We had some discussion on Twitter about Sikhs and I mentioned that my Punjabi Nationalist dad once said that he had thought about converting to Sikhism, but after he spent time with some Khalistani Sikhs in America, he decided their priests are as bad as ours, so he dropped the idea.
I have no idea how seriously he had thought about this “conversion” and I think it was unlikely to go too far in any case (conversion out of Islam is a very big deal; classical Islam prescribes the death penalty for it and even if that is not a serious threat, it can lead to major conflict with family and friends, including the possibility of ostracization, so it is not a decision anyone will take lightly). But this led to some discussion of Sikhism versus other religions and I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. This friend (a Muslim doctor from Mumbai, originally from Konkan) put forward the following hypothesis:
“Sikhism is the only major religion about whose adherents you can make a couple of positive generalizations: 1. That they will not beg in the streets, and 2. That they will help a female in distress”
He said he grew up in Mumbai, among people of all religions. He expected nothing specifically positive or negative from them based on religion (i.e. knowing the religion of the person in front of you told you nothing about his possible behavior) except in the case of Sikhs. With Sikhs he felt he could make these two predictions.
- They will not beg in public. This may not be a huge deal, but his point was that you cannot make this prediction about Hindus, Muslims or Xtians. They may be proud, they may be beggars. But about Sikhs he felt this was true. Being Sikh had at least this much effect on their behavior. Being Muslim or Hindu had no predictable effect.
- His mother told his sisters that if they were ever in trouble on the streets, they should look for the nearest Sikh (e.g. a cab driver) and ask for help. She did not say to look for the nearest Muslim or nearest Hindu or Parsi or whatever. She expected that a Sikh would try to help and would risk a public confrontation if necessary. Again, this may not be universally true, but at least his mom had this expectation.
His point was that if identification as Hindu or Muslim or Christian tells you nothing about the expected public behavior of their adherents, then we can say that these religions have no measurable effect on public morality. Sikhs are not universally honest or dishonest or friendly or unfriendly, so it is not like being Sikh transforms you totally into some supra-human specimen, but the fact that you can make even a couple of predictions about their public behavior is evidence that the religion makes SOME difference.
Is this true? What do you think? And if so, what is the reason? Something about Sikhism? or something about Punjabis? or about Jats? Or this is just another invalid stereotype?