This video has gone viral and many are showering it with praise, but I regret that it reinforces stereotypes that do not align with the spirit of a Sikh.
A Sikh is a turban.
A Sikh wears a turban, but is not solely defined by his or her turban. To be a model of a Sikh, one has to own up to the lifestyle requirements of a Sikh. Being a Sikh is not a cultural title but a designation of joining a league of students of a Guru, namely, Guru Nanak. Being Guru Nanak’s Sikh requires not only a turban but initiation into the Khalsa, adherence to the 5 K’s (uncut beard included), acceptance of the Guru’s teachings, allegiance to all humanity, avoidance of vices, and active spiritual practice.
A Sikh is a man.
A Sikh is not solely represented by a man with a turban. As wide ranging the spectrum of human beings, Sikhs can be found from any gender, race, class, caste, or other demographic or social definition.
A Sikh seeks to pacify.
What makes a Sikh unique is what makes the world freak: the unwavering rising spirits, unapologetic egalitarianism, fearless activism in defense of the oppressed, and complete dedication to spiritual practice for union with the Creator. A Sikh aligns with all, serves all, uplifts all – and that makes tyrants shudder in fear.
A Sikh is a British soldier.
Serving in an army is a test of discipline and courage, but serving in an imperialistic army responsible for mass slaughter and displacement of tens of millions of innocent civilians over several generations is nothing to celebrate. The British imperialist forces have been responsible for more death and destruction worldwide than the Moghuls with whom our Gurus fought.
Sikhs are not criminals.
The prison industrial complex ensures that disenfranchised minorities have higher rates of incarceration, and priding oneself on not being in jail is an insult to Bhai Randhir Singh, Bhagat Singh, and all of the activists who courted arrest in civil rights movements.
A Sikh is law abiding.
Sikhs are not law abiding during revolution, and abiding by an unjust law is not in the nature of the Khalsa. Sikhs have historically been one of the relatively largest populations in jails, and to the tyrannical regimes of the day, they would have been classified as criminals.
A Sikh is not “them.”
Our “post 9/11” apocalyptic 24/7 news cycle hysteria-driven media circus world serves the interests of military and industry—and within it we are so engulfed that we have forgotten how and where “terrorism” started. We are so busy declaring we are not terrorists, that we have failed to fight terrorism, and to protect others who also have been targets of this label.
Don’t Freak, or Do.
It is the nature of a Sikh not to fear or frighten, but it is just as much in the nature of a tyrant to fear a rebel. Sikhs are not worried about being normal, fitting in, or being accepted. Sikhs have a mission – to meet God, to rise above vices, to be virtuous, and, in the process, to fight tyranny in the world. The fear in people’s hearts has been created by racism, colonialism, classism, and xenophobia, propagated by political powers and mass media. We can’t reduce that fear by reinforcing negative stereotypes or by differentiating ourselves from others disenfranchised by unjust systems. We can remove that fear by breaking the systems that spread hatred, and by becoming beacons of light that spread love.