Criticism of Sikhism

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Sikhism has been criticized in one way or another by proponents of other theories. Various scholars have described the elements of Sikhism to be with the religion that were founded before. Sikhs continues to face discrimination due to their presence and past activities.


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]

Ernest Trumpp had concluded that Adi Granth was not worth translating in full--"the same few ideas, he thought, being endlessly repeated." Trump viewed Adi Granth to be lacking theological transcendence and lacking systematic unity.[4]


Sikhism cites that the concept of Ek Onkar (One God) was created by the Gurus[5] while this concept was already taught in the Vedas,[6] other later scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita,[7] Torah,[8] Quran,[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] Along with Islam, others such as Jainism, Hinduism,[12] were also targeted by Nanak. However it has been alleged that later gurus of Sikhism added the practices that can be linked with polytheism, [13] most notably waving fan over Guru Granth Sahib, during worship.[14][15]


One view of Sikhism is that it is a syncretism of Hinduism and Islam, having evolved from Hinduism in the context of a multiplicity of syncretic movements in Medieval India while taking the idea of monotheism from Islam. This view is commonly believed, but is outdated within scholarship.[16]

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.[17]

Attitude to women[edit]

Sikhism is commonly held to promote gender equality compared to other religions.[18] However, some cultural traditions still lead to male children being prized more highly than girls, and to beliefs in traditional gender roles.[19][20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] 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,[25] India,[26] 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%.[27]


  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. ^ "Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed", by Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, p. 87
  5. ^ Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representations. p. 101. 
  6. ^ "Divine Message Of God To Mankind Vedas" by J.M. Mehta, Chapter '12. Worship of God'.
  7. ^ Zaehner, Robert Charles. The Bhagavad-Gita. p. 141. 
  8. ^ "Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah", p.165, by Shalom Carmy
  9. ^ "One God in One Man" By C. T. Benedict, page.179
  10. ^ Kelemen, Lawrence Charles. Permission to Receive: Four Rational Approaches to the Torah's Divine Origin. p. 27. 
  11. ^ Needham Cust, Robert. Linguistic and Oriental Essays. p. 41. 
  12. ^ (Guru Granth Sahib, Ang, 556)
  13. ^ Pruthi, Raj. Sikhism and Indian Civilization. p. 16. 
  14. ^ "The Guru Granth Sahib and Sikhism", p. 28, by Anita Ganeri
  15. ^ "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
  16. ^ Dhanjal, B., "Sikhism" in Holm & Bowker (eds.), Picturing God (Continuum, 1994), p. 192.
  17. ^ Hawley & Mann, "Introduction" in Studying the Sikhs (SUNY Press, 1993), p. 3.
  18. ^ Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. Sikhism: An Introduction. p. 101. 
  19. ^ Kaur, Shiha (13 April 2010). "Sikhism - A Feminist Religion?". The F Word. 
  20. ^ Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent. p. 1. 
  21. ^ Abdulrahim, Raja (October 9, 2011). "A decision on the razor's edge". LA Times. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ "Congressional Record, V. 152, PT. 17, November 9, 2006 to December 6, 2006", p. 606
  24. ^ UN human rights body backs French Sikhs on turbans
  25. ^ Sikhs protest against French ban
  26. ^ Sikhs stage protest in Delhi over French turban ban
  27. ^ Canadian Public Opinion Poll, 2nd October 2013