I didn’t intend for my first post on this blog to be about religion. After all the blog is all about politics in
Mandira's tattoo leaves Akal Takht fuming
What's the controversy here? Well Mandira Bedi a devout Sikh, got an Ek Onkar (god is one) tattoo on her back. Here's a picture so you know what I'm talking about –
This tattoo has created so much controversy that the Sikh leaders at the Akal Takht have threatened to excommunicate her from the community unless she gets it removed.
Which brings me to why I felt I had to write on this issue. When I look at my fellow Sikh youth today, I see more and more of them not understanding the tenets of Sikhism and feeling ashamed to stand out in a crowd by displaying the 5K's. Most have grown up with no teaching of Sikh history and therefore don’t understand the essence that makes Sikhism such a great religion and way of life.
Even a brief look at our history will tell you that Sikhism has been one of the most progressive and liberal religions of modern times. It was our gurus that first said that all men are equal and completely set aside the caste system. They introduced a community kitchen (langar) so everyone, irrespective of their caste, religion or social background would eat together. This at a time when Brahmins would not even eat food made in the same utensils that were used to make food for the lower castes. Our gurus spoke openly against sati, idol worship and equality of women - all really controversial topics of their times. They were true social reformers and as Sikhs our commitment to their cause of social reform and justice is represented by our outward symbols of faith - the turban, the kara etc.
But it seems our Sikh leaders of today are out of sync with what our religion represents. Every other day we read reports of fights breaking out in the streets of
The world, being as divided as it is today, needs to hear about our values more than ever. And Sikh leaders need to ask themselves - what would our gurus do? They were some of the most progressive people of their times with radical views on equality and social justice. So really, should you focus on a tattoo that a celebrity gets on her back or on the alarming rate of male to female ratio in regions most densely populated by Sikhs? I have a Khanda Sahib tattooed on my arm. It was not out of disrespect but out of love for my religion that I got it. I suspect Mandira Bedi's reasons were similar to mine.
So lets get our acts together! And my fellow progressive Sikhs - lets stand by Mandira Bedi and tell her that she need not get that tattoo removed. Our guru's certainly would have advocated for personal freedom of expression!