SIKH MUSLIM ACCORD
Date: 05 Jul 2008
'I agree with xxxxxxx, that generally the poor Sikh leadership skills resulted in some bad and poor planning and actions when it mattered , and hence the difference between Sikhs and Muslims widened, and things got out of hand.'
The Sikh-Muslim divide seems more a product of historical memory and transmitted prejudice on both sides rather than the result of follies of Sikh leaders prior to 1947 riots.
It is hard to envision Sikh-Muslim bonhomie to actually work in the absence of ability to break bread together or to meet as families or friends. There are barriers that did separate us for a long time - at least in the west of West Punjab. I will cite a few examples:
* halal and jhatka are not the only difficulty; food habits are different. Muslims hardly eat vegetables separately cooked and it is very difficult for them to put together a vegetarian meal. Even at the Ahmediya centenary convention in Harrisburg last week, with around 10000 attending, the vegetarian fare was rice and boondi raita compared to pretty good non vegetarian choices.
* the purda divide did not make it possible for a freer exchange. It perseveres till today - in Pakistan we were entertained at the Islamabad Club twice - no woman present or in sight. At Lahore when we were invited by Dr Israr Ahmed my wife was taken in separately into the zanana. Things were even more rigid in 47 and before.
* The discourse in Gurdwaras was always on the zulum by Muslims - the same kind of prejudicial stories were being articulated in Muslim setting against Sikhs. This was a direct reflection of what had been written in books authored on both sides as well as thru the oral tradition
* Hindus and Sikhs jointly had built a wall that separated them from Muslims [and lower castes]. The vallages had Dhokes or sattelite villages where the latter lived and came to the main habitat to work during the day
* Muslims, especially the upper classes who had Afghan, Persian, Turkish or mixed lineage and Mullas had not forgotten that the only non Muslim Indiansï¿½who defeated them andï¿½established their rule were Sikhs. This did leave a tinge of unspoken resentment
* Muslims may have hated Hindus for many reasons but they also had [and have] admiration for them. Gandhi is not viewed as poorly by them - in fact they have respect for him as an astute leader. They admire Hindu enterprise and resiliency to survive and grow. There is not much you read about Sikhs.
Even during the 80s Indian Muslims maintained discrete silence. Nor have they ever raised their voice against Sikh stereotyping or other issues affecting them as minorities. In spite of shared interests in seeking civil protections Sikhs and Muslims still do not have a history of working collaboratively with one another.
The problem is pretty complex and it is important for us to engage Muslims in a constructive dialog because come what may they are going to be our permanent neighbors on the West and in any case we should all be working for societal harmony across faiths.