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Quiet Time - 5:
Compassion & Vigilance In Today’s Topsy-Turvy World





moorkhay naal na lujhiyai …

Do not engage with a fool!


I don’t think one needs a citation from scripture to remind us that we need to be ever vigilant in not getting involved with a fool, whether it is in mere idle chatter or argument or, say, religion or politics (or anything else, for that matter), or in matters of  business, friendship, etc.

But I’ve taken the precaution of quoting a line above from Guru Nanak just in case there is someone out there who needs scriptural authority to understand the gravity of such a risk. (This particular line is the conclusive and concluding line in Nanak’s famous dismissal of those who argue against the equality of men and women.)

The risk is multiplied many times over if the fool has inherited or managed to somehow accumulate extensive wealth and has learnt to wield it as an instrument of untrammelled power.

Then, add to it the further complication of political power finding its way into the hands of such a boor, and we suddenly have a person who, like a wild bull in a china shop, has the ability to do endless damage to one and all before he finally succumbs to his own excesses or forces greater than him.

It is not difficult to think of a number of such men and women who have plagued humanity throughout history. And it won’t take more than a few seconds to think of a few in our own time.

Actually, there’s one who has been let loose on the world only a few days ago and has lost no time in already starting off on a path of destruction. He’s got our full attention, and it is clear beyond all doubt that he is no ordinary fool. It appears he will not just ride into the sunset after merely spewing lies and insults; he will only be done when enough anarchy and mayhem have been left behind.

Each day brings new distress. The latest is to our Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe who are being made to pay, not only for the crimes of some who share their religious beliefs, but also for the crimes of those who have historically exploited their lands and left them impoverished through pillage and plunder.

But History is not what we should be delving into at this current juncture which is wrought with urgency and requires action, not navel-gazing. It is easy to get distracted by many of our own private gripes, some of which are valid, some not at all.

Those who still turn to India for inspiration wear rose-coloured glasses when it comes to blind hatred against Muslims. Even some within our own Sikh community look at the history of our persecution by the Mughals and the terrible wrongs of the Partition of Punjab. Those of Republican bent in the US today are blinded by the propaganda against Obama and Hillary and have no hesitation in blindly endorsing all the havoc that Trump lets loose on the world today.

Even if these sentiments are sincerely held, we need to brush them aside as distractions, at least temporarily, and turn on our compassion for those who are genuinely being wronged today. And I refer to the blanket victimization of innocent Muslim men, women and children from around the world, many of them in extreme distress and urgent need.

We, individually and institutionally, need to reach out -- and not just offer, but actually -- provide help in every way we can. With no ifs and buts. In moral support, in condemnation of unjust laws, in giving succour and solace and whatever we can spare materially and emotionally, and more.      

We should be unafraid. Let’s not look over our shoulders and worry about the Fool and his minions for they might turn their attention on us. That’s never a good enough excuse for inaction, because compassion withheld at a crucial moment is not any better than active malfeasance.

And let’s not do it for ‘selfish’ reasons by merely keeping an eye on Martin Niemöller’s celebrated words (“First they came for … and I did not speak out … Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me“). His was a good warning and always needs to be heeded, but the reason for being compassionate in Sikhi is never tied to a personal benefit or building of a personal, spiritual bank account. Nor is it for good PR.

It is, simply, good. Simply for the sake of doing it. Like mercy, and like all true seva, it "is not strain'd"...

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

*   *   *   *   *

Which brings me to the second area of action we need to turn to in these turbulent times.


Compassion does not involve passivity in other spheres, or any kind of acceptance and surrender to bad behaviour.

The mischief being unleashed by the modern day moorakhs (fools) is infectious and has the real potential of roping in fringe elements who otherwise would remain inert. The recent shooting in Quebec City in a mosque -- only a day or two after Trump announced his racist directive against Muslims, and chaos has reigned in airports around the world -- where six worshippers were mowed down by a white-power terrorist and self-declared fan of Donald Trump, and more than a dozen injured, underscores the danger.

First and foremost, we must remember that the boors we are talking about are not bright lights and are known to mistake Sikhs for Muslims, Arabs, etc. and spew their poison accordingly.

As individuals, of course we don’t need to turn paranoid … that’s never the Sikh response. Nevertheless, we should be alert and careful, always aware of our surroundings, always ensuring that we don’t find ourselves isolated or in any way vulnerable.

We need to interact with our neighbours, if we aren’t already doing so. They are our eyes and ears in such situations and make the best line of defence if and when a situation arises.

Similarly, we need to be vigilant vis-à-vis gurdwaras. Their environs need to be reviewed and audited immediately to determine how to secure them 24/7, even when no service is being held, but particularly when a service is being held. Each gurdwara has a decent income and it shouldn’t cause undue burden or hardship if each is to have armed guards on duty round the clock.

I wish it was not necessary to say this, but it is and I will, that those hired for the job should be identified free of nepotism, even the semblance or appearance of it. Why? The main reason nepotism is a no-no is because it has the potential of lowering the standards of those who are hired, and almost always do.

Hire the best in the profession; do not cut corners and save pennies. We are talking about protecting lives and valuable community property.

More can be done, in addition to the above.

Liaise with other faith groups and nearby places of worship. Get involved in local projects and events. Establish contact with the local police force and other first responders, express your concerns, and build a positive relationship.

A caveat, though: the time for this process doesn’t start when a crisis arises, but when there isn’t one.

All of the suggestions I have listed are no more than common sense. But I cite them not in condescension but in recognition that we are a community which is not inward looking and is prone to not looking at its own challenges while rushing to others to help with theirs.

It is not a sign of weakness to be vigilant, and certainly we will not be considered any lesser if we are seen to be protecting those we love and what we cherish.

January 31, 2017          

Conversation about this article

1: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), February 01, 2017, 11:03 AM.

I wish our President had the insight, strength and foresight to tell his people that all life is 'One' so as to dispel the doubts and misgivings which are prevalent in some segments of the public. He should also convey to all the Governors of the States and to his Secretaries through clear directives that the tenets of our Constitution are to be followed in word and spirit.

2: Bhupinder Singh (Houston, Texas, USA), February 01, 2017, 4:03 PM.

Timely reminder! We still need to have a plan to deal with The Moorakh. Of course, we have to be our own chowkidars for our own survival.

3: Brig Nawab Singh Heer (Davenport, Iowa, USA), February 01, 2017, 11:44 PM.

It is a real threat now. A few suggestions: 1) All Sikhs must be vigilant and take precautions, particularly in the next 100 days. 2) Ensure good security of gurdwaras. Also ensure that whereever possible invite local mayor and police Chief as well as neibhours to tell them about Sikhs. 3) Send our representatives to hold talks in local churches about Sikhs. 4) We held a seminar in Iowa about hate crimes with help of FBI, Civil Rights Dept, Attorney's office, and local police. I can give reference of some of the organizations who can help, if anyone needs the info. 5) lastly, I am in touch with a social media research group to seek help in educating public about Sikhism. We need your support. 6) We must participate in all protests. We are also approaching Trump's office for hearing a meeting. Let's remain in chardi kalaa!

4: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA ), February 02, 2017, 7:16 PM.

We can spend thousands of dollars for nagar kirtans in Punjabi, but all is waste because we are failed to teach a common person about Sikhs. Unless we utilize the media intelligently during, e.g., the Super Bowl game or across the social media, it will be very hard to achieve our goals.

5: Arjan Singh (USA), February 10, 2017, 3:47 AM.

#3 Brig Nawab Singh jJi: How do we contact the FBI and Attorney's Office if we know of ongoing hate crime/or a crime a person may have witnessed in the past? There is a lot of hate crimes that are going unreported. Please provide references of organizations that can help. Participation in protests is an interesting idea, but bear in mind that a Sikh man/woman charged by police in protests has a slim chance of fair legal representation if arrested and thus could lose his/her livelihood. Sher ji: I agree with your astute observations in your article that we must step forward and provide support to Muslims being discriminated. However, we must bear in mind that even though the Sikh community has suffered at the hands of Muslims for many years, our religious and military leaders responded strategically against only those Muslims who were responsible for the barbarities. We did not go out on a bloody rampage to murder/rape every Muslim man, woman or child. I must add that in my humble opinion and experience Muslims are partially at fault in USA for not condemning the violence unleashed by their strayed co-coreligionists. I have personally been threatened by a young Muslim man and faced racist comments by a Pakistani working professional woman at the workplace about my beard (even though I do not tie a turban). I can personally attest to the fact that Muslim men and women coming from Pakistan (and other middle eastern countries) are also limited in their understanding of the Sikh way of life, similar to local-grown boors in the USA. Excellent practical advice to protect the community and its places of worship and community centers. Vigilance is not a crisis-management activity but it must be an ongoing activity to ensure continued protection. I am so glad the author mentioned we must avoid nepotism, as some in the community are prone to such behavior and practices. We tend to hire our relatives or personal contacts rather than professionals.

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Compassion & Vigilance In Today’s Topsy-Turvy World"

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