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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Open Letter to Minister Conor Lenihan

Minister Conor Lenihan T.D.
Leinster House, Dublin 2
Phone: 459 6285
Fax: 451 2002

August 16th, 2007

Sartaj Singh Dhami
Washington, DC

Minister Lenihan:

Thanks to the power of the Internet, recently I read in the news how a Sikh male in your country (link 1, link 2) of Ireland wished to volunteer as a reserve in your police force of Garda Siochana. Unfortunately, this Sikh was not allowed to due to his distinctive identity of wearing a turban which is mandate of the religion Sikhism.

Furthermore, news reports have stated your comment about social integration that “If we are to take integration seriously, people who come here must understand our way of doing things.” You went on to add that “When the president and ministers travel to the Middle East, they accept cultural requirements of the country and the culture they are operating in. It is a vice versa situation with regard to Ireland.”

I wanted to share with you some thoughts as you potentially work towards resolving this matter positively:

1. The literal translation of Garda Siochana, as I understand it, means the Guardians of the Peace of Ireland. As you learn more about the Sikh history and culture, which I’m sure you’ve had some experience as you were a reporter in London for some time, one of its core essence is to promote peace and social harmony throughout society. As both Canada and the UK have learned, having Sikhs in the police force can be an asset (whether it be cultural understandings or language translations) especially when targeting areas that have a high population concentration of Indian/Pakistani descent.

2. On your comments of Middle East cultures, you should understand that Sikhs are not from that area of the world. Although some still continue to confuse this, Sikhs originate from Punjab which is now a portion of land split between Pakistan and India. Many Sikhs migrated to East Punjab and now call India their home. So it is a bit unfair to impose the cultural influences of the Middle East to Sikhs who are not from that area. If anything, you’ll come to learn that a strong Punjabi cultural trait is to welcome and love guests as if they family members. Another trait of Punjabis, and strongly embraced by Sikhs, is to promote good will wherever they go. This trait has benefited many countries as Sikhs have formed their own Diaspora around the World.

3. Indeed the Sikh population of Ireland has made great strides to understand Ireland’s way of life as well as accept the cultural requirements of your Country. In particular, Sikhs have participated in various high profile parades in Ireland demonstrating their love for your Country as well as their cultural pride. Under the banner of the Irish Sikh Council, Sikhs have participated in both the Saint Patrick’s Festival Ireland and the Festival of World Cultures. In both of these events, Ireland is promoting its duty towards integration by highlighting its unique diversity. You can see photos of the Irish Sikh Council’s participation at the following web link:


4. Final thought: I’d argue that a central theme that Ireland has shared with the world is to promote good will and harmony for all. One of Ireland’s greatest Sons is Paul David Hewson, better known as U2’s singer Bono, who shares this theme with the world with his various humanitarian and social goodness based efforts.

Personally I feel that as we start to learn about various world cultures, democratic establishments need to work towards integration efforts versus easily accepting ideals of assimilation. Unfortunately as experienced by this sole Sikh who wanted to participate in Ireland’s civil service by volunteering, the incorrect principles of segregation cannot be tolerated in this new modern era.

As Integration Minister, I encourage you to find a proactive solution that will make the Sikh Diaspora feel even more welcomed in Ireland.

Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts. Although I am not a citizen of Ireland, I felt inclined to share my thoughts thanks to the digital email revolution that we live in.

Very Respectfully,

Sartaj Singh Dhami
Washington, DC

Sikhs in Ireland
Sikhs love Ireland. Why not love them back?

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

From Sarna to Snake

Well the last couple of weeks have been interesting and busy for me. Hopefully by now, you are in the process of making a video for this year's SikhNet Online Film Festival. I've been busy with fun, fun, fun wedding planning (wow!), however here are two quick items that I wished to comment on that recently hit the news waves.

I want to applaud the efforts of Paramjit Singh Sarna and DSGMC for taking a stand in enforcing simple traditional Sikh marriages that are not elaborate and not cash excessive. Although his stance is hard line against the dowry system (which Sikhism is against but for some silly reason still practiced by some Sikhs), this type of measure is needed to jolt people especially with newly coined term of "Big Fat Sikh Weddings" (thank you Mr. Chatwal). And with the silly "Indian mentality," people are too ego driven and try to show off by outdoing one another.

You wouldn't believe how many times I have refrained from talking to vendors that I'm a Sikh of Punjabi descent. Once they know that, they have one stereotype in mind: Vast amounts of alcohol, big decorations, flamboyant and huge. Worst part, this is coming from Non-Sikhs who have come to learn this by catering to previous customer needs.

My folks were curious to do my wedding reception at this one Hilton location near my home. Once the wedding planner asked me if I was of Indian descent, she pressed me to share more where I'm from in India. She went on even to say "People from Southern India are reserved and have boring parties. People from the North, especially Punjab, have big huge bashes."

Luckily this was done over the phone because my face had a really funny looking frozen expression because of how shocked I was listening to this. So when I finally broke down (I still don't know why to this day) and told her that my origins are from Punjab, she told me this:

"Oh, so what you want is a big, fat, huge, Punjabi bash for your wedding reception."

Really? Is this what I want?

I quickly ended the phone conversation and told my parents that the Hilton was a no go.

Just the other day, I met with a decorator to see what type of decorations we can do for the wedding reception. The Desi decorator quickly knew I was of Punjabi descent with my distinctive turban and beard, and proceeded to tell me that Punjabi receptions are huge and big on visual decorations. Then she proceeded to ask me what my budget potentially would be to meet the decoration request.

I simply gave a one sentence reply: "Simple and beautiful."

I went on to explain my rationale to this and she was presently shocked and happy. "Wow." she said, "Your personality and style is of the Anti-Punjabi nature. I like it."

Anti-Punjabi. Yes that's me, and I'm proud of it. Hopefully the next generation of Singhnees and Singhs can lead the way and remove this horrible stereotype towards the principle and values behind Sikh weddings. It small steps, as Mr. Sarna has done, which will hopefully take us in this much needed direction.

Okay, enough babbling. Time for fun. Time for Snake.

I'll have to devote about one-two weeks once Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots comes out. When the following trailer below was shown at E3 a couple weeks back, I watched it like four bajillion times driving my Mom crazy as I quoted the lines of Solid Snake. This is the game that will make me buy a PS3, but only when it comes out.

I'm no hero. Never was.
God Bless you Solid Snake!

Quick nerdy observations to the trailer if their are any other Metal Gear fans out there:

- Naomi Hunter is seen with Liquid Ocelot in the beginning and is in the chopper that he is about to board at the end.

- No one is effected by the "mind control" that is invoked on all the various soldiers by Ocelot except for Snake and the masked guy with the glasses who is with Meryl. This type of mind control, as shown by Gene in Portable Ops, had no effect either on Big Boss. I'm curious to see who the masked guy is, and how he may potentially continue the Metal Gear series.

Solid Snake is one cool dude, you bama!
Solid Snake is my video game hero.

That's it. I'm out. Time to wash my hair.


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