way. We can be as politically correct as we want, but the fact - as I see it - is that we need to correct this if we are to continue flourishing as a Sikh community. Sure, let the chips fall where they may, once the chicks fly the roost, but we've got to do our job while they are in the nest. In answer to Rabinder Pal Singh ji: yes, all religions are good. I have indeed spent much of my life advocating this fact. But the point I was making in the article was that the manner in which these so-called Christians, who hounded Nikki into "proving" she was a good Christian, are prostituting their noble faith is not "good". My criticism of their shenanigans, I believe, is in fulfillment of my Sikhi, not in contravention of it. We need to be careful that we do not, in our haste to sound 'tolerant' and magnanimous, throw the baby out with the bath water.

10: S. Singh (Australia), November 03, 2010, 9:16 PM.

We as parents have a prime responsibility to instill the love of Sikhi, its values and philosophy in our children and lead by example. We have to be their role models, not just in appearance but establishing their strong inner connection. If we have failed to do that, then it is useless pointing fingers at the 'children' when they give it all up to get somewhere in life ... and sadly, this is what is happening in our community around the world.

11: Khalsa Lakhvir Singh (Nairobi, Kenya), November 04, 2010, 1:25 AM.

I long ago gave up the struggle to see power + religion come together like a lion and lamb, but besides my own Gurus and their few selected devoted Sikhs in history, I have no more expectations from anyone anymore, but from myself alone. It no longer matters whether Nikki was a Sikh or what she thinks about it now, and it doesn't really matter whether she won this election or not - everyone has his/ her individual goals, aspirations and dreams. She's living hers and I need to pursue mine without wanting to get into the whys, hows and ifs of others. I completely agree with the author of this article, but I must add that no matter what our discontent, it's futile to discuss such subjects - it gets us nowhere; we remain standing where we were - in our own shadows.

12: Jaswant Singh (New Delhi, India), November 04, 2010, 8:44 AM.

Dear Anhad: I like your tongue-in-cheek posting - it only underlines the central importance of integrity in our lives. Remember, the flip side of personal "integrity" is personal "disintegration".

13: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), November 04, 2010, 9:52 AM.

Nikki Haley's victory is a victory for women, for Punjabis and for Sikhs. It is what one achieves that matters. I congratulate Nikki on creating history. May our Great Gurus bless her.

14: D. J. Singh (U.S.A.), November 04, 2010, 7:44 PM.

Congratulations to Nikki on her victory. She is ambitious and she has achieved her goal. What is disturbing though is the fact that Sikh youth today lack sabat-soorat role models on the international stage, who truly practice their faith!

15: Robbie Singh Swaich (Gurgaon, India), November 05, 2010, 10:55 AM.

It's true that Sikhs should keep things in perspective while rejoicing in Nikki's victory. While I won't go as far as denouncing her as "sold her soul", she is a politician who has done all that is necessary to come to power. In fact, I was actually surprised that closer to the Bible belt, people are more oblivious to race and ethnicity than in other areas of the U.S.. Who would have thought that the first Punjabi-Americans would be elected Governors in the Southern states? New Jersey or California wouldn't have surprised me but Louisiana and South Carolina? Bite me.

16: Taran  (London, United Kingdom), November 06, 2010, 8:49 AM.

Very-well written article but this is not the only story about Nikki. Nor this phenomenon is new. I have seen many hundreds if not thousands like Nikki. But it is not their fault. One cannot blame the garden or the plants. Fault lies with the Maali (gardener)), one who looks after the plants. "jehri gau sher de munh aa gayi/ ohda maas v nai ohdi khall v nai/ jehre makan di neeh javab de gayi oh chat v nai te pall v nai/ jehre baag da maali beimaan ho je ohde patte v nai ohde fall v nai/ jehri quom de khoon cho gayi gairatt oh aj v nai te kall v nai!" We don't have to go far ... Our rich Punjabi/ Sikh culture is full of phrases like this.

17: R. Singh ( Brampton, Ontario, Canada), November 06, 2010, 10:58 AM.

Definitely, one cannot pander to the bigots and come out the real winner in any sense of the word. While it is everyone's right to choose for themselves, we cannot on one hand applaud our Gurus and countless Sikhs who lost their lives for standing up against bigotry, shunning wealth and positions of power or even loosing their lives, then turn around and applaud someone for doing exactly the opposite, having blown away, like a feather in the wind. The contrast is too stark even in today's world. Secondly, in our outright racially and ethnically charged endorsements, something we would abhor in others, we forget to look at the right wing policies she espouses, in the company of Sarah Palin and her ilk. As Sikhs we must have some benchmarks by which we navigate our ways based on our convictions, or are we mere easy riders on the rickety wagons of expediency? Will our younger generation really listen to or respect parents who imparted such a mantra?

18: Balraj Kaur (Mohali, Punjab), November 07, 2010, 7:01 AM.

It is but natural that Nikki's relatives and friends will - and should - celebrate her victory. But, what is sad is to see the small band of apologists and supporters who have come out of the woodwork, merely for clannish and tribal reasons and without any thought given to the real issues. It highlights the wide-ranging bankruptcy of ideas and objectivity which plagues many in the community today who hide under the mantle of professions and pseudo-intellectualism to tell us how significant her victory is for our community. Their blind justifications merely underline their own paucity of values. I'm not surprised ... Punjab continues to be ruled by shallow morons who stand on the shoulders of an equally mindless bunch who can't see beyond their noses and clan affiliations.

19: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), November 07, 2010, 1:25 PM.

I know of Guru Nanak reading namaaz and Guru Tegh Bahadar making the ultimate sacrifice for the right of others to practice a religion of one's choosing. Your article and the comments sound like a lynching of Nikki and her parents.

20: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), November 07, 2010, 6:48 PM.

Baljit Singh ji: I suggest you re-read the article a bit more carefully. I have absolutely no difficulty in a person choosing to convert to another religion. The issues I have raised seem to have gone over the heads of those who, in a rush to jump up and down over Nikki's victory, have failed to look at the larger issues that go far beyond personal or clannish solidarity. For example: a) It is clear that Nikki privately claims to be a Sikh, but publicly and recently, due to pressures from her bigoted fellow-South Carolinians, has succumbed and declared that she has no connection with Sikhi. All she had to do was say that she was a Sikh and, at the same time, being married to a Christian, subscribed to his faith values as well. After all, her marriage was carried out in accordance with both Sikh and Christian rites. It's not her Christian affiliation that is disturbing, it's her cowardice and dishonesty in standing up firm. She came out of it quite spineless. b) I raised the issue of the bigotry in many of the SC locals who went counter to the high values of Christianity and American democracy. 3) I raised the issue of our failure as a community in not having fully passed on our values to many of our children - e.g., a central trait of Sikhi is to stand up against bigotry and racism, not succumb to it the moment the heat is turned on .... Sadly, none of the cheerleaders on this or any other forum, have addressed any of these issues. In my article, I have challenged the community to go beyond the initial, knee-jerk euphoria or disagreement, and look at the situation from a social engineering perspective. Sadly, some have failed miserably in taking up the challenge and continue to wallow in their shallow responses. If I may add: therein lies the crux of the collective challenges facing our community today.

21: Gurbux Singh (Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), November 08, 2010, 1:00 PM.

Sher Singh ji: Bravo! Thank you for calling a spade a spade. Some people could not see the forest because of the trees in your article. The line you wrote, 'She was capable of making any and all compromises to reach her goals', speaks volumes. Keep writing.

22: Amandeep Singh (Markham, Ontario, Canada), February 16, 2011, 1:10 AM.

I totally agree with the article of T. Sher Singh. She has sold her soul. Keep writing, Sir ...

Comment on "Nikki Haley: Feeding Lions to the Christians"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.