What It Means to Me to be a SikhMAANEK SINGH (12)
I am a 12-year-old Sikh and was born in the USA.
I have been deeply troubled at the massacre of Sikhs in Wisconsin. Obviously the person who did this did not know who Sikhs are. He had a 9/11 tattoo and he probably hated anyone who reminded him of Osama bin Laden.
In an attempt to avoid any such tragedy in the future I would like to share what being a Sikh really means to me.
Sikh is a verb in Punjabi which means 'to learn'. In Sikhism, the noun Sikh means someone who is learning to be a good person. The Teacher or the True Guru is the Creator Himself. There is only One Creator who has created the entire Universe and all living beings. The Sikhs believe that the Creator does not hate anyone, and is nurturing and forgiving to all. We see that the sun is for everyone, the rivers do not refuse water to anyone who chooses to go to the river in search of water, the air is for everyone to breathe, and the Earth is there to sustain us no matter who we are.
A Sikh’s aim in life is to imbibe these divine qualities of the Creator. We believe that that will help our soul merge with the Creator after death. This means we have to learn to be nurturing, forgiving, and to love all human beings equally. Love for all humanity is a very strong value in Sikh belief. Love is the way to find God.
It is ironical that a religion whose basis is love for all humanity is being mistaken for a terrorist group which hates all people who do not share their belief.
How did that happen?
To really understand that, one has to look deeply into the history of the South Asian subcontinent in the seventeenth century. There was a bigoted tyrannical ruler who wanted everyone to convert to his own religion. He outlawed other religions' public celebrations. They had to pay the jizya tax for not belonging to that religion. The governor of one of the states committed extreme atrocities on the people to convert them by force. Many were tortured to death when they refused to convert.
Guru Gobind Singh called on the people to fight for their rights and for the rights of other weak and innocent. The Sikhs swore to selfless service and to protect the right of freedom of religion as they took up arms. Guru Gobind Singh had given them a sword to carry at all times. They were also given a dress code; they would have long hair, unshaven beard, wear a steel bracelet - part of the five articles of faith. They wore a turban to cover their unshorn hair. They are known for their acts of valor. They are especially known to have rescued countless Hindu women kidnapped by the invaders in those days.
Sikhs represented honesty, selfless service and courage.
Fortunately times are not bad now. However, we Sikhs still follow the code for physical appearance in addition to striving to be good humans. This makes them stand out. Perhaps it was meant to be that way – so people could trust them and ask them for help. Unfortunately in the post 9/11 era, a turban is associated with Osama bin Laden and his followers. That makes the Sikhs at the receiving end of most hate crimes directed at that terrorist group because of mistaken identity.
We are regular humans like everyone else. We just want to show respect to our Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who sacrificed his life and his kids so people everywhere could live with their heads high.
So anytime you see a Sikh who has his hair in a bun at the top of his head and unshaven beard and a turban, please do not think of him as a terrorist.
[Maanek Singh is an incoming 7th grader in the San Francisco Bay area, California. He loves to read and to play the harmonium. He loves swimming and loves to play tennis. He wants to be a good Sikh and a good American.]
August 9, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Dr Savi (London, United Kingdom), August 09, 2012, 9:57 AM.
Thanks for being a great source of Sikh media for the world to know who we are and our universal values of peace, love and giving ...
2: Harsimran Grewal (St Petersburg, Florida, USA), August 09, 2012, 10:01 AM.
Nicely written, Maanek Singh.
3: Ravi P. Malhotra (Pune, India), August 09, 2012, 10:18 AM.
Very well written piece. Hope everyone understands Sikhism well and also in present times its values should come handy to everyone who loves peace and freedom. We condemn the killing at the Wisconsin Gurdwara and wish such hate crimes do not take place. America respects the faith of choice and the rights of its citizens, and upholds rule of law with democratic principles. We appreciate the national mourning symbolized by lowering the US flag to half mast for 5 days. May all those who lost their lives to this senseless violence be blessed and may their souls rest in peace. May brotherhood of all faiths prevail.
4: Wheely (USA), August 09, 2012, 12:01 PM.
Very thoughtful article. Thank you. You're very insightful and courageous.
5: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 10, 2012, 6:55 AM.
Maanek beta, this is the fruition of your mother's milk while you lay in her lap and the hand that rocked the cradle. The credit goes to your parents for teaching you the Sikh values by example. As a kid I once remember when my elder sister asked me to run and pick a match box that used to cost about an anna. After an hour or so I returned empty handed because all the shops were selling cigarettes. Thanks for your excellent article and wish more will come from your pen.
6: Qunli Bond (Australia), August 11, 2012, 10:25 PM.
Nicely written, Maanek Singh. The world is in much turmoil now with radical religous zealots who do not recognize others to be worthy to share this world. They only wish to promote their warped version of a faith that is enslaving its followers, and to keep themselves in the position at the top of these religions in a stone age existence, in a third world existence. Keep writing, young man, and thank you.
7: Rajpal (Penang, Malaysia), August 12, 2012, 9:37 AM.
God bless you, son. Well said. An eye opener to the rest.
8: Usha (Malaysia), August 14, 2012, 8:36 AM.
It is such a beautiful article coming from a boy who is hardly 12. Well written! I wish the world will see people for who they are and live in harmony. Most religions teach us to love and not hate. Our Gurus tell us to love. Let us hope and pray that such a thing never happens again.
9: Dr Dalbir Singh (Seremban. Malaysia), September 22, 2012, 4:00 AM.
It is very encouraging to see our children with so much knowledge and guts. Keep learning -- you will become wonderful human beings! God bless you.
10: Rramdas (Singapore), March 22, 2013, 4:50 AM.
Very well written and at a such tender age ... interesting how he has diplomatically avoided to mention the religion of the ruler. God bless.