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Why Sikh Girls Marry Non-Sikhs?

It is obvious that the Sikh society needs a major cleansing or it’s time for community reform....

There are a large number of reasons why Sikh girls marry non-Sikhs particularly outside India. There seems to be more girls than boys that marry non- Sikhs. This article is intended for Sikh children who are born, raised and educated abroad such as in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, and other developed countries.  Presently the mix-marriage numbers are small but are magnified by social media, however it is on an upward trend. I was motivated to write this because of a recent article (1): intended to blame girls and their parents for this act. The article also stressed that if it continues, this could lead to Sikh genocide. However, the article did not mention the root causes and possible solutions to these mixed marriages. The objective of this article is to highlight the most probable causes and workable solutions to prevent it happening in the near future.

Guru Nanak established Sikh society based upon simple principles to adopt in  daily life such as Equality, Justice, Tolerance, Fair dealings, Mutual respect, Sympathy, Love, Compassion, Contentment, Charity (share), Righteousness, Honesty, Humility, Kindness, Help the needy (poor, sick, underprivileged), Sweetness in voice, and Brotherhood/ Sisterhood  etc. In other words Guru Nanak proclaimed a way of life to a virtuous living to raise every humankind regardless of their race, colour, gender, religion and nationality. Community members practicing all these virtues, indeed would be called a unique (Niara) society.

Historically Sikhs have been praised for their admirable qualities and purity of character by Qazi Nur Mohammad (who lived during the Misl period) [8]. After witnessing noble tasks of Sikhs he wrote in his testimony:

  •  Sikhs never kill a coward and also who flees from the battlefield.
  •  Sikhs respect and honour women as part of their faith, adultery does not exist among them.
  • Sikhs never resort to stealing and no thief exists among them. They do not keep company with the adulterer and the thief.
  • Sikhs are very generous in festivities.

This is from a person a “bigoted Qazi”, who otherwise used the most offensive wordings against Sikhs (whom he called dogs), Sikhi and Sikh Gurus.  

Sikhs are  brave, best soldiers in the world, hard worker, aggressive, risk takers and financially well-off. However, large numbers of them seem to lack most of the above mentioned virtues in their everyday living, therefore have failed at becoming role models for the Sikh youth.

It is a  common saying among Sikhs that Sikhi is Niara and Sikhs being very distinctive in their outlook are Niara as well. I would like to add here that Sikh Gurus were unique and they established Sikh society with unique concepts. The present day eternal Sikh Guru “Guru Granth Sahib”(GGS), and it’s teachings are Niara indeed. However, apart from small percentage the Sikh society is not better than any other society. It is like the famous Punjabi proverb “Apnay mu mian mitthoo”.  Guru Nanak wrote in GGS:

Galli Asie Changiya , Aachari Buriyaah (GGS, M1, Pg 85)

Meaning: In words we are good, but in deeds bad.

               In case some readers find it offensive, I would suggest they look around with an open mind, and see what is going on in the Sikh community. I think the followings may be the most probable reasons the Sikh youth is turned off from Sikh community and marry non-Sikhs:

  1.  Cultural Differences: Western culture Vs. Eastern culture, even though no culture is perfect, it plays a major role in compatibility between boy and girl for their life long commitment.
  2. The Sikh society is plagued by injustice, corruption, greed, exploitation, falsehood, deception and self-conceit etc. 
  3.  Guru Nanak repudiated the caste system and social privileges by birth. However the caste system is well established in Sikh society and divided into 102 different fractions, such as Jat Sikhs, Ramgharia Sikhs, Ramdasia Sikhs, etc [5].
  1.  Gender base discrimination:  Women are considered inferior to men, no respect for Women’s Rights, Female infanticide, Gender base (female fetus) abortions [3]. Even though Equality is considered one of the fundamental principles in Sikhi.
  2. Sexual abuse and sexual harassment is so prevalent in the Sikh community that it happens in our homes and in our Gurduaras. These places are supposed to be safe and sacred [2,4,7]. They described a case of child sexual abuse committed by a Granthi who worked at Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF), Potomac, Maryland, USA. According to the child’s parents, GGSF management committee blamed the child. This led the parents to take the case to the police and eventually got the Granthi convicted, despite the pressure applied to drop the case from GGSF leadership. This is not an isolated case at GGSF. Last year, Sucha Singh, a tabla player was also charged with sexual abuse of a minor[7].
  3.  No Transparency or Accountability: It is almost unheard of in the Sikh community, especially in the Gurduara system, where large number of crimes get unreported to Sikh public such as mismanagement of funds, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Gurduara committees very often protect the perpetrators and blame the victims. There is no support system for the victims. They are more worried about the reputation of the Gurduara than the well-being of our children and the survivors [7]. 
  4.  Inhumane treatment of baby girls: Dr. Harshinder Kaur described a horrifying case where she witnessed dogs feeding on infant human remains [3]. Further investigation revealed that it was a newborn baby girl, left there in a garbage dump by the parents.  
  5.  Addictions such as alcohol, drugs and other illegal activities i.e. gangs  and drug trafficking are common in Punjabi or Sikh communities.
  6.  Domestic violence, wife abuse, bride burning, acid attacks (pour acid on girl’s face), demand for dowry, demand for big cash, ritualistic traditions and big wedding ceremonies are common in Sikh community.
  7. Large number of Sikh boys consider themselves above all and treat girls nothing more than sex objects rather than a human being. In most Sikh families the boys are treated as favorites compared to girls. The boys usually boast about their parents assets, they themselves do nothing but live with their parents (freeloaders) and drive fancy cars to allure girls. They are dishonest, untrustworthy, cheaters and act like arrogant spoiled brats.
  8.  Parent’s interference during initial prospective introduction of the boy and the girl. It is not uncommon that ignorant and foolish parents go over to see the girl and  conduct some sort of eligibility interview on her. Often the parents decide to reject the girl with some silly excuse. Very often the parents hide their son’s bad habits, addictions, and behaviour.

Note: This practice indicates they forget girls are human beings with feelings and emotions. 

This type of brainless tradition by the boy’s parents leads to depression in many innocent girls. This is the reason why many girls decide never to get married. 

  1. Marriage of convenience is common in Sikh community especially for immigration purposes, where hundreds of honorable girls get betrayed by intentionally fake marriages by boys. Recently some girls did this to the boys, it caused one boy in Punjab to commit suicide and it made headlines in the Sikh community. However, no one raised voice for the mistreatment of the girls.

One can see from the above undesirable happenings, no person in their right mind, especially girls born and raised in western countries, would want a relationship with the Sikh community. Most children born and raised in western countries are Honest, Respectful, Kind, Caring, Trustworthy, Fair, Sympathetic, Compassionate, Truthful, believe in Justice, Tolerance and Equality. As there is no caste system or class system in this part of the world, these children are strong believers in Human Rights and Equal Rights. I don’t hesitate to say that these children are better humankind [6] than the majority of Sikh community members who immigrated from India.

It is my belief that the majority of Sikh girls who marry non-Sikhs, do not leave or abandon Sikhi, they just leave the unethical Sikh community.

What Happened:

The corrupt religious leadership and the Gurduara system failed to provide GGS’s teachings to Sikh sangat. This led the Sikh society to get disconnected from Gurbani. Lack of Gurbani wisdom gives rise to vices (lust, anger, greed, ego, attachment), selfishness, superstitions, rituals and religious paraphernalia etc. Majority of the Gurduaras hire Granthi or Gyanies from India with no English speaking skills and many of them have no knowledge of Gurbani. These individuals are supposed to explain Gurbani vichaar to our English speaking children in western countries. What a joke? Almost all Gurduaras main objectives are generating profit or financial gain rather than to promote Gurbani Wisdom. It’s pointed out in GGS that there are only two different groups of people living in this world: The majority of people are Manmukhs and only very small numbers (Rare) are Gurmukhs. 

Gurmukh: A Gurmukh is a person who is Virtuous, Wise, Happy, Positive, Joyful, Honest, Fearless, Brave, Blissful (Anand), Pious, Stable and always in Chardi Kala etc. 

Manmukh: A Manmukh is a person who is opposite of the Gurmukh such as foolish, ignorant and the follower of falsehood etc.

The Gurbani advises Sikhs to become Gurmukhs i.e.:

Kartoot pashu ki manas jaat, lok pachara kare din rat. (GGS, M5, pg 267)

Mean: Born as a humankind but lives an animal life or as a Manmukh, because he is engaged in pleasing the people day in and day out.

Jin maanish te devate keeai, karat na laagi baar. (GGS, M1, pg462)

Mean: Gurbani wisdom can transform a Manmukh to a Gurmukh within a moment. 

Dekh paaraian changian, maavan bhaenna dheean jaanney. Bhai Gurdas Varan,29.

Mean: A Gurmukh considers other women as noble and respects them as his mother, sister and daughter.

Aeka nari jati hoai, per nari dhee bhaen vaakhane. Bhai Gurdas Varan, 6, pg53.

Mean: A Gurmukh practices monogamy,remains faithful to his wife and respects other women as daughters and sisters. 

Chittey jin ke kaprey maille chit kathorr jio…… GGS, M1, pg 751.

Guru ji says in this Shabad that people who wear white clothes (Sant, Granthi, Baba like attire) are not Gurmukhs but they are thieves, have filthy minds and behave like animals (corrupt people). In other words they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.

What  is the solution :

The present Gurduara system is a complete failure in providing Gurmat philosophy, spiritual wisdom and other essential aspects of life to become good human beings. Gurduaras are multi-million dollar mansions with almost no qualified preacher to deliver Guru’s message to sangat. The preacher must be a graduate from a recognized missionary college and should  have good English speaking skills. This would help children to understand Gurbani meanings in English. A Gurduara should be a “Sikh Place of Learning '' instead of a worshiping, ritual and/or a gossip centre. Gurduaras are like any other non profit organization and need professional and visionary individuals to lead the organization forward. Gurbani “awakens” and “alerts” all of us Physically, Intellectually and Spiritually. The followings can improve the poor image or bad reputation of Sikh community:

Accountability: To protect our children, daughters or sisters, we have to listen, respond and support the victims. When someone witnesses bad behaviour they should speak up and be an advocate for those who feel silenced. One must take accountability for what they have done. We need to create some sort of blacklist of sexual predators in the Sikh community or better: “an international list/ database of sexual predators in the Gurduara system”.

Education: I’m not implying academics here, it’s the learning of western culture, social values, traditions, law and order of the new adopted country. Almost all of us came over to western countries for the same reasons, such as freedom, better future, better life and better opportunities for our children. I understand it takes time to change but I was surprised to know that some people show no evidence of change in their thinking even after living here for 20 years. They all want to enjoy  the benefits available without any discrimination. Large numbers of them do not want to change their bad Indian mentality or way of dealings with other people in western society.

Communication: Most parents do not have effective communication with their children. Children do not disclose everything to their parents, such as having a relationship with another boy/girl. Without discussing it with their children, parents will start looking for a suitable match for them. There are many cases where a son  agrees to get married just to please his parents, which usually ends being a disappointment of separation soon after marriage. Most often, girls are the victims in these situations, or I would say, they are treated as a “sacrificial lamb”.

Concept of Sikhi: In Sikhi, every humankind is considered equal regardless of who. Our Gurduaras, langar halls, and Amrit Sanchar are open to all humankind. Our eternal Guru GGS and it’s teachings are for all humanity. Sikhs proudly declare that GGS is the whole Jagat (world) Guru. One wonders, why is it so painful for the Sikh community when a girl gets married to a non-Sikh?

Discrimination: No one likes to be discriminated based upon skin color, gender, ethnic background, religion, language and nationality etc. I often noted whenever someone from a different community visits a Gurduara, the sangat usually stares at that person, giving him/her a cold reception instead of a warm welcome. Similarly, if a Sikh girl with her non-Sikh husband visits the Gurduara, they usually get the same cold treatment, which is against Sikh principles. Does this indicate a lack of respect or just ignorance?

Religion:  In the western world, religion is a freedom of choice, it’s personal and no one can force it on anyone without their consent. Same as marriage, it is a bond between two individuals who have a mutual understanding for each other and their life long commitment. Parents can not force their children to marry someone other than their choice.

Summary:

It is obvious that the Sikh society needs a major cleansing or it’s time for community reform. It can be easily achieved if the Gurduaras take a leading role to connect Sikh society to its roots (Mool), that’s Guru Granth Sahib’s teachings. This would transform most of the Manmukhs to Gurmukhs. Majority of the people who go to Gurduaras are new arrivals from India. Gurduaras should have programs to educate the sangat regarding cultural differences, social values, ethics, human rights, women rights, discrimination, virtuous living, addictions, domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, parental responsibilities and limitations etc. Sikh community has a large pool of retired Sikh professionals. They would be willing to share their knowledge or provide voluntary services for the betterment and to improve the image of the Sikh community. In other words they can help Gurduaras with these programs at no extra cost.  Once the Sikh community shows improvement in the aforementioned areas, and boys start treating girls with respect, I am sure this would stop the majority of girls from marrying non-Sikhs.

~By Ramjit Singh Mann

Acknowledgement: My special thanks to Manmohan Kaur Dupuis for editing this article.

References:

  1.  Inderjit Singh Kanpur; Apni Kheti Rakh lai Kunj Paraigi Kheth, KhalsaNews.org; July 07, 2121. [ Save Sikhi, Save your generations].           
  2.  Christine Kaur; Sikhs and Sexual abuse, Sikh Net; November 5, 2020.
  3.  Dr. Harshinder Kaur; State of women in the twenty-first century; April 26, 2017. And YouTube, PTC News: Khas Mulaquaat; December 11, 2015.
  4.  Jasvir Kaur Rababan; # Me Too Sikh: Sikh Activists take on internal sexual abuse crises; “Kaur Voices”; October 15, 2020.
  5.  Devinder Singh Artist; Nanak Raj Chalaya; Singh Sabha Canada; August 21, 2021.
  6.  Devinder Singh Artist; Ke Insaaniat Sabh Tu Badda Dharm Hai; Singh Sabha Canada; September 26, 2021.
  7.  Jasleen Kaur; Circles of Influence, Circles of Abuse, we fail survivors again and again; Sikhism; October 1, 2020; Sikhri.org, October 5, 2021.
  8.  Sangat Singh; The Sikhs in History; Fourth edition, January 2001.

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