Criticism of Sikhism

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Sikhism has been criticized in one way or another by proponents of other theories. These critics include both Sikhs and non-Sikhs under different motives. These criticisms extend across a large portion of the beliefs and practices of Sikhism and even question the authenticity of the origin of the faith. As a result, Sikhs continues to face discrimination due to their presence and past activities.

Theology[edit]

William Hewat McLeod cited the tension between the doctrine of God's transcendence in Sikhism and a supposed ability of God to communicate with people. McLeod says Sikh thinkers have been unable to give a convincing account of how God can communicate with people at all if this being is indeed transcendent.[1]

Dayanand Saraswati, in his book Satyarth Prakash, criticized Sikhism, describing Guru Nanak as a "rogue",[2] the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib as falsehood, and Sikhism as a snare to rob and cheat simple folk of their wealth and property. A Sikh wrote a response, to which Dayanand Saraswati answered that his opinion had undergone a change when he visited Punjab, and the remarks about Sikhism would be deleted in the subsequent edition of his work. However, these remarks were never removed after the untimely death of Dayanand Saraswati, and later editions of Satyarth Prakash were even more critical of Sikhism.[3]

Religious text[edit]

Ernest Trumpp had concluded that Adi Granth was not worth translating in full--"the same few ideas, he thought, being endlessly repeated," and referring to the heterogeneous language that consisted of various dialects, he described the text as “incoherent and shallow in the extreme, and couched at the same time in dark and perplexing language, in order to cover these defects. It is for us Occidentals a most painful and almost stupefying task, to read only a single Rag.”[4] Trumpp viewed Adi Granth to be lacking theological transcendence and lacking systematic unity.[5] He also stated that the injunctions of the Rehit-nama, authored by Prahlad Singh (a close associate of Guru Gobind Singh), regarding Sikh relations with Muslims, showed “a narrow-minded bigotry and a deep fanatical hatred.”[6]

Regarding the Dasam Granth, the second scripture of Sikhs written by the 10th Guru Gobind Singh, there is much controversy among Sikh scholars regarding its authorship.[7][8] There are also references in the text to multiple gods such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Govind and Chandi, included in such compositions as the Chandi di Var of the 5th chapter of the text.[9] This has led to the text being described as having "fluid boundaries between polytheism and monotheism."[10][11] Some Sikhs also believe the text promotes sexual promiscuity (including multiple references to group sex), degrades women and also encourages use of intoxicants.[12]

Monotheism[edit]

Sikhism cites that the concept of Ek Onkar (One God) was created by the Gurus[13] while this concept was already taught in the Vedas,[14] other later scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita,[15] Torah,[16] Quran,[17] that came about long before the religion of Sikhism, said the same. Although, it has been suggested by some that Sikhism's monotheism differs from other religions.[18] According to Ernest Trumpp, the Sikh theology of God is "far closer in conception to the pantheistic traditions of Hinduism than the monotheistic perspective of Christianity."[19]

Guru Nanak opposed polytheistic practices. Nanak, during his trip to Mecca had debate with mullahs of Mecca, in his debate, Nanak had asserted that Kaaba was only a black stone, which is Lingam, of Lord Shiva.[20] Along with Islam, others such as Jainism, Hinduism,[21] were also targeted by Nanak. However it has been alleged that later gurus of Sikhism added the practices that can be linked with polytheism,[22] most notably waving fan over Guru Granth Sahib, during worship.[23][24] Sikhism also permits the veneration and Intercession of saints (such as to the Sikh martyr Bhai Maharaj Singh), which is seen by some religious groups as a form of polytheism.[25][26]

Syncretism[edit]

One view of Sikhism is that it is a syncretism of Hinduism (particularly the Bhakti movement) and Islam (particularly Sufism[27][28]), having evolved from Hinduism in the context of a multiplicity of syncretic movements in Medieval India, while taking the idea of monotheism from Islam, as well as the incorporation of selected hymns from Hindu and Muslim saints (such as Kabir, Fariduddin Ganjshakar and other Bhagat) into the Guru Granth Sahib.[29] This view is commonly believed, but is outdated within scholarship.[30]

According to Harjot Oberoi, until the 19th century the Sikhs had shown "little collective interest in distinguishing themselves from the Hindus" and "Sikh notions of time, space, corporality, holiness, kinship, social distinctions, purity and pollution and commensality were hardly different from those of the Hindus."[31]

Ban on hair removal[edit]

The cutting or removal of hair from any body part is strictly forbidden for Sikhs. This growing of ones hair is known as Kesh.[32] However, the practice is a common source of criticism and questioning of Sikhism, including the belief that not cutting ones hair will cause it to grow to unacceptably long lengths.[33][34]

Ethnoreligious group[edit]

Sikhism has been criticised for the perception that it is an Ethnoreligious group, which has seemingly very limited appeal and following beyond those claiming ancestry from the Indian subcontinent — especially the Punjab region and its surrounds, such as among the Jat Sikh[35][a] and Sikh Khatris.[37] South Asia alone accounts for up to 90% of the total Sikh population and approximately 75% of all Sikhs live in Punjab, India.

Violence[edit]

Similar to other religions, Sikhism (and its adherents) has been accused of violence, or the glorification thereof,[38] through its history (such as the militarisation of the Khalsa),[39] symbols (such as the Khanda),[40] art and legend.[41]

Reincarnation[edit]

Sikhs believe in Reincarnation.[42] Howvever, this belief is often criticised by Jews, Christians and Muslims as a heresy[43] and is used as proof of the syncretic influence of Hinduism on Sikhism.[44][45][46]

In academia[edit]

Sikh groups have put pressure on universities, and there has been a movement among some Sikhs to stifle academic criticism of Sikhism in North America.[47]

Attitude to women[edit]

Sikhism is commonly held to promote gender equality compared to other religions.[48] However, some cultural traditions still lead to male children being prized more highly than girls, and to beliefs in traditional gender roles.[49][50]

There have also been claims that Sikhism's ban on hair removal interferes with women's freedom to follow modern fashions for grooming, however the ban also affects males as hair in the pubic, chest, and armpit region is considered part of male grooming. On the other hand this ban is not applied equally to men and women, with women policed less rigidly, for example removing facial hair (for those that have it) and having eyebrows plucked.[51]

Relations with other religions and communities[edit]

Jacques Chirac, and later French regime has faced large protests due to the ban on religious symbols that included Sikh signs.

There is a history of tension between Sikhism and Islam. This goes back to the persecution of Sikhs by the Mughal emperors in India, but has manifested in more recent distrust between the communities in the UK, including hostility to inter-community romantic relationships.[52]

Immediately after Operation Blue Star, some Sikh communities started demanding for a separate nation, they called it "Khalistan movement", during this movement, Sikhs had been involved in terrorism, most popular incident being Air India Flight 182, in which 268 Canadian citizens died. Many of the Sikh groups were banned from the numerous countries, who had been convicted with terrorist activities. And Sikhs around the world have been convicted for funding these terrorist groups. Due to such negative impact, the support for Khalistan Movement has been commonly regarded as act of terrorism, many have been arrested for affirming support for the movement.[53]

Although the present situation in Punjab is usually regarded as peaceful; and the militant movement(Khalistan) has been weakened.

On 2004, France had passed a law which banned many religious signs in schools. This ban included turbans, which plays important role in Sikh religion.[54] Since the number of Sikhs in France is very small, the French education minister was unaware that there were any Sikhs in France. This law lead to Sikhs protesting against the law across Europe,[55] India,[56] as well as other regions. This issue is heatedly debated. European Court of Human Rights dismissed the petition. Although UN's human right body supported the petition on January 2012, citing that turbans don't pose a threat to ground security.

In Canada, a 2013 poll revealed that 39% of Canadians have a negative view of Sikhism, second after Islam, which is negatively viewed by 54%.[57]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jat Sikhs have been described as "the backbone of the Sikh movement under the leadership of the Sikh Gurus."[36]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mandair, A.-P. S., Religion and the Specter of the West (Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 261.
  2. ^ "Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab ..., Volume 1", p.16
  3. ^ Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh
  4. ^ Tony Ballantyne (26 Jul 2006). Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World. Duke University Press. pp. 52–3. ISBN 9780822388111. 
  5. ^ "Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed", by Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, p. 87
  6. ^ Tony Ballantyne (26 Jul 2006). Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World. Duke University Press. p. 53. ISBN 9780822388111. 
  7. ^ Robin Rinehart (5 Jan 2011). Debating the Dasam Granth. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780199842476. 
  8. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (18 Mar 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 146. ISBN 9780191004124. 
  9. ^ Dev, Nanak. Gurū Granth Sāhib Ji. p. 1036. Retrieved 15 June 2006. "When He so willed, He created the world. Without any supporting power, He sustained the universe. He created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; He fostered enticement and attachment to Maya." 
  10. ^ Pashaura Singh; Norman Gerald Barrier (1 Jul 1996). The transmission of Sikh heritage in the diaspora. Manohar Publishers & Distributors. p. 60. ISBN 9788173041556. 
  11. ^ Robin Rinehart (5 Jan 2011). Debating the Dasam Granth. Oxford University Press. pp. 8, 70. ISBN 9780199842476. 
  12. ^ Raveena Aulakh (Apr 11, 2010). "Did Guru Gobind Singh write the Dasam Granth?". thestar.com. Toronto Star Newspapers. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representations. p. 101. 
  14. ^ "Divine Message Of God To Mankind Vedas" by J.M. Mehta, Chapter '12. Worship of God'.
  15. ^ Zaehner, Robert Charles. The Bhagavad-Gita. p. 141. 
  16. ^ "Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah", p.165, by Shalom Carmy
  17. ^ "One God in One Man" By C. T. Benedict, page.179
  18. ^ Kelemen, Lawrence Charles. Permission to Receive: Four Rational Approaches to the Torah's Divine Origin. p. 27. 
  19. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (18 Mar 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 74. ISBN 9780191004124. 
  20. ^ Needham Cust, Robert. Linguistic and Oriental Essays. p. 41. 
  21. ^ (Guru Granth Sahib, Ang, 556)
  22. ^ Pruthi, Raj. Sikhism and Indian Civilization. p. 16. 
  23. ^ "The Guru Granth Sahib and Sikhism", p. 28, by Anita Ganeri
  24. ^ "Hindu Religion: Customs and Manners; Describing the Customs and Manners, Religious, Social and Domestic Life, Arts and Sciences of the Hindus", p. 78, by Paul Thomas
  25. ^ Rajesh Rai; Peter Reeves (25 Jul 2008). The South Asian Diaspora: Transnational Networks and Changing Identities. Routledge. p. 188. ISBN 9781134105953. 
  26. ^ Kelly Pemberton; Michael Nijhawan (25 Oct 2011). Shared Idioms, Sacred Symbols, and the Articulation of Identities in South Asia. Routledge. pp. 143, 161. ISBN 9781135904777. 
  27. ^ "Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism". Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  28. ^ "Flawed Definitions of Sikhism". THE SIKH COALITION. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  29. ^ "Flawed Definitions of Sikhism". THE SIKH COALITION. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  30. ^ Dhanjal, B., "Sikhism" in Holm & Bowker (eds.), Picturing God (Continuum, 1994), p. 192.
  31. ^ Girja Kumar (1 Jan 1997). The Book on Trial: Fundamentalism and Censorship in India. Har-Anand Publications. p. 385. ISBN 9788124105252. 
  32. ^ Lalita Clozel (April 13, 2014). "U.S. Sikhs say military's ban on long hair and beards keeps them out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2014. "The turban, hair and beard date from the 17th century, when the last living Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, decided that followers should allow their hair to grow as a sign of respect for God, known as Kesh." 
  33. ^ Dr. Birendra Kaur (1998). "Hail Hair!". p. 5. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  34. ^ "Q: Why do Sikhs keep hair?". RealSikhism. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  35. ^ J. S. Grewal (8 Oct 1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab. Cambridge University Press. pp. 138–9. ISBN 9780521637640. 
  36. ^ Sewa Singh Kalsi (1 Jan 2009). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 9781438106472. 
  37. ^ Pritam Singh (19 Feb 2008). Federalism, Nationalism and Development: India and the Punjab Economy. Routledge. p. 21. ISBN 9781134049462. 
  38. ^ Michael S. Roth; Charles G. Salas (2001). Disturbing Remains: Memory, History, and Crisis in the Twentieth Century. Getty Publications. p. 54. ISBN 9780892365388. 
  39. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780199699308. 
  40. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer (2003). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780520240117. 
  41. ^ David C. Rapoport (5 Nov 2013). Inside Terrorist Organizations. Routledge. p. 179. ISBN 9781135311858. 
  42. ^ "Q: What happens after death?". RealSikhism. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  43. ^ Edwards, Emily D. Metaphysical Media. SIU Press. p. 167. ISBN 9780809388462. 
  44. ^ Douglas A. Phillips; Charles F. Gritzner (1 Jan 2009). India. Infobase Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 9781438105109. 
  45. ^ Joseph Grcic (1 Oct 2009). Facing Reality: An Introduction to Philosophy Revised Edition. AuthorHouse. p. 230. ISBN 9781449033026. 
  46. ^ Norman C. McClelland (1 Apr 2010). Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma. McFarland. p. 248. ISBN 9780786456758. 
  47. ^ Hawley & Mann, "Introduction" in Studying the Sikhs (SUNY Press, 1993), p. 3.
  48. ^ Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. Sikhism: An Introduction. p. 101. 
  49. ^ Kaur, Shiha (13 April 2010). "Sikhism - A Feminist Religion?". The F Word. 
  50. ^ Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent. p. 1. 
  51. ^ Abdulrahim, Raja (October 9, 2011). "A decision on the razor's edge". LA Times. 
  52. ^ Hundal, Sunny (September 12, 2013). "Sikhs v Muslims: why the debate on grooming isn’t about the women themselves". Liberal Conspiracy. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  53. ^ "Congressional Record, V. 152, PT. 17, November 9, 2006 to December 6, 2006", p. 606
  54. ^ UN human rights body backs French Sikhs on turbans
  55. ^ Sikhs protest against French ban
  56. ^ Sikhs stage protest in Delhi over French turban ban
  57. ^ Canadian Public Opinion Poll, 2nd October 2013