Being a Sikh V – Professor Gurinder Singh Mann

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Professor Gurinder Mann
Professor Gurinder Singh Mann

The first occupant of the “Kundan Kaur Kapany Chair of Sikh Studies” at University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Mann is an eminent interdisciplinary scholar of Sikhism and interestingly holds a joint appointment in the Global and International Studies Program and Department of Religious Studies. Thus he brings in a global perspective to Sikh Studies. His research focuses on the evolution of Sikh institutions and the challenges facing the contemporary Sikh community both in the Punjab and the Diaspora.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Punjab and raised there as well.

What made you become a Sikh?

My parents were Sikhs.

What are the core ideals of the religion or what do you like about Sikhism?

The core ideals are following tradition, belief in god and this beautiful world, and doing hard work.

How does being Sikh affect your everyday life?

It gives me personal purity, belief in god, and makes me work hard.

What does it mean to you to be a Sikh?

To me, it means to work hard and contribute to society and do good.

Have you ever had to deal with racial profiling and/or prejudice?

That is a difficult question. How does one define racial profiling? If they touch my turban when I board a plane, then yes. But would I consider that as racial profiling, I would say no. It all depends on how you define this. I never really felt terribly upset about any of these things.

Is it difficult being a Sikh and living in America?

I have always enjoyed being a Sikh and living in America. It is much easier for people to remember me than for me to remember them. I have lived in many places with very few turbans, so I have always enjoyed that part.

International Conference on Punjabi Culture 2004

After 9/11 have there been any mistaken accusations of Sikhs?

Yeah, there were many assassinations, and yes, people have told me about this. But have I ever been targeted? The answer is no.

How do you practice Sikhism in America?

I do what I used to do earlier in my life, I wake up very early in the morning, I pray and do my work, and then in the evening I do thanksgiving prayer, and everything is good!

Are there many events in the Sikh community in America? Can you tell us about these events and/or festivals?

There are lots in communities, they have these yearly parades, in New York, for example, Sikhs started an annual parade in 1997 or 1998. Wherever there are logical communities, there are events.

Do you visit gurudwaras often? Why or why not?

Yes but not as often as I’d like to. I go every now and then when I can take time out.

Students Temple 2004

How can Sikhs educate Americans about Sikhism, and/or prevent discrimination against Sikhs?

There are several ways, festivities, parades, through the university programs, etc. I teach a class on Sikhs which last fall had 236 students. And then of course we can educated by publishing books.

Is there a problem with the Sikh youth today?

No, I don’t think there is a problem. But the younger generation is not really prepared to answer any questions about Sikhism, so there is sort of a hysterical issue there, but no I don’t see a problem.

How can we educate the youth about Sikhism?

By educating ourselves first. They are part of a culture where Sikhism is taken for granted and now they have moved to a place (America) where the culture is not prominent, so we first must educate ourselves and then pass it on.

How does Sikhism affect your profession?

I am a university professor so I teach Sikhism.

Do you think the dress code is still prevalent here in America compared to Punjab?

I think there is a total confusion. It’s changing in Punjab, and the changes are happening here too.

Check back next month for the next interview!

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